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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
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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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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
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June 13, 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
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May 22, 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
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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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Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana. Key Findings* Over the course of one growing season: The seed comparison found a wide variety in yields between seeds, with farmers who grew the foreign hybrid seed, Adikanfo, on average yielding more than double that yielded from the local hybrid seed, Mamaba. Contrary to expectations, the commonly-used local seed, Obaatanpa, outperformed the local hybrid seed, Mamaba. The study suggests a farmer cultivating one hectare of land who switched from Obaatanpa to Adikanfo would harvest about 1.8 tons more maize, translating into an increase in profit of more t...
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Brief
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May 01, 2018
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In Ghana, and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, farmers invest little in inputs, such as improved seed, fertilizer, and other chemicals to improve their yields. One reason for this may be risk associated with factors out of their control, such as weather. As part of the “Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers” project, researchers partnered with a weather forecasting firm to test the impact of providing daily short-term weather forecasts by SMS. Key Findings After 1 year: Farmers who received the forecasts, as well as farmers living nearby, used this information to change their behavior, timing planting and chemical application for days when light rain was forecast. However, there was no discernable impact of the service on farmers’ overall profits. Overall, the results suggest that forecasts are inexpensive and effective at changing farmer behavior, but they were not sufficient to increase overall profits alone.
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Brief
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May 01, 2018
Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to "sell low and buy high" rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers' abilities to move grain inter-temporally. Providing timely access to credit allows farmers to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm revenues and generating a return on investment of 28%. To understand general equilibrium effects of these changes in behavior, we vary the density of loan offers across locations. We document significant effects of the credit intervention on seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets, and show that these GE effects shape individual level profitability estimates. In contrast to existing experimental work, the results indicate a setting in which...
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Working Paper
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April 24, 2018
We organized business associations for the owner-managers of young Chinese firms to study the effect of business networks on firm performance. We randomized 2,820 firms into small groups whose managers held monthly meetings for one year, and into a “no-meetings” control group. We find the following. (i) The meetings increased firm revenue by 8.1%, and also significantly increased profit, factors, inputs, the number of partners, borrowing, and a management score. (ii) These effects persisted one year after the conclusion of the meetings. (iii) Firms randomized to have better peers exhibited higher growth. We exploit additional interventions to document concrete channels. (iv) Managers shared exogenous business-relevant information, particularly when they were not competitors, showing that the meetings facilitated learning from peers. (v) Managers created more business partnerships in the regular than in other one-time meetings, showing that the meetings improved supplier-client matching...
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Published Paper
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April 18, 2018
Several field experiments find positive returns to grants for male and not female microentrepreneurs. But, these analyses largely overlook that male and female micro-entrepreneurs often belong to the same household. Using data from randomized trials in India, Sri Lanka and Ghana, we show that the gender gap in microenterprise performance is not due to a gap in aptitude. Instead, low average returns of female-run enterprises are observed because women’s capital is invested into their husbands’ enterprises rather than their own. When women are the sole household enterprise operator, capital shocks lead to large increases in profits. Household-level income gains are equivalent regardless of the grant or loan recipient’s gender.
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Working Paper
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April 18, 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:
April 11, 2018
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This document provides application instructions for Round 2 (Spring 2018) of the Peace & Recovery (P&R) Program's request for proposals. The application process contains the following templates for applicants to complete when submitting their applications: Template for Pilot and Full Study Proposals Template for Exploratory Grant Proposals Budget Template (to be used for both Pilot/Full Study and Exploratory Grant Proposals) For more information about the request for proposals and P&R Program, read the Guiding Principles and Funding Priorities, and visit the P&R Competitive Fund page.
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Report
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April 11, 2018
Using a randomized-control trial, this study evaluates a program designed to support Ghanaian kindergarten student-teachers during pre-service training through mentorship and in-classroom training. Several potential barriers to improved teaching quality and learning outcomes are examined. Findings show that the program improved knowledge and implementation of the national curriculum for individuals both when they were student-teachers and, the following year, when they became newly qualified teachers (NQTs). There were mixed impacts on professional well-being, increasing personal accomplishment and motivation but decreasing job satisfaction for NQTs. There were mixed impacts on teaching quality, with increases in child-led learning but decreases in some other aspects of quality. There were no impacts on NQTs’ student learning outcomes. The findings highlight system level challenges with both the posting of NQTs and the absence of support in their first teaching year. Implications for g...
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Published Paper
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March 30, 2018
We present findings from a pilot study exploring whether and how existing ties between urban migrants and rural farmers may be used to provide the latter improved access to formal insurance. Urban migrants in Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) originating from nearby villages were offered, at the prevailing market price, a rainfall index insurance product that can potentially protect their rural relatives from adverse weather shocks. The product had an uptake of 22% during the two-week subscription window. Uptake rates were higher by 17-22 ppts among urban migrants who were randomly offered an insurance policy that would make pay-outs directly to the intended beneficiary rather than the subscriber. We argue that rainfall index insurance can complement informal risk-sharing networks by mitigating problems of informational asymmetry and self-control issues.
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Working Paper
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March 20, 2018

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