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IPA stands at the forefront of a movement to build rigorous evidence and ensure it is used to improve the lives of people living in poverty. In 2016, we started 75 new studies and continued our efforts to share research findings and grow our visibility through 70 events across the world. Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org
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Annual Report
Date:
October 25, 2017
English
Despite good intentions, people often make less-than-optimal financial choices. In this series, we match insights from our global research in behavioral economics with specific financial service and product design opportunities both for providers in the U.S. and in other countries. Providers can use these evidence-based insights to expand financial inclusion, improve client offerings, and continue to promote financial health. This booklet combines a series of briefs, which are also available to download as individual briefs: Count on Commitment, The Power of Doing Nothing, Top of Mind. Count on CommitmentCommitment devices are voluntary, binding arrangements that people make to reach specific goals that may otherwise be difficult to achieve. When built into savings products, commitment devices can help address behavioral and social obstacles to saving by providing a mechanism that forces people to save according to their self-set plans. These devices vary in terms of commitment activi...
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Brief
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February 13, 2017
English
Financial education is widely used by governments, financial service providers, and non-governmental organizations as a tool to help people navigate the financial system and make better financial choices. Financial education programs are built on the assumption that education will lead to knowledge, and that knowledge will lead to better choices and improved financial health. Recent evidence suggests that assumption is flawed, but also shows promise for some new, alternative approaches to financial education. A robust body of evidence shows that on average conventional approaches to financial education have not been successful in either imparting lasting knowledge or in changing people’s financial behavior. While these findings may seem discouraging at first glance, the conventional approach to financial education is not the only approach, and several new methods have been rigorously tested in recent years and yielded positive results. This brief explores the emerging evidence on these...
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Brief
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January 27, 2017
English
IPA is synonymous with impact. We’re known for both measuring impact and using those results to impact people’s lives. In 2015, we further improved our research quality and grew in research quantity, and we began new efforts to share results to improve programs and policies for the poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 400 leading academics to conduct over 600 evaluations in 51 countries. This research has informed hundreds of successful programs that now impact millions of individuals worldwide. Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org
Type:
Annual Report
Date:
September 12, 2016
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How do standard development programs compare to just giving people cash? In Rwanda, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to shed light on this question. Villages were randomly assigned to one of four groups: they received either a USAID-funded, integrated WASH and nutrition program (with savings and asset transfer components), unconditional cash grants of equal cost to the donor, a larger cash transfer, or no program at the time of study. The transfers were funded by USAID and Google.org. The evaluation measured impacts on five main health and economic outcomes: household dietary diversity, maternal and child anemia, child growth (height-for-age, weight-for-age, and mid-upper arm circumference), household wealth, and household consumption, as well as other secondary outcomes, such as savings. Key Findings: After approximately one year: »  The integrated nutrition and WASH program had a positive impact on savings, a secondary outcome, among the eligible population, but did not...
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Brief
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September 18, 2018
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Designers and funders of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs have long worried that payments flow to landholders who would have conserved forests even without the program, undermining the environmental benefits (“additionality”) and cost-effectiveness of PES. If landholders self-select into PES programs based on how much conservation they were going to undertake anyway, then those who were planning to conserve should always enroll. This paper discusses the less-appreciated fact that enrollment is often based on other factors too. The hassle of signing up or financial costs of enrollment (e.g., purchasing seedlings) can affect who participates in a PES program. These enrollment costs reduce overall take-up, and, importantly, they can also influence the composition of landholders who select into the program—and thereby the program’s environmental benefits per enrollee. Enrollment costs can increase a program’s benefits per enrollee if they are systematically higher for (and th...
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Published Paper
Date:
August 02, 2018
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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.
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Working Paper
Date:
July 30, 2018
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Maternal mortality remains very high in many parts of the developing world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Limited awareness of risk factors for maternal mortality such as maternal age and birth spacing may contribute to persistently high death rates, and public health campaigns to increase awareness of risk factors could help curb maternal mortality. Research shows that men, in particular, tend to underestimate maternal mortality risk, which may lead to their lower demand for contraception. Researchers worked in close collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and local NGOs to evaluate the impact of providing information to men and women about maternal mortality risk on knowledge of risk, demand for family planning, and maternal and child health outcomes. Preliminary results indicate that providing husbands with the information led to a reduction in fertility in the year that followed, while providing information to women had no comparable impact.
