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Scholars have long speculated about education’s political impacts, variously arguing that it promotes modern or pro-democratic attitudes; that it instills acceptance of existing authority; and that it empowers the disadvantaged to challenge authority. This paper studies the political and social impacts of increased education. To address the potential threat of bias from selection into human capital investment, we utilize a randomized girls’ merit scholarship incentive program in Kenya that raised test scores and secondary schooling. We find little evidence for modernization theory. Consistent with the empowerment view, young women in program schools were less likely to accept domestic violence. Moreover, the program increased objective political knowledge, and reduced acceptance of political authority. However, this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater perceived political efficacy, community participation, or voting intentions. Instead, there is suggestive evidenc...
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Working Paper
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September 01, 2015
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The Financial Services for the Poor Initiative supports research on innovations that help low-income households in the developing world access and benefit from formal financial services. We address outstanding questions on how to design and scale innovations to bring affordable and effective services within the reach of previously unbanked and underserved clients.
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Brief
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September 01, 2015
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The results are in for the Community Health Assistant (CHA) incentives evaluation: increases in the productivity of CHAs that were recruited via career (versus social) incentives are mirrored by significantly improved health outcomes at the household level.
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August 31, 2015
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We examine whether returns to capital are higher for farmers who borrow than for those who do not, a direct implication of many credit market models. We measure the difference in returns through a two‐stage loan and grant experiment. We find large positive investment responses and returns to grants for a random (representative) sample of farmers, showing that liquidity constraints bind. However, we find zero returns to grants for a sample of farmers who endogenously did not borrow. Thus we find important heterogeneity, even conditional on a wide range of observed characteristics, which has critical implications for theory and policy.
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Working Paper
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August 01, 2015
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Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) have been shown to increase human capital investments, but their standard features make them expensive. We use a large randomized experiment in Morocco to estimate an alternative government-run program, a “labeled cash transfer” (LCT): a small cash transfer made to fathers of school-aged children in poor rural communities, not conditional on school attendance but explicitly labeled as an education support program. We document large gains in school participation. Adding conditionality and targeting mothers made almost no difference in our context. The program increased parents’ belief that education was a worthwhile investment, a likely pathway for the results.
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Published Paper
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August 01, 2015
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Performance pay for tax collectors has the potential to raise revenues, but might come at a cost if it increases the bargaining power of tax collectors vis-a-vis taxpayers. We report the first large-scale field experiment on these issues, where we experimentally allocated 482 property tax units in Punjab, Pakistan into one of three performance-pay schemes or a control. After two years, incentivized units had 9.4 log points higher revenue than controls, which translates to a 46 percent higher growth rate. The scheme that rewarded purely on revenue did best, increasing revenue by 12.9 log points (64 percent higher growth rate), with little penalty for customer satisfaction and assessment accuracy compared to the two other schemes that explicitly also rewarded these dimensions. The revenue gains accrue from a small number of properties becoming taxed at their true value, which is substantially more than they had been taxed at previously. The majority of properties in incentivized areas in...
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Working Paper
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August 01, 2015
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We design a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the adoption of credit scoring with a bank that uses soft information in small businesses lending. We find that credit scores improve the productivity of credit committees, reduce managerial involvement in the loan approval process, and increase the profitability of lending. Credit committee members’ effort and output also increase when they anticipate the score becoming available, indicating that scores improve incentives to use existing information. Our results imply that credit scores improve the efficiency and decentralize decision-making in loan production, which has implications for the optimal organization of banks.
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Working Paper
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July 02, 2015
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Agricultural productivity in Africa is low despite the existence of improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. As much of the population works in agriculture, encouraging use of these improved technologies could raise productivity and in turn reduce poverty and encourage economic growth. But why do farmers fail to invest in potentially profitable technologies? One reason may be that they do not have enough cash on hand when they need to purchase them and lack access to credit. Microcredit organizations have attempted to address this problem, but the typical microcredit loan contract—where clients must start repayment after a few weeks—is ill-suited for agriculture. Providing farmers with loans at the beginning of the planting season, to be repaid in a lump sum at the time of harvest, could facilitate investment and increased profitability.
