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Humanitarian crises affect over 200 million people globally and exact a large toll on population mental health. We assessed the impact of an economic transfer program on the mental health of internally displaced persons and host populations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We conducted a randomised trial among vulnerable households residing in 25 villages in North Kivu Province, DRC, where a large United Nations program responds to population displacement by providing economic transfers in the form of vouchers for essential household items (EHI). Households that were in need of assistance but outside the program’s standard eligibility criteria were randomly assigned (1:1) to a “voucher” or to “no intervention”. Households in the voucher group received US$50-92 worth of vouchers to use at a fair where EHI, such as blankets, clothes, buckets, and pans, were sold. The head woman of each household was interviewed just before the fair, six weeks and one year after the fair. The primary outcomes were standardized indices of adult’s mental health, children’s physical health, social cohesion, and resilience. Effects were assessed in least-squares regression models adjusting for baseline levels. 

Between August 2017 and March 2018, we enrolled 976 households in the study. 488 were randomly assigned to the EHI voucher and 488 to no intervention. 88% of respondents were female. At baseline, 33% of respondents had an anxiety/depression score suggesting clinical significance. At six weeks, the voucher group had a 0.32 standard deviation units (SDU) improvement on the mental health index (95% CI 0.18 to 0.46), and, after one year, the voucher group had a 0.19 SDU improvement (95% CI 0.02 to 0.34). There were no effects on the child health, social cohesion, or resilience indices.

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Working Paper
Date:
October 14, 2021
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Lessons from randomized evaluations on managing and preventing crime, violence, and conflict
 

What are the most promising strategies for reducing crime, violence, and conflict? The past decade has seen a dramatic expansion in the experimental literature designed to help answer this question. Moving beyond evaluations of individual programs, increasingly, these studies are striving to test broader hypotheses about how programs work (i.e. what are the key program components driving change) and to generate insights into human behavior (i.e. why individuals may be motivated to act in certain ways).

This evidence review, prepared by staff at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) ) for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), offers a broad review of the expansion of this literature and seeks to capture some of the emerging insights from across these studies. The review has been prepared as part of J-PAL and IPA’s Governance, Crime and Conflict Initiative, a £15- million investment by FCDO launched in 2017 to produce new research on effective policies to promote peace and good governance, reduce crime, and support individuals and communities recovering from conflict.

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Report
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June 23, 2021
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In settings where an individual's labor choices are constrained, the inability to work may generate psychosocial harm. This paper presents a causal estimate of the psychosocial value of employment in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh. We engage 745 individuals in a field experiment with three arms: (1) a control arm, (2) a weekly cash arm, and (3) a gainful employment arm, in which work is o ered and individuals are paid weekly the approximate equivalent of that in the cash arm. We find that employment confers significant psychosocial benefits beyond the impacts of cash alone, with effects concentrated among males. The cash arm does not improve psychosocial wellbeing, despite the provision of cash at a weekly amount that is more than twice the amount held by recipients in savings at baseline. Consistent with these findings, we find that 66% of those in our work treatment are willing to forego cash payments to instead work for free. Our results have implications for social protection policies for the unemployed in low income countries and refugee populations globally.

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Working Paper
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May 19, 2021
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La crisis social desatada por la pandemia del COVID-19 ha agravado la condición de vulnerabilidad de los migrantes venezolanos. Lo anterior genera la necesidad de identificar mecanismos que favorezcan el bienestar de esta población. En este sentido, este resumen de política pública destaca que las redes de migrantes2 y la posibilidad de acceder a un permiso de permanencia (caso de estudio PEP-RAMV) son mecanismos que facilitan distintas instancias del proceso migratorio en Colombia. En el caso de las redes, los resultados identifican que estas son indispensables para resolver diferentes necesidades, pero cobran especial relevancia en momentos críticos (llegada a Colombia, enfrentando los estragos de la pandemia, entre otros). Mientras que el permiso de permanencia PEP-RAMV otorgó la posibilidad de acceder a mercados formales, salud y educación, lo cual generó una sensación de respaldo por parte del gobierno a una población que de otra forma tendría profundas dificultades para integrarse a la sociedad colombiana.

Para explorar el potencial de estos mecanismos, el siguiente documento describe, de forma general, la importancia de las redes de migrantes y el PEP-RAMV durante los procesos migratorios, luego se señala que ambos son mecanismos diferentes, pero tienen puntos de encuentro y finalmente se describe la situación de ambos en torno a distintas afectaciones en los hogares generados por el COVID-19.

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Brief
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March 26, 2021
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Since the COVID-19 outbreak, scholars and journalists have spread anecdotes of gangs and criminal organizations coming to the aid of citizens, governing in place of the state. Researchers studied if gangs respond to COVID-19 in Medellín. Despite the headlines, gang involvement in pandemic response is exceptional and mostly idiosyncratic. Surveying every low- and middle-income neighborhood in Medellin, they find that most of the support for civilians comes from state authorities and not from gangs
 

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March 16, 2021

Medellín tiene unas estructuras de crimen organizado altamente jerárquicas y estructuradas. Con el objetivo de comprender cómo está organizada y cómo funciona esta estructura, durante los últimas tres años Innovations for Poverty Action, la Universidad de Chicago y la Universidad EAFIT han recolectado información sobre ella. Esto se ha hecho a través de entrevistas con integrantes de diferentes comunidades de la ciudad. En este documento se presentan los hallazgos de este trabajo. 