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Brief
Date:
July 30, 2018
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IPA’s Peace & Recovery program is designed to support field experiments and related research in several broad areas: Reducing violence and promoting peace Reducing “fragility” (i.e. fostering state capability and institutions of decision making) Preventing, coping with, and recovering from crises (focusing on conflict, but also including non-conflict humanitarian crises) This document highlights the aims, core themes, research questions, and focus countries for P&R calls for proposals which will be taking place twice a year during 2018 and 2019.
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Report
Date:
July 25, 2018
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Limited financial knowledge, skills, and confidence are associated with suboptimal financial behavior such as low rates of saving, limited usage of deposit and transactional accounts, and overindebtedness. The Government of Rwanda, the World Bank Group, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) partnered to conduct a large-scale randomized evaluation that measured the impact of Phase One of the Financial Education through SACCOs program. The evaluation measured and compared the impacts of two program delivery models—autonomous vs. fixed trainer selection—on SACCO members’ financial knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Key Findings* SACCO members attended more sessions of the Financial Education through SACCOs when SACCOs had autonomy to choose trainers from the local community (“autonomous selection”). SACCO members in this autonomous selection group showed improvements in financial knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, including with respect to knowledge of key rules of thumb, a...
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Brief
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July 13, 2018
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Key Findings: Simple growth charts, which allowed parents to see if their child had a normal height for their age, did not reduce reduce growth deficits on average among the 547 children in the study, but among malnourished children, reduced stunting by 22 percentage points. In contrast, inviting caregivers to quarterly meetings to learn if their children had a normal height and weight and providing food supplements to malnourished children had no impact on rates of stunting. Neither home-based growth charts nor community-based monitoring were found to impact children’s cognitive development. Home-based growth charts appear to be a cost-effective tool to reduce physical growth deficits in this context. For every dollar that was invested in growth charts, children who otherwise would have been stunted gained an estimated $16 in additional lifetime wages. 
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Brief
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July 10, 2018
We present the results of a study designed to ‘benchmark’ a major USAID-funded child malnutrition program against what would have occurred if the cost of the program had simply been disbursed directly to beneficiaries to spend as they see fit. Using a three-armed trial from 248 villages in Rwanda, the study measures impacts on households containing poor or underweight children, or pregnant or lactating women, as well as the broader population of study villages. We find that the bundled health program delivers benefits in an outcome directly targeted by specific sub-components of the intervention (savings), but does not improve household dietary diversity, child anthropometrics, or anemia within the year of the study. A cost-equivalent cash transfer boosts productive asset investment and allows households to pay down debt. The bundled program is significantly better in cost-equivalent terms at generating savings and worse for debt reduction, while cost-equivalent cash drives more asset...
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Type:
Working Paper
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June 15, 2018
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This document provides a brief overview of the policies and best practices for ensuring the safe and ethical conduct of violence research at IPA. It also articulates the specific roles and responsibilities of IPA and its academic partners with respect to violence research. It is intended for principal investigators and research staff at IPA who are already familiar with the ethics of human subjects research, but are interested in more specific guidance related to the collection of violence data.
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Research Resource
Date:
June 13, 2018
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Governments are tasked with delivering basic services such as education, security, and infrastructure, but access to and quality of these services is often undermined by poor oversight, corruption, and lack of community participation. While countless programs aim to address these issues, their effectiveness is often not clear. IPA’s governance research investigates ways to increase the performance of the government institutions that serve as the foundation for development. Our research teams have shed light on pressing questions including how to reduce vote-selling, how to increase the demand for government accountability, how technology can be used to reduce corruption, and how information can improve voting behavior, but many unanswered questions remain. 