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Brief
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July 01, 2015
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We test how donors respond to new information about a charity’s effectiveness. Freedom from Hunger implemented a test of its direct marketing solicitations, varying letters by whether they include a discussion of their program’s impact as measured by scientific research. The base script, used for both treatment and control, included a standard qualitative story about an individual beneficiary. Adding scientific impact information has no effect on average likelihood of giving or average gift amount. However, we find important heterogeneity: large prior donors both are more likely to give and also give more, whereas small prior donors are less likely to give. This pattern is consistent with two different types of donors: warm glow donors who respond negatively to analytical effectiveness information, and altruism donors who respond  positively to such information.
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Working Paper
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June 28, 2015
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Investing in women is said to be a key to development. In this view, providing education, a cow, or the ingredients for a business will result in great things: increases in income, empowerment, social inclusion, and improved mental health. In this study, IPA researchers studied whether the most vulnerable women could start and sustain small businesses. They evaluated a program by AVSI Uganda, the Women’s INcome Generating Support (WINGS) program. WINGS offered extremely poor people basic business skills training, ongoing mentorship, and cash grants with a purchasing power of $375. The message: the poorest women have high returns to cash, training and supervision. Not only can cash-centered programs help the poorest start and sustain microenterprises, but they do so cost-effectively. Moving ahead, there are ways to improve cost-effectiveness, and programs should note that higher incomes alone may not address women’s social and personal challenges.
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Brief
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June 25, 2015
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Debates between candidates for public once have a rich historical tradition and remain an integral part of contemporary campaign strategy. There is, however, no definitive evidence of whether debates affect actual voting behavior. Limited media penetration implies that the effects of publicizing debates could be more pronounced, persistent and directly linked to electoral outcomes in the developing world. We experimentally manipulate citizen exposure to debates between Parliamentary candidates in Sierra Leone to measure their impacts on, and the interconnections between, voter behavior, campaign spending, and the performance of elected politicians. We find evidence of strong positive impacts on citizen political knowledge, policy alignment and votes cast on Election Day. We then document an endogenous response by participating candidates, who increased their campaign expenditure in communities where videotapes of the debates were screened in large public gatherings. A complementary ser...
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Working Paper
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June 19, 2015
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Both under- and over-treatment of communicable diseases are public bads. But efforts to decrease one run the risk of increasing the other. Using rich experimental data on household treatment-seeking behavior in Kenya, we study the implications of this trade-off for subsidizing life-saving antimalarials sold over-the-counter at retail drug outlets. We show that a very high subsidy (such as the one under consideration by the international community) dramatically increases access, but nearly one-half of subsidized pills go to patients without malaria. We study two ways to better target subsidized drugs: reducing the subsidy level, and introducing rapid malaria tests over-the-counter.
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Published Paper
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June 18, 2015
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Interlinked transactions in which output prices are determined jointly with the terms of a credit contract are an important feature of many business relationships, particularly in developing economies. We present results from a randomized experiment designed to study how value is passed along the agricultural supply chain in the presence of such interlinkages. In response to an increase in a trader’s wholesale price, we find limited pass-through of the price to farmers. However we also find a large increase in the likelihood that traders provide credit to farmers, suggesting that the value of the wholesale price increase was passed to farmers along a different margin. We develop a model of interlinked transactions that shows how price and credit passthrough are determined, and verify its predictions empirically. Our work suggests that the presence of interlinkages is a candidate explanation for low rates of price pass-through that have been observed, but one with substantially differen...
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Working Paper
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June 17, 2015
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To ensure a Stata dataset does not contain personally identifiable information (PII), you should carefully review the variables it contains: it may not be immediately clear that a variable is PII. However, sometimes it is useful to complete a first sweep of one or more datasets for clear instances of PII.
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June 05, 2015
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Pseudocode is a simplified, half-English, half-code outline of a computer program.
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June 05, 2015
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States and aid agencies use employment programs to rehabilitate high-risk men in the belief that peaceful work opportunