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We examine some effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) during the COVID-19 pandemic using a large-scale experiment in rural Kenya. Transfers significantly improved well-being on common measures such as hunger, sickness and depression in spite of the pandemic, but with modest effect sizes. They may have had public health benefits, as they reduced hospital visits and decreased social (but not commercial) interactions that influence contagion rates. During the pandemic (and contemporaneous agricultural lean season) recipients lost the income gains from starting new non-agricultural enterprises that they had initially obtained, but also suffered smaller increases in hunger. This pattern is consistent with the idea that UBI induced recipients to take on more income risk in part by mitigating the most harmful consequences of adverse shocks.

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Working Paper
Date:
September 02, 2020

We examine some effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) during the COVID-19 pandemic using a large-scale experiment in rural Kenya. Transfers significantly improved well-being on common measures such as hunger, sickness and depression in spite of the pandemic, but with modest effect sizes. They may have had public health benefits, as they reduced hospital visits and decreased social (but not commercial) interactions that influence contagion rates. During the pandemic (and contemporaneous agricultural lean season) recipients lost the income gains from starting new non-agricultural enterprises that they had initially obtained, but also suffered smaller increases in hunger. This pattern is consistent with the idea that UBI induced recipients to take on more income risk in part by mitigating the most harmful consequences of adverse shocks.

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Working Paper
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September 02, 2020
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Understanding how to keep vulnerable people safe from violence and trauma is critically important, yet violence research is fraught with challenges. IPA’s Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Initiative has been generating knowledge and solutions about how to reduce violence against women since 2016. This resource shares some strategies from the initiative on conducting responsible and ethical IPV research. 

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Research Resource
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August 20, 2020
Spanish

Se ha demostrado que en situaciones de emergencia la asistencia de dinero ayuda a los beneficiarios a mitigar las consecuencias económicas resultantes, por ejemplo, mediante el aumento de la seguridad alimentaria. La Devolución del IVA, una nueva transferencia de dinero incondicional en Colombia, asistirá a 1 millón de hogares de bajos ingresos en atravesar la crisis económica a causa de la pandemia del COVID-19. A través de una evaluación aleatoria, los investigadores podrán medir los efectos de la transferencia en la salud física y mental de los beneficiarios, la seguridad alimentaria, la seguridad financiera y el aprendizaje de los niños, entre otros. 

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August 11, 2020
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The Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) tracks representative samples of Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar district in southern Bangladesh. A phone-based follow-up survey from April 2020 reveals that, despite widespread knowledge of COVID-19, attendance at religious gatherings is high, representing a potentially important pathway for disease spread in refugee camps and host communities in Cox’s Bazar. Even after the imposition of lockdown restrictions in early April, attendance to religious events was still common in refugee camps and host communities alike. Over 75% of men in refugee camps and over 50% of men in host communities reported attending religious services at least once in the week prior to the survey (April 9-16, 2020). Most male respondents who attended religious gatherings did so regularly, for an average of 4.0 days and 2.2 days in the last week for refugees and hosts, respectively. These behaviors are prevalent despite widespread awareness of the sources of COVID-19 trans-mission. When asked about trusted sources of advice on COVID-19, both hosts and refugees identified friends, acquaintances, and community leaders—including religious leaders—as important. In fact, 44% of refugees place their trust in community leaders such as block majhees; putting them in front of other trusted sources of information including family, relatives, and informational campaigns.

In a separate survey of Imams from around Bangladesh, we find considerable willingness to make changes: almost every respondent had adjusted their practices in some way. Still, some important measures remain uncommon, including discouraging attendance of the elderly, removal of the communal prayer mat, and postponing congregational prayer. This may be due to respondents’ subjective assessment of the risk posed by COVID-19. About two-thirds of Imams felt that COVID-19 posed no or low risk to their communities. Given the ongoing attendance of religious gatherings and the trust placed in religious leaders, policies should be targeted towards decreasing prayer gathering sizes, reducing frequency of prayer attendance, and disseminating public health and social distancing advice through a key trusted source of information: Imams and religious leaders themselves.

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Brief
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July 29, 2020
Spanish

La propagación global del COVID-19 y las medidas de confinamiento para contenerle han incrementado el estrés económico y la violencia doméstica. Para enfrentar este desafío, los investigadores se han asociado en Colombia con IPA, Fundación Capital y Comfama para evaluar el impacto de una intervención interactiva basada en WhatsApp, que pretende mejorar la salud financiera y reducir la violencia doméstica al introducir consejos de comunicación de pareja en un programa existente de educación financiera. Los investigadores están midiendo el impacto en capacidad financiera, empoderamiento de las mujeres e incidencia de la violencia doméstica en el contexto de la pandemia por COVID-19. 