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Brief
Date:
June 13, 2018
Spanish
A pesar de la importancia del desarrollo de habilidades en ciencias y resolución de problemas para educadores, padres, y estudiantes, la evidencia rigurosa sobre el aprendizaje y enseñanza de ciencias en edades tempranas es escasa. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) se encargó de evaluar una intervención que fue implementada como resultado de una colaboración entre el Ministerio de Educación y Ciencias (MEC), el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID), la Asociación de Utilidad Pública Juntos por la Educación, y Agencia Internacional de Cooperación del Japón (JICA). La intervención es una pedagogía bilingüe (guaraní-español) basada en el enfoque de la indagación para la enseñanza de ciencias guiada a través de audio-grabaciones.
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Brief
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June 04, 2018
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Un equipo de investigadores de Innovations for Poverty Action, en colaboración con el Gobierno Colombiano, desarrolló una auditoría aleatoria de dos de los programas sociales más grandes del país—Sistema de Identificación de Potenciales Beneficiarios de Programas Sociales (Sisbén) y Más Familias en Acción (MFA)—para medir cómo el estatus social de los ciudadanos y los factores políticos locales afectan la eficiencia de los servidores municipales en el procesamiento y atención de las solicitudes ciudadanas. Resultados principales* La tasa de respuesta de las llamadas a las alcaldías municipales del territorio nacional y las alcaldías locales en Bogotá fue baja: cerca del 65% de los solicitantes recibieron una respuesta en hasta seis intentos. Un número importante de alcaldías (148/618 o 23%) son inaccesibles por teléfono durante horas de servicio al ciudadano. Era menos probable que las llamadas fueran respondidas en horas de la tarde (después de almuerzo) que, en horas de la mañana, pr...
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Brief
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May 23, 2018
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Rates of participation in early childhood education (ECE) programs are on the rise globally, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet little evidence exists on the quality of these programs and on the role of classroom quality in predicting learning for young children across diverse contexts. This study uses data from the Greater Accra Region of Ghana (N = 3,407; Mage = 5.8 years; 49.5% female) to examine how changes in four culturally-validated dimensions of ECE classroom quality predict children’s growth in early academic and social-emotional skills from the beginning to the end of one academic year. We find that improvements in domains of classroom instructional quality are related to small, positive gains in children’s early academic and social-emotional outcomes over the school year, and that these improvements are generally larger for children and classrooms with higher baseline proficiency and quality levels. Associations between changes in social-emotional aspects of classroom qual...
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Published Paper
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May 22, 2018
This study examines how parent socioeconomic status (SES) directly and indirectly predicts children’s school readiness through pathways of parental investment. Data come from direct assessments with preschool children and surveys with their primary caregivers in Ghana at the start of the 2015–2016 school year (N = 2,137; Mage = 5.2 years). Results revealed SES-related gaps in all parental investment characteristics and child school readiness skills. Preschool involvement served as the primary mediating mechanism in the path from SES to most school readiness skills, though it did not predict executive function. The number of books in the household was marginally positively predictive of early literacy, whereas at-home stimulation was negatively related to motor, literacy, and numeracy skills.
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Published Paper
Date:
May 22, 2018
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The Strategic Planning Secretariat of the Ministry of Education, with technical assistance from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), is implementing an education lab for innovations. This Lab is an innovative approach to policymaking, which creates a learning space to design low cost interventions that have the potential to trigger big impacts in learning and implementation outcomes. The proposed interventions will be rigorously tested using the Ministry’s administrative data systems when available, with the aim of scaling those innovations that prove to be effective. The Lab’s combination of low-cost interventions with the use of administrative data offers a highly efficient scheme for innovation and design of public policies based on evidence, both in terms of resources and availability of timely results without interfering with the implementation of the Ministry’s interventions. Read more about MineduLAB here.
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Brief
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May 03, 2018
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Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture currently operates an agricultural extension agency program to help teach smallholder farmers the most current farming techniques, but there are not enough agents to provide a constant presence in local communities. As part of the Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers (DIRTS) project, researchers collaborated with the ministry to test a new community agricultural extension agent program, which selected and trained local agents to supplement the existing MOFA agents and provide more frequent teaching and support. Key Findings* After three years: Community extension agents successfully increased local farmers’ knowledge and improved their practices. Delivering specific information about a practice close to the time when the practice should be adopted may be an important component of a successful program. However, farmers’ improved knowledge and implementation of best practices did not ultimately translate into...
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Brief
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May 01, 2018

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