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Report
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March 16, 2021
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In partnership with the City of Medellín and community officials, EDI researchers co-designed a program of intensified government outreach and service delivery to test the impact of increased municipal governance on the roles and legitimacy of local gangs and the state. To design the program, researchers conducted interviews with more than 30 members of 19 criminal organizations over two years. Researchers combined findings from those interviews with administrative crime data and with surveys of city residents and businesses to learn about the organization and political economy of organized crime in Medellín. This EDI Policy Brief provides a summary of those findings to date

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Brief
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March 16, 2021
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A medida que los patrones de migración cambian, se necesitan más pruebas del impacto de los programas de regularización en los países en desarrollo. En Colombia, los investigadores están evaluando el impacto de un programa de permisos temporales de trabajo y residencia para los migrantes venezolanos. Los resultadosque se estudiarán incluyen indicadores laborales, de salud y de integración.

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Brief
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March 01, 2021
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Founded in 2019, IPA Nigeria develops applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into critical issues that affect the lives of the Nigerian poor.

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Brief
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March 01, 2021
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Gangs govern millions worldwide. Why rule? And how do they respond to states? Many argue that criminal rule provides protection when states do not, and that increasing state services could crowd gangs out. We began by interviewing leaders from 30 criminal groups in Medellín. The conventional view overlooks gangs’ indirect incentives to rule: governing keeps police out and fosters civilian loyalty, protecting other business lines. We present a model of duopolistic competition with returns to loyalty and show under what conditions exogenous changes to state protection cause gangs to change governance levels. We run the first gang-level field experiment, intensifying city governance in select neighborhoods for two years. We see no decrease in gang rule. We also examine a quasi-experiment. New borders in Medellín created discontinuities in access to government services for 30 years. Gangs responded to greater state rule by governing more. We propose alternatives for countering criminal governance.

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Published Paper
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February 26, 2021
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This study uses a randomized controlled trial in Pakistan to test whether one-on-one engagement with community religious leaders can encourage them to instruct congregants to comply with public health guidelines when attending religious gatherings. Treated religious leaders are 25% more likely to tell a "mystery shopper" he must wear a mask to attend. Treatment effects are driven by respondents who understand COVID transmission at baseline, suggesting the treatment does not work by correcting basic knowledge about the disease. Rather, it may work by connecting this knowledge to respondents' pro-social motivations and actions that they can take as community leaders.

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Working Paper
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February 01, 2021
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IPA’s Peace & Recovery Program (P&R) supports field experiments and related research in several broad areas:

  • Reducing violence and promoting peace
  • Reducing “fragility” (i.e. fostering state capacity)
  • Preventing, coping with, and recovering from crises, focusing on conflict but including non-conflict humanitarian crises such as COVID-19

This document covers the aims, core themes, research questions, and focus countries for our competitive research fund, supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the Open Society Foundations (OSF). Please send all inquiries to peace@poverty-action.org

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Report
Date:
December 02, 2020
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Researchers study the impact of money on households during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, Colombia rolled out a new unconditional cash transfer (UCT) to one million households in poverty worth $19 (PPP $55.6) and paid every 5-8 weeks. Using an RCT and linked administrative and survey data, they find the UCT had positive (albeit modest) effects on measures of household well-being (e.g., financial health, food access). Moreover, the UCT boosted support for emergency assistance to households and firms during the crisis and promoted social cooperation. Finally, they explore the bottlenecks in expanding mobile money during a pandemic.

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Working Paper
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November 30, 2020
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Despite the importance of understanding how refugee crises end, little is known about when and why refugees return home. We study the drivers of refugees’ decision-making using original observational and experimental data from a representative sample of 3,003 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We find that conditions in a refugee’s home country are the primary drivers of return intentions. Refugees’ decisions are influenced primarily by safety and security in their place of origin, their economic prospects, the availability of public services, and their personal networks. Confidence in information is also important, as several drivers of return only impact intentions among people who have high confidence in their information. By contrast, the conditions in refugee–hosting countries—so-called “push” factors—play a much smaller role. Even in the face of hostility and poor living conditions, refugees are unlikely to return unless the situation at home improves significantly

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Working Paper
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November 09, 2020
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En muchas ciudades del mundo, los grupos de crimen organizado representan una amenaza creciente para la paz y el desarrollo. Con el objetivo de comprender el funcionamiento de los grupos de crimen organizado de Medellín y evaluar intervenciones de política pública dirigidas a reducir el gobierno criminal ejercido por ellos, los investigadores realizaron diversas entrevistas, una encuesta y dos evaluaciones de impacto. Este documento resume los principales hallazgos.  

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Brief
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October 21, 2020

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