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We embed a field experiment in a nationwide recruitment drive for nurses in Zambia to test whether career benefits attract talent at the expense of prosocial motivation. We randomize the offer of career benefits at the recruitment stage. In line with common wisdom, treatment attracts less prosocial applicants. However, the trade-off only exists at low levels of talent; the marginal applicants in treatment are more talented and equally pro-social. These are hired, and they perform better at every step of the chain: they deliver more services, promote institutional childbirth, and reduce child malnutrition by 25% in the communities they serve.
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Working Paper
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February 05, 2019
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Voter mobilization campaigns face trade-offs in young democracies. In a large-scale experiment implemented in 2013 with the Kenyan Electoral Commission (IEBC), text messages intended to mobilize voters boosted participation but also decreased trust in electoral institutions after the election, a decrease that was stronger in areas that experienced election-related violence, and for individuals on the losing side of the election. The mobilization backfired because the IEBC promised an electronic voting system that failed, resulting in manual voting and tallying delays. Using a simple model, we show signaling high institutional capacity via a mobilization campaign can negatively affect beliefs about the fairness of the election.
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Working Paper
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February 05, 2019
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Developing country lenders are taking advantage of fintech tools to create fully digital loans on mobile phones. Using administrative and survey data, we study the take up and impacts of one of the most popular digital loan products in the world, M-Shwari in Kenya. While 34% of those eligible for a loan take it, the loan does not substitute for other credit. The loans improve household resilience: households are 6.3 percentage points less likely to forego expenses due to negative shocks. We conclude that while digital loans improve financial access and resilience, they are not a panacea for greater credit market failures.
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Working Paper
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February 01, 2019
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Violence against women (VAW) is widespread in East Africa, with almost half of married women experiencing physical abuse. Those seeking to address this policy issue confront two challenges. First, some forms of domestic violence are widely condoned; majorities of men and women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife in a variety of scenarios. Second, victims and bystanders are often reluctant to report incidents to authorities. Building on a growing literature showing that education-entertainment can change norms and behaviors, we present experimental evidence from a media campaign attended by over 10,000 Ugandans in 112 villages. In randomly assigned villages, video dramatizations discouraged VAW and encouraged reporting. Results from interviews conducted several months after the intervention show no change in attitudes condoning VAW yet a substantial increase in willingness to report to authorities, especially among women, and a decline in the share of women who exper...
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Working Paper
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January 31, 2019
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In 2016 the city of Bogotá doubled police patrols and intensified city services on high-crime streets. They did so based on a policy and criminological consensus that such place-based programs not only decrease crime, but also have positive spillovers to nearby streets. To test this, we worked with Bogotá to experiment on an unprecedented scale. They randomly assigned 1,919 streets to either 8 months of doubled police patrols, greater municipal services, both, or neither. Such scale brings econometric challenges. Spatial spillovers in dense networks introduce bias and complicate variance estimation through “fuzzy clustering.” But a design-based approach and randomization inference produce valid hypothesis tests in such settings. In contrast to the consensus, we find intensifying state presence in Bogotá had modest but imprecise direct effects and that such crime displaced nearby, especially property crimes. Confidence intervals suggest we can rule out total reductions in crime of more...
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January 19, 2019
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Low-income households around the world are particularly vulnerable to shocks, but also the least prepared when a shock hits. The effects of climate change, including floods, droughts, and other weather-related disasters, are adding another layer of risk for already vulnerable households. In this context, it is increasingly important that poor households build resilience—that they strengthen their ability to mitigate, cope, and recover from shocks and stresses without compromising their future welfare. Evidence suggests well-designed financial products and services can play a role in increasing low-income families’ resilience by helping them be prepared for risk, reduce risk, increase investment in the face of risk, and respond when a shock occurs. Yet the role that financial products and services can play in increasing resilience, as well as the most effective design and delivery mechanisms toward that end, is not fully understood. This paper reviews the evidence on financial inclusion...
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Brief
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January 14, 2019
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En Colombia, así como en muchos otros países, los trabajadores enfrentan muchas barreras para ahorrar para la jubilación. La situación es mucho peor para los trabajadores informales, que representan alrededor del 65 por ciento de la fuerza laboral total en Colombia. Con el fin de investigar formas de aumentar las contribuciones voluntarias para el retiro, Innovations for Poverty Action en colaboración con Colpensiones, el administrador público del Régimen de Prima Media con Prestación Definida, y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo llevará a cabo tres etapas de evaluaciones aleatorias rápidas - RFT (Rapid Fire Testing) que medirán el impacto de los mensajes de texto en los hábitos de ahorro para el retiro. En México, de forma paralela, los investigadores están implementando un estudio similar adaptado al contexto nacional.
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Brief
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January 08, 2019
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Las pequeñas y mediana empresas son vistas como importantes motores de crecimiento en los países en desarrollo. Sin embargo, barreras al crecimiento tales como la dificultad para acceder a créditos impiden con frecuencia el desarrollo de ese potencial. Ante este panorama, un grupo de investigadores usó una evaluación aleatorizada para medir el impacto de introducir puntajes de crédito generados por computador sobre los niveles de créditos otorgados a las micro y pequeñas empresas en Colombia. La evaluación reveló que el programa incrementó significativamente la productividad en la aprobación de créditos y mejoró su asignación sin afectar el promedio de los montos autorizados ni las tasas de incumplimiento.
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January 08, 2019
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We evaluate the impact of a large-scale information and mobilization intervention designed to improve health service delivery in rural Uganda by increasing citizens’ ability to monitor and apply bottom-up pressure on underperforming health workers. Modeled closely on the landmark “Power to the People” study (Bjorkman and Svensson, 2009), the intervention was undertaken in 376 health centers in 16 districts and involved a three wave panel of more than 14,000 households. We find that while the intervention had a modest positive impact on treatment quality and patient satisfaction, it had no effect on utilization rates or health outcomes (including child mortality). We also find no evidence that the channel through which the intervention affected treatment quality was citizen monitoring. The results hold in a wide set of pre-specified subgroups and also when, via a factorial design, we break down the complex intervention into its two most important components. Our findings cast doubt on t...
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January 08, 2019
Around the world, 152 million children are engaged in child labor. Because poverty is thought to be the root cause of child labor, policymakers have aimed to reduce child labor by improving the economic welfare of poor households where children are engaged in child labor. In the Philippines, researchers partnered with the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to conduct a randomized evaluation of the impact of a program that provided a one-time productive asset transfer of PHP 10,000 (equivalent to US$518) on economic well-being and child labor outcomes. Key Findings  Approximately 15 months after the program started: The assets increased household business activity, both fostering new activities and helping older business activities persist. The program increased food security and improved some measures of child welfare, including children’s life satisfaction. The program had a positive rate of return on family-firm generated income. However, the program also led to an...
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January 07, 2019
We present results from a large-scale randomized experiment across 350 schools in Tanzania that studied the impact of providing schools with (a) unconditional grants, (b) teacher incentives based on student performance, and (c) both of the above. After two years, we find (a) no impact on student test scores from providing school grants, (b) some evidence of positive effects from teacher incentives, and (c) significant positive effects from providing both programs. Most importantly, we find strong evidence of complementarities between the two programs, with the effect of joint provision being significantly greater than the sum of the individual effects. Our results suggest that combining spending on school inputs (which is the default policy) with improved teacher incentives could substantially increase the cost-effectiveness of public spending on education.
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Working Paper
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January 01, 2019
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In Uganda, researchers conducted a large-scale randomized evaluation of a program called Accountability Can Transform (ACT) Health. The program provided community members and health care workers information about the quality of their local health services and brought them together to create action plans for how to improve local health service accountability, delivery, and quality. The study built on previous research of a similar program called Power to the People, which was found to greatly improve child health. Key Findings Twenty months after the program began:1 The program marginally improved the quality of treatment patients received and increased patient satisfaction. However, the program did not affect how often people sought health care (utilization rates) or improve health outcomes; child mortality rates were unchanged. Results were similar one and two years into the program and were consistent across different groups; no health effects were found in any subgroup. Contrary to...
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December 14, 2018
This paper studies strategic default on forward sale contracts in the international coffee market. To test for strategic default, we construct contract-specific measures of unanticipated changes in market conditions by comparing spot prices at maturity with the relevant futures prices at the contracting date. Unanticipated rises in market prices increase defaults on fixed price contracts but not on priceindexed ones. We isolate strategic default by focusing on unanticipated rises at the time of delivery after production decisions are sunk and suppliers have been paid. Estimates suggest that roughly half of the observed defaults are strategic. We model how strategic default introduces a trade-off between insurance and counterparty risk: relative to indexed contracts, fixed-price contracts insure against price swings but create incentives to default when market conditions change. A model calibration suggests that the possibility of strategic default causes 15.8% average losses in output,...
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Working Paper
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December 14, 2018
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Individuals care about how they are perceived by others, and take visible actions to signal their type. This paper investigates social signaling in the context of childhood immunization in Sierra Leone. Despite high initial vaccine take-up, many parents do not complete the five immunizations that are required in a child’s first year of life. I introduce a durable signal - in the form of differently colored bracelets - which children receive upon vaccination, and implement a 22-month-long experiment in 120 public clinics. Informed by theory, the experimental design separately identifies social signaling from leading alternative mechanisms. In a first main finding, I show that individuals use signals to learn about others’ actions. Second, I find that the impact of signals varies significantly with the social desirability of the action. In particular, the signal has a weak effect when linked to a vaccine with low perceived benefits and a large, positive effect when linked to a vaccine wi...
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December 12, 2018
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its Q1-Q3 bulletin from 2018. This bulletin highlights IPA Zambia's participation in research dissemination and conference events, including the Evidence for Impact Symposium and the Third National Food and Nutrition Summit.
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November 19, 2018
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Background: Helminth and protozoan infections affect >1 billion children globally. Improved water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition could be more sustainable control strategies for parasite infections than mass drug administration (MDA), while providing other quality of life benefits. Methods and Findings: We enrolled geographic clusters of pregnant women into a cluster-randomized controlled trial that tested six interventions: disinfecting drinking water(W), improved sanitation(S), handwashing with soap(H), combined WSH, improved nutrition(N), and combined WSHN. We assessed intervention effects on parasite infections by measuring Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, hookworm, and Giardia duodenalis among individual children born to enrolled mothers and their older siblings (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01704105). We collected stool specimens from 9077 total children in 622 clusters, including 2346 children in control, 1117 in water, 1160 in sanitation, 1141 in handwashing, 106...
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November 09, 2018
We assessed the impacts of a teacher professional development program for public and private kindergartens in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. We examined impacts on teacher professional well-being, classroom quality, and children’s readiness during one school year. This cluster-randomized trial included 240 schools (teachers N = 444; children N = 3,345, Mage = 5.2) randomly assigned to one of three conditions: teacher training (TT), teacher training plus parental-awareness meetings (TTPA), and controls. The programs incorporated workshops and in-classroom coaching for teachers and video-based discussion groups for parents. Moderate impacts were found on some dimensions of professional well-being (reduced burnout in the TT and TTPA conditions, reduced turnover in the TT condition), classroom quality (increased emotional support/behavior management in the TT and TTPA conditions, support for student expression in the TT condition), and small impacts on multiple domains of children’s sc...
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October 18, 2018
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In Rwanda, 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 Rwandan poor. 
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October 17, 2018
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Children and parents sometimes make ill-informed educational choices, resulting in unrealized educational goals, children dropping out of school, and children joining the labor force. In partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action and the Ministry of Education in Peru, researchers designed and rigorously evaluated two interventions intended to improve decision-making about education and time-use by providing schoolchildren and their families with information about the returns to education. Preliminary Findings*: Students’ and parents’ perceptions of the financial benefits to education increased. Accessing information about the social and financial returns to education via videos and an interactive tablet application corrected misconceptions about the benefits of education. Dropout rates fell. Information had a significant negative effect on dropout rates in both rural and urban areas. Child labor effects were mixed. Videos decreased child labor for girls in urban areas, but did not...
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Brief
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September 28, 2018
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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.
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Brief
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September 26, 2018

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