Despite their importance, there is limited evidence on how institutions can be strengthened. Evaluating the effects of specific reforms is complicated by the lack of exogenous variation in institutions, the difficulty of measuring institutional performance, and the temptation to "cherry pick" estimates from among the large number of indicators required to capture this multifaceted subject. We evaluate one attempt to make local institutions more democratic and egalitarian by imposing participation requirements for marginalized groups (including women) and test for learning-by-doing effects. We exploit the random assignment of a governance program in Sierra Leone, develop innovative real-world outcome measures, and use a preanalysis plan (PAP) to bind our hands against data mining. The intervention studied is a "community-driven development" program, which has become a popular strategy for foreign aid donors. We find positive short-run effects on local public goods and economic outcomes, but no evidence for sustained impacts on collective action, decision making, or the involvement of marginalized groups, suggesting that the intervention did not durably reshape local institutions. We discuss the practical trade-offs faced in implementing a PAP and show how in its absence we could have generated two divergent, equally erroneous interpretations of program impacts on institutions.
Published paper version available here.
Institutions in developing countries, particularly those inherited from the colonial period, are often thought to be subject to strong inertia. This study presents the results of a unique randomized trial testing whether these institutions can be reformed through incremental administrative change. The police department of the state of Rajasthan, India collaborated with researchers at US and Indian universities to design and implement four interventions to improve police performance and the public’s perception of the police in 162 police stations (covering over one-fifth of the State’s police stations and personnel): (1) placing community observers in police stations; (2) a freeze on transfers of police staff; (3) in?service training to update skills; and (4) weekly duty rotation with a guaranteed day off per week. These reforms were evaluated using data collected through two rounds of surveys including police interviews, decoy visits to police stations, and a large-scale public opinion and crime victimization survey—the first of its kind in India. The results illustrate that two of the reform interventions, the freeze on transfers and the training, improved police effectiveness and public and crime victims’ satisfaction. The decoy visits also led to an improvement in police performance. The other reforms showed no robust effects. This may be due to constraints on local implementation: The three successful interventions did not require the sustained cooperation of the communities or the local authorities (the station heads) and they were robustly implemented throughout the project. In contrast, the two unsuccessful interventions, which required local implementation, were not systematically implemented.
Can cash transfers promote employment and reduce poverty in rural Africa? Will lower youth unemployment and poverty reduce the risk of social instability? We experimentally evaluate one of Uganda's largest development programs, which provided thousands of young people nearly unconditional, unsupervised cash transfers to pay for vocational training, tools, and business start-up costs. Mid-term results after two years suggest four main findings. First, despite a lack of central monitoring and accountability, most youth invest the transfer in vocational skills and tools. Second, the economic impacts of the transfer are large: hours of non-household employment double and cash earnings increase by nearly 50% relative to the control group. We estimate the transfer yields a real annual return on capital of 35% on average. Third, the evidence suggests that poor access to credit is a major reason youth cannot start these vocations in the absence of aid. Much of the heterogeneity in impacts is unexplained, however, and is unrelated to conventional economic measures of ability, suggesting we have much to learn about the determinants of entrepreneurship. Finally, these economic gains result in modest improvements in social stability. Measures of social cohesion and community support improve mildly, by roughly 5 to 10%, especially among males, most likely because the youth becomes a net giver rather than a net taker in his kin and community network. Most strikingly, we see a 50% fall in interpersonal aggression and disputes among males, but a 50% increase among females. Neither change seems related to economic performance nor does social cohesion - a puzzle to be explored in the next phase of the study. These results suggest that increasing access to credit and capital could stimulate employment growth in rural Africa. In particular, unconditional and unsupervised cash transfers may be a more effective and cost-efficient form of large-scale aid than commonly believed. A second stage of data collection in 2012 will collect longitudinal economic impacts, additional data on political violence and behavior, and explore alternative theoretical mechanisms.
To the extent that students benefit from high-achieving peers, tracking will help strong students and hurt weak ones. However, all students may benefit if tracking allows teachers to better tailor their instruction level. Lower-achieving pupils are particularly likely to benefit from tracking when teachers have incentives to teach to the top of the distribution. We propose a simple model nesting these effects and test its implications in a randomized tracking experiment conducted with 121 primary schools in Kenya. While the direct effect of high-achieving peers is positive, tracking benefited lower-achieving pupils indirectly by allowing teachers to teach to their level.
How can new democracies and societies emerging from conflict encourage tolerance and dialogue, strengthen conflict resolution systems, and increase understanding of human rights?
The World Bank and other donors dedicate sizeable portions of their portfolios to community driven development (CDD) projects, yet until recently there has been little rigorous evidence regarding the efficacy of this approach. By emphasizing local participation in and control over project implementation, CDD has come to be seen as an efficient and accountable mechanism to deliver local public goods. But CDD aims to do much more than this. Through intensive, long term facilitation, CDD aims to strengthen local institutions, make them more democratic and inclusive of marginalized groups, and enhance the capacity of communities to engage in collective action. This evaluation tests the extent to which CDD achieved these goals in Sierra Leone.