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Brief
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July 24, 2020

This study exploits a randomized school health intervention that provided deworming treatment to Kenyan children and utilizes longitudinal data to estimate impacts on economic outcomes up to 20 years later. The effective respondent tracking rate was 84%. Individuals who received 2 to 3 additional years of childhood deworming experience an increase of 14% in consumption expenditure, 13% in hourly earnings, 9% in non-agricultural work hours, and are 9% more likely to live in urban areas. Most effects are concentrated among males and older individuals. Given deworming's low cost, a conservative annualized social internal rate of return estimate is 37%.

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Working Paper
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July 01, 2020
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This study reports results from a randomized evaluation of a mandatory six-month internet-based sexual education course implemented across public junior high schools in 21 Colombian cities. Six months after finishing the course, the study finds a 0.4 standard deviation improvement in knowledge, a 0.2 standard deviation improvement in attitudes, and a 55 percent increase in the likelihood of redeeming vouchers for condoms as a result of taking the course. The data provide no evidence of spillovers to control classrooms within treatment schools. However, the analysis provides compelling evidence that treatment effects are enhanced when a larger share of a student’s friends also takes the course. The low cost of the online course along with the effectiveness the study documents suggests this technology is a viable alternative for improving sexual education in middle-income countries.

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Published Paper
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June 03, 2020
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We study the prevalence of COVID‐19 symptoms in refugee and host communities and their correlates with current and pre‐COVID‐19 living conditions. We administered a phone‐based survey to a sample of 909 households in Cox’s Bazar which was drawn from a household panel representative of Rohingya refugees and the host population. We conducted a symptoms checklist to assess COVID‐19 risk based on the WHO guidelines. We included questions covering returning migration, employment, and food security. We asked additional questions on health knowledge and behaviors to a random subsample (n=460). 24.6% of camp residents and 13.4% of those in host communities report at least one common symptom of COVID‐19. Among those seeking treatment, a plurality did so at a pharmacy (42.3% in camps, 69.6% in host communities). While most respondents report good respiratory hygiene, between 76.7% (camps) and 52.2% (host community) had attended a communal prayer in the previous week. Another 47.4% (camps) 34.4% (host community) had attended a non‐religious social gathering. The presence of returning migrants, respondent mobility, and food insecurity strongly predict COVID‐19 symptoms. Conclusion. COVID‐19 symptoms are highly prevalent in Cox’s Bazar, especially in refugee camps. Attendance at religious and social events threatens efforts to contain the spread of the disease. Pharmacies and religious leaders are promising outlets to disseminate life‐saving information.

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Working Paper
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May 19, 2020
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Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh has received multiple waves of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar since the 1970s, but late 2017 saw the largest and fastest refugee influx in Bangladesh’s history. Between August 2017 and December 2018, 745,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, following an outbreak of violence in Rakhine State. As of December 31, 2019, Teknaf and Ukhia sub-districts host an estimated 854,704 stateless Rohingya refugees, almost all of whom live in densely populated camps (UNHCR 2019).

Researchers from Yale University, the World Bank, and the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) initiative started the Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) in order to provide accurate data to humanitarian and government stakeholders involved in the response to the influx of refugees. The survey is an in-depth household survey covering 5,020 households living in both refugee camps and host communities. This quantitative data collection is complemented with qualitative interviews with adolescents and their caregivers.

In line with the 2018 Global Compact for Refugees commitment to promote economic opportunities, decent work, and skills training for both host community members and refugees, this brief presents a set of stylized facts on the socioeconomic status of Rohingya refugees in 2019 and in the year preceding the latest outbreak of violence.

The aim is to better understand the ways in which the challenges faced by Rohingya refugees while they were living in Myanmar are likely to affect their ability—and the ability of future generations of Rohingya—to attain a better living standard in their host communities, with a view to informing policy and programming.

Drawing from a survey on retrospective employment and labor income from the first round of panel data in 2019, we compare three groups: the population of Myanmar, Rohingya people who crossed the border into Bangladesh in 2017, and those who left Myanmar prior to 2017 and are currently living in Cox’s Bazar.

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Brief
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April 30, 2020

This paper evaluates a large-scale maternal cash transfer program targeted to pregnant women and mothers of children under two. The program provides monthly cash transfers, and is supplemented with Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) in a random subset of villages. Both interventions lead to a large reduction in the proportion of children (moderately) stunted. Meanwhile, cash alone has no detectable impact on child outcomes. The effects are accompanied by improvements in dietary diversity, breastfeeding, hand-washing practices, prenatal care and food consumption. These results provide strong support for adding SBCC to maternal cash transfer programs in order to realize their impact.

