Recent research suggests giving cash directly to the poor can have a range of benefits for recipients in the first few years, including increased consumption, assets, and food security, but little evidence exists on the long-term effects of cash transfers, particularly as a way to spur entrepreneurship and increase earnings. To shed light on this question, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation in Uganda of a government self-employment program that provided cash grants of about $400 per person to groups of young adults to start a skilled trade. An IPA research team followed up after two, four, and nine years—providing some of the longest-term rigorous evidence on how start-up cash grants impact measures of poverty.
» Four years after grants were distributed, recipients were more likely to be practicing a skilled trade and earning 38 percent more than their peers who hadn’t received grants. The boost in earnings seemed to be driven by recipients’ work in skilled trades.
» Nine years after the cash grants were disbursed, most of the business and earning gains had dissipated, but grant recipients still had more household assets and were more likely to be practicing a skilled trade.
» The fade out of business and earnings effects was driven by changes in the comparison group: those who hadn’t received the grants had started working, and earning, a lot more—in fact, they had caught up to the grant recipients in hours worked and income.
» The grant had some positive impacts on health outcomes, but only for the children of women who had received the grant: children of grant-recipient mothers displayed better physical skills such has walking and talking, relative to male-recipients and to the comparison group.
» In sum, start-up grants served the purpose of providing better jobs and businesses—but they did not offer sustained gains in earnings as earlier ndings suggested.
Las fuerzas policiales urbanas tienden a enfocar sus esfuerzos en las áreas con tasas de crimen más altas. Sin embargo, incrementar la presencia estatal en los sitios más inseguros puede simplemente desplazar el crimen a otras áreas, dejando las tasas de crimen agregadas iguales a como estaban en un principio. En Bogotá, Colombia, un grupo de investigadores, en alianza con la Alcaldía de la ciudad, decidieron medir el impacto de tres estrategias sobre la reducción del crimen y su desplazamiento: focalizar la vigilancia policial, hacer mejoras al espacio público y una combinación de ambas estrategias. La evaluación encontró que estas estrategias reducen el crimen en las calles focalizadas en el estudio, pero solo cuando son implementadas al mismo tiempo. Mientras la mayoría de los crímenes, particularmente los delitos contra la propiedad parecen desplazarse a las calles aledañas. Hay evidencia que sugiere que los crímenes violentos, especialmente los homicidios y el abuso sexual, disminuyen en toda la ciudad como resultado de la intervención.
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, these studies seek to advance our understanding of what drives individuals and groups towards violence and conflict and the levers at our disposal for their reduction.
This evidence review, prepared by staff at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) for the Department for International Development (DFID), 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 (GCCI), a £12-million investment by DFID 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.
We reviewed the existing experimental and rigorous quasi-experimental literature for studies that help to answer six questions identified in conversation with DFID staff1:
- What does and does not work in policing, including community policing?
- What does and does not work in terms of justice provision, including criminal justice and corrections/prisons?
- What do RCTs tell us about how to reduce the violent behavior of individuals in high-crime or conflict settings?
- What do RCTs tell us about how violent organizations/groups make strategic choices between violent and non-violent action?
- What do RCTs tell us about what works in peacebuilding, reconciliation and community-based/alternative dispute resolution?
- Does RCT evidence demonstrate that including women in interventions increases stability, conflict resolution, dispute resolution or violence reduction outcomes?
1 The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department for International Development.
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy non-profit that discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA brings together researchers and decision-makers to design, rigorously evaluate, and refine these solutions and their applications, ensuring that the evidence created is used to improve the lives of the world’s poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 600 leading academics to conduct over 830 evaluations in 52 countries. Future growth will be concentrated in focus countries, such as Myanmar, where we have local and international staff, established relationships with government, NGOs, and the private sector, and deep knowledge of local issues.
Over the past two decades, sports programs have proliferated as a mode of engaging youth in development projects. Thousands of organizations, millions of participants, and hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in sports-based development programs each year. The underlying belief that sports promote socioemotional skills, improve psychological well-being, and foster traits that boost labor force productivity has provided motivation to expand funding and offerings of sport for development (SFD) programs. We partnered with an international NGO to randomly assign 1200 young adults to a sports and life skills development program. While we do not see evidence of improved psychosocial outcomes or resilience, we do find evidence that the program caused a 0.12 standard deviation increase in labor force participation. Secondary analysis suggests that the effects are strongest among those likely to be most disadvantaged in the labor market.
Los grupos armados urbanos—especialmente las bandas criminales—son un obstáculo para el desarrollo económico y la consolidación de entornos pacíficos en muchas ciudades del mundo. Frecuentemente, estos grupos actúan como cuerpos estatales, ejecutando acciones típicamente gubernamentales como la resolución de disputas, la provisión de justicia y seguridad, la prevención del crimen, la regulación de mercados y la recolección de impuestos. En Medellín, Colombia, en alianza con la alcaldía de la ciudad, un grupo de investigadores diseñó una intervención para aumentar la participación del gobierno municipal en la provisión de servicios públicos y evaluar el impacto de ésta sobre la legitimidad del Estado y las bandas criminales.