Following the 2011 elections, one of the most pressing challenges for the President, government ministries and international organizations is boosting youth incomes and employment, especially those of high-risk youth. What kinds of programs can boost employment and incomes and reduce the risk of social instability? This report details findings from an impact evaluation of a reintegration and agricultural livelihoods program for high-risk Liberian youth, and draws out lessons for employment policies in 2012 and beyond.
This paper draws lessons from an original randomized experiment in Malawi. In order to understand why roads in relatively good condition in rural areas may not be used by buses, a minibus service was subsidized over a six-month period over a distance of 20 kilometers to serve five villages. Using randomly allocated prices for use of the bus, this experiment demonstrates that at very low prices, bus usage is high. Bus usage decreases rapidly with increased prices. However, based on the results on take-up and minibus provider surveys, the experiment demonstrates that at any price, low (with high usage) or high (with low usage), a bus service provider never breaks even on this road. This can contribute to explain why walking or cycling is so widespread on most rural roads in Sub-Saharan Africa. In terms of policy implications, this experiment explains that motorized services need to be subsidized; otherwise a road in good condition will most probably not lead to provision of service at an affordable price for the local population.
Little is known about the impacts of military service on human capital and labor market outcomes due to an absence of data as well as sample selection: recruits are self-selected, screened, and selectively survive. We examine the case of Uganda, where rebel recruitment methods provide exogenous variation in conscription. Economic and educational impacts are widespread and persistent: schooling falls by nearly a year, skilled employment halves, and earnings drop by a third. Military service seems to be a poor substitute for schooling. Psychological distress is evident among those exposed to severe war violence and is not limited to ex-combatants.
This article presents an experiment in which 49 Indonesian villages were randomly assigned to choose development projects through either representative-based meetings or direct election-based plebiscites. Plebiscites resulted in dramatically higher satisfaction among villagers, increased knowledge about the project, greater perceived bene?ts, and higher reported willingness to contribute. Changing the political mechanism had much smaller effects on the actual projects selected, with some evidence that plebiscites resulted in projects chosen by women being located in poorer areas. The results suggest that direct participation in political decision making can substantially increase satisfaction and legitimacy.
We conducted a field experiment to measure the effect of exposure to newspapers on political behavior and opinion. Before the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election, we randomly assigned individuals to a Washington Post free subscription treatment, a Washington Times free subscription treatment, or a control treatment. We find no effect of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data. However, receiving either paper led to more support for the Democratic candidate, suggesting that media slant mattered less in this case than media exposure. Some evidence from voting records also suggests that receiving either paper led to increased 2006 voter turnout.
This paper studies the economic and health impacts of the 2007 Kenyan Presidential Election crisis. Over the two months of civil conflict that immediately followed the election, we observe sizeable downfalls in income, expenditure, and consumption for a broad segment of the rural population. This suggests households were unable to smooth over the shock. We also find that the crisis increased the likelihood that women who supply transactional sex chose to engage in unprotected sex, increasing the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission. These results suggest that social unrest is an important channel through which political instability can affect long-term outcomes and development.
This paper presents a randomized field experiment on community-based monitoring of public primary health care providers in Uganda. Through two rounds of village meetings, localized nongovernmental organizations encouraged communities to be more involved with the state of health service provision and strengthened their capacity to hold their local health providers to account for performance. A year after the intervention, treatment communities are more involved in monitoring the provider, and the health workers appear to exert higher effort to serve the community. We document large increases in utilization and improved health outcomes—reduced child mortality and increased child weight—that compare favorably to some of the more successful community-based intervention trials reported in the medical literature
This paper examines the accuracy of corruption perceptions by comparing Indonesian villagers reported perceptions about corruption in a road-building project in their village with a more objective measure of 'missing expenditures' in the project. I find that villagers' reported perceptions do contain real information, and that villagers are sophisticated enough to distinguish between corruption in a particular road project and general corruption in the village. The magnitude of the reported information, however, is small, in part because officials hide corruption where it is hardest for villagers to detect. I also find that there are biases in reported perceptions. The findings illustrate the limitations of relying solely on corruption perceptions, whether in designing anti-corruption policies or in conducting empirical research on corruption.
This paper reports the results of a field experiment testing the effectiveness of different quality get-out-the-vote (GOTV) non-partisan phone calls. During the week preceding the November 2004 election, we randomly assigned registered voters in North Carolina and Missouri to one of three live phone calls with varying length and content. The scripts are (1) standard GOTV, (2) interactive GOTV, and (3) interactive GOTV with a request for mobilizing neighbors. We find that people assigned to the interactive GOTV treatment are more likely to turn out, while the effect of the “get your neighbors to vote” script is relatively as weak as that of the standard script. The findings suggest that interactive phone calls generally tend to increase voter turnout, but in order for a phone call to be effective, the message needs to be focused. The borderline statistical significance of the script that encourages neighbors’ participation invites replication of this experiment.