Declining fertility in both the developed and developing world has led to large and potentially welfare-enhancing changes in women’s labor supply, education and investment in children in recent decades. However, it has been widely noted that the pace of this decline has stalled even while access to contraception has continued to expand, raising the question of whether increasing access to contraception is sufficient to lead to declining fertility. This paper provides evidence about the relationship between contraceptive access and fertility from a randomized controlled trial in Lusaka, Zambia, in which women of child-bearing age were provided with a voucher for free and immediate access to long-acting forms of contraception; this voucher was provided either to the woman individually, or the woman jointly with her spouse. Results show that there is a significant increase in contraceptive use, and a particularly large increase in experimentation with new contraceptive methods, but no decline in births in the short- or long-term compared to a control group who did not receive increased access to contraceptives.
Hunger during pre-harvest lean seasons is widespread in the agrarian areas of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We randomly assign an $8.50 incentive to households in rural Bangladesh to temporarily out-migrate during the lean season. The incentive induces 22% of households to send a seasonal migrant, their consumption at the origin increases significantly, and treated households are 8–10 percentage points more likely to re-migrate 1 and 3 years after the incentive is removed. These facts can be explained qualitatively by a model in which migration is risky, mitigating risk requires individual-specific learning, and some migrants are sufficiently close to subsistence that failed migration is very costly. We document evidence consistent with this model using heterogeneity analysis and additional experimental variation, but calibrations with forward-looking households that can save up to migrate suggest that it is difficult for the model to quantitatively match the data. We conclude with extensions to the model that could provide a better quantitative accounting of the behavior.
Cash transfers directed to female caregivers in Nicaragua led to gains in child-development outcomes that persisted beyond the duration of the program.
Early childhood is a critical period for investment in human development, the circumstances of which can have lifelong impacts. Physical, cognitive, or behavioral delays in development can result in long-term negative effects on health, educational attainment, labor-market outcomes, and other indicators of well-being.
Conditional cash transfer (cct) programs are one way to help parents who lack resources invest more in their children. These programs provide families with cash grants as long as they undertake certain activities such as having their children attend regular health check-ups. While there is a large body of evidence on the short-term impacts of ccts on children’s development, there is less evidence on their long-term impacts. To better understand the effects of ccts later in life, researchers evaluated two distinct cct programs in Nicaragua.
In the first evaluation, researchers Tania Barham (University of Colorado Boulder), J-PAL affiliate Karen Macours (Paris School of Economics), and John A. Maluccio (Middlebury College), examined the long-term impacts of ccts on child development. In this study, they tested whether there is a critical window of time (the first 1,000 days from in utero to age two) for cognitive and physical development by taking advantage of the random assignment of households to receive cash transfers in either an “early” or “late" treatment group. In the second evaluation, Karen Macours, Norbert Schady (Inter-American Development Bank), and Renos Vakis (World Bank) studied a cct program with three variations to understand the channels through which different program components impacted early childhood development.
We posit that household decision-making over fertility is characterized by moral hazard since most contraception can only be perfectly observed by the woman. Using an experiment in Zambia that varied whether women were given access to contraceptives alone or with their husbands, we find that women given access with their husbands were 19 percent less likely to seek family planning services, 25 percent less likely to use concealable contraception, and 27 percent more likely to give birth. However, women given access to contraception alone report a lower subjective well-being, suggesting a psycho-social cost of making contraceptives more concealable.
Microfinance institutions have started to bundle their basic loans with other financial services, such as health insurance. Using a randomized control trial in Karnataka, India, we evaluate the impact on loan renewal from mandating the purchase of actuarially-fair health insurance covering hospitalization and maternity expenses. Bundling loans with insurance led to a 16 percentage points (23 percent) increase in drop-out from microfinance, as many clients preferred to give up microfinance than pay higher interest rates and receive insurance. In a Pyrrhic victory, the total absence of demand for health insurance led to there being no adverse selection in insurance enrollment.
There are few marketing studies of social learning about new technologies in lowincome countries. This paper examines how learning through opinion leaders and social networks influences demand for non-traditional cookstoves – a technology with important health and environmental consequences for developing country populations. We conduct marketing interventions in rural Bangladesh to assess how stove adoption decisions respond to (a) learning the adoption choices of locally identified ‘opinion leaders’ and (b) learning about stove attributes and performance through social networks. We find that households generally draw negative inferences about stoves through social learning, and that social learning is more important for stoves with less evident benefits. In an institutional environment in which consumers are distrustful of new products and brands, consumers appear to rely on their networks more to learn about negative product attributes. Overall, our findings imply that external information and marketing campaigns can induce initial adoption and experiential learning about unfamiliar technologies, but sustained use ultimately requires that new technologies match local preferences.
In Malawi, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Malawian poor.
In Uganda, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Ugandan poor.
In Kenya, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Kenyan poor.
In Peru, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Peruvian poor.
Sexual health problems cause negative externalities from contagious diseases and public expenditure burdens from teenage pregnancies. In a randomized evaluation, we find that an online sexual health education course in Colombia leads to significant impacts on knowledge and attitudes but no impact on selfreported behavior, on average; although fewer STIs are reported for baseline sexually active females. To go beyond self-reported measures, we provide condom vouchers six months after the course to both treatment and control groups and estimate a 9 percentage point treatment effect (52% increase) on the likelihood of redemption. Using knowledge of friendship networks, we document a strong social reinforcement effect: the impacts of the course intensify when a larger fraction of a student’s friends is also treated. In particular, when full sets of friends are treated we find significant reductions in sexually active, frequency of sex, and number of partners. Throughout the analysis we fail to find evidence of cross-classroom spillovers.
In 2013 IPA celebrated ten years of producing high-quality evidence about what works, and what does not work, to improve the lives of the poor. It was a year of celebration for our accomplishments. More so, it was a time to prepare our organization for the next phase as we continue to pursue our vision of a world with More Evidence and Less Poverty.
View an online version of the report at annualreport.poverty-action.org/2013annualreport/
Does providing information about a product influence the impact of price subsidies on purchases? This question is particularly relevant for health products in developing countries where both informational campaigns and price subsidies are common policy instruments. We conduct a field experiment in Zambia and find that providing information about a new version of a product significantly increases the impact of price subsidies on take-up. Taken alone, the information manipulation has no significant impact on demand while the price subsidy substantially increases demand. However, the evaluation of either intervention in isolation fails to capture the significant complementarity between the two.
There is growing interest in using messaging to drive prosocial behaviors, which contribute to investment in public goods. The authors worked with a leading nongovernmental organization in Peru to randomize nine different prorecycling messages that were crafted on the basis of best practices, prior evidence, and theories of behavioral change. Different variants emphasized information on environmental or social benefits, social comparisons, social sanctions, authority, and reminders. None of the messages had significant effects on recycling behavior. However, reducing the cost of ongoing participation by providing a recycling bin significantly increased recycling among enrolled households.
This study estimates long-run impacts of a child health investment, exploiting community-wide experimental variation in school-based deworming. The program increased education among women and labor supply among men, with accompanying shifts in labor market specialization. Ten years after deworming treatment, women who were eligible as girls are 25% more likely to have attended secondary school, halving the gender gap. They reallocate time from traditional agriculture into cash crops and entrepreneurship. Men who were eligible as boys stay enrolled for more years of primary school, work 17% more hours each week, spend more time in entrepreneurship, are more likely to hold manufacturing jobs, and miss one fewer meal per week. We estimate an annualized financial internal rate of return of at least 32.2%.