In Mexico, 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 detailed in this brief promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of people in Mexico.
In 2008, Uganda granted hundreds of small groups $400/person to help members start individual skilled trades. Four years on, an experimental evaluation found grants raised earnings by 38% (Blattman, Fiala, Martinez 2014). We return after 9 years to find these start-up grants acted more as a kick-start than a lift out of poverty. Grantees' investment leveled off; controls eventually increased their incomes through business and casual labor; and so both groups converged in employment, earnings, and consumption. Grants had lasting impacts on assets, skilled work, and possibly child health, but had little effect on mortality, fertility, health or education.
While young adults in many contexts struggle to develop a positive identity or skills such as self-control, those who grow up in low-income or violent settings may have more at stake and receive less support. Cognitive behavioral therapy, an intervention traditionally used to treat mental health disorders like depression, is a promising option for policymakers seeking low-cost solutions to crime and violence.
In Liberia, 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 described in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Liberian poor.
We show that a number of noncognitive skills and preferences, including patience and identity, are malleable in adults, and that investments in them reduce crime and violence. We recruited criminally engaged men and randomized one-half to eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to foster self-regulation, patience, and a noncriminal identity and lifestyle. We also randomized $200 grants. Cash alone and therapy alone initially reduced crime and violence, but effects dissipated over time. When cash followed therapy, crime and violence decreased dramatically for at least a year. We hypothesize that cash reinforced therapy's impacts by prolonging learning-by doing, lifestyle changes, and self-investment.
In the coming decades, most of the poor will live in fragile states, yet rigorous evidence on how to build peace and stability is still limited. What helps communities heal and prosper after a crisis? How can peace and stability be maintained after war? IPA works with academics from top research institutions to generate evidence on how to facilitate peace and mitigate the negative social and economic impacts of conflicts and crises. We evaluate programs that aim to strengthen state capacities, prevent or reduce violence, or alleviate the fallout from crises ranging from health to natural to human-made. IPA works in fragile states and countries that have recently experienced conflict, violence, or disaster. IPA also collaborates with decision-makers to ensure that this evidence is both useful and implemented at scale.
Most wars today are civil wars, which divide countries along economic, ethnic or political lines. In many cases, these cleavages happen within communities, pitting one neighbor against another. The prevalence of civil wars has therefore spurred efforts to re-build social cohesion and promote social capital as a part of post-conflict recovery.
Truth and reconciliation processes are a common approach used across the world to promote this type of societal healing. These processes bring war victims face-to-face with perpetrators in forums where victims describe war atrocities, and perpetrators confess to war crimes without facing punishment. Proponents of reconciliation processes claim that they are highly effective – not only in rebuilding social ties among individuals and promoting societal healing, but also in providing psychological relief and aiding individual healing. Yet, there is little rigorous evidence of whether, and how, reconciliation processes help communities heal from conflict.
To shed light on this topic, researchers from New York University, Georgetown University and the World Bank partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to evaluate the impact of a community-level reconciliation program in Sierra Leone.
The results suggest that talking about war atrocities can prove psychologically traumatic by invoking war memories and re-opening old war wounds. The researchers conclude that reconciliation programs should to be re-designed in ways that minimize their psychological costs, while retaining their societal benefit.
We show that extremely poor, war-affected women in northern Uganda have high returns to a package of $150 cash, five days of business skills training, and ongoing supervision. Sixteen months after grants, participants doubled their microenterprise ownership and incomes, mainly from petty trading. We also show these ultrapoor have too little social capital, but that group bonds, informal insurance, and cooperative activities could be induced and had positive returns. When the control group received cash and training 20 months later, we varied supervision, which represented half of the program costs. A year later, supervision increased business survival but not consumption.
We estimate the impact of Kenya’s post-election crisis on individual risk preferences. The crisis interrupted a longitudinal survey of more than five thousand Kenyan youth, creating plausibly exogenous variation in exposure to civil conflict by the time of the survey. We measure individual risk preferences using hypothetical lottery choice questions which we validate by showing that they predict migration and entrepreneurship in the cross-section. Our results indicate that the post-election violence sharply increased individual risk aversion. Immediately after the crisis, the fraction of subjects displaying extreme risk aversion increased by more than 80 percent. Findings remain robust when we use an IV estimation strategy that exploits random assignment of respondents to waves of surveying. Our results suggest that the crisis also impacted trust, social capital, and beliefs about the economy, though it did not have any detectable negative impacts on job prospects or wages.