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Working Paper
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April 24, 2020
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The burden of food insecurity is large in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet the evidence-base on the relation between household food insecurity and early child development is extremely limited. Furthermore, available research mostly relies on cross-sectional data, limiting the quality of existing evidence. We use longitudinal data on preschool-aged children and their households in Ghana to investigate how being in a food insecure household was associated with early child development outcomes across three years. Household food insecurity was measured over three years using the Household Hunger Score. Households were first classified as “ever food insecure” if they were food insecure at any round. We also assessed persistence of household food insecurity by classifying households into three categories: (i) never food insecure; (ii) transitory food insecurity, if the household was food insecure only in one wave; and (iii) persistent food insecurity, if the household was food insecure in two or all waves. Child development was assessed across literacy, numeracy, social-emotional, short-term memory, and self-regulation domains. Controlling for baseline values of each respective outcome and child and household characteristics, children from ever food insecure households had lower literacy, numeracy and short-term memory. When we distinguished between transitory and persistent food insecurity, transitory spells of food insecurity predicted decreased numeracy (β = -0.176, 95% CI: -0.317; -0.035), short-term memory (β = -0.237, 95% CI: -0.382; -0.092), and self-regulation (β = -0.154, 95% CI: -0.326; 0.017) compared with children from never food insecure households. By contrast, children residing in persistently food insecure households had lower literacy scores (β = -0.243, 95% CI: -0.496; 0.009). No gender differences were detected. Results were broadly robust to the inclusion of additional controls. This novel evidence from a Sub-Saharan African country highlights the need for multi-sectoral approaches including social protection and nutrition to support early child development

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Published Paper
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April 03, 2020
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Participatory development is designed to mitigate problems of political bias in pre-existing local government but also interacts with it in complex ways. Using a five-year randomized controlled study in 97 clusters of villages (194 villages) in Ghana, we analyze the effects of a major participatory development program on participation in, leadership of and investment by pre-existing political institutions, and on households’ overall socioeconomic well-being. Applying theoretical insights on political participation and redistributive politics, we consider the possibility of both cross-institutional mobilization and displacement, and heterogeneous effects by partisanship. We find the government and its political supporters acted with high expectations for the participatory approach: treatment led to increased participation in local governance and reallocation of resources. But the results did not meet expectations, resulting in a worsening of socioeconomic wellbeing in treatment versus control villages for government supporters. This demonstrates international aid’s complex distributional consequences. 

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Working Paper
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April 02, 2020
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Developing countries are characterized by high rates of mortality and morbidity. A potential contributing factor is the low utilization of health systems, stemming from the low perceived quality of care delivered by health personnel. This factor may be especially critical during crises, when individuals choose whether to cooperate with response efforts and frontline health personnel. We experimentally examine efforts aimed at improving health worker performance in the context of the 2014–15 West African Ebola crisis. Roughly two years before the outbreak in Sierra Leone, we randomly assigned two social accountability interventions to government-run health clinics — one focused on community monitoring and the other gave status awards to clinic staff. We find that over the medium run, prior to the Ebola crisis, both interventions led to improvements in utilization of clinics and patient satisfaction. In addition, child health outcomes improved substantially in the catchment areas of community monitoring clinics. During the crisis, the interventions also led to higher reported Ebola cases, as well as lower mortality from Ebola — particularly in areas with community monitoring clinics. We explore three potential mechanisms: the interventions (1) increased the likelihood that patients reported Ebola symptoms and sought care; (2) unintentionally increased Ebola incidence; or (3) improved surveillance efforts. We find evidence consistent with the first: by improving the perceived quality of care provided by clinics prior to the outbreak, the interventions likely encouraged patients to report and receive treatment. Our results suggest that social accountability interventions not only have the power to improve health systems during normal times, but can additionally make health systems resilient to crises that may emerge over the longer run.

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Working Paper
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March 06, 2020
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Globally, access to good quality abortion services and post-abortion care is a critical determinant for women’s survival after unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortions account for high levels of maternal death in Kenya. We explored women’s experiences and perceptions of their abortion and post-abortion care experiences in Kenya through person-centred care. This qualitative study included focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with women aged 18-35 who received safe abortion services at private clinics. Through thematic analyses of women’s testimonies, we identified gaps in the abortion care and person-centred domains which seemed to be important throughout the abortion process. When women received clear communication and personalised comprehensive information on abortion and post-abortion care from their healthcare providers, they reported more positive experiences overall and higher reproductive autonomy. Communication and supportive care were particularly valued during the post-abortion period, as was social support more generally. Further research is needed to design, implement and test the feasibility and acceptability of person-centred abortion care interventions in community and clinical settings with the goal of improving women’s abortion experiences and overall reproductive health outcomes.

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Published Paper
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February 27, 2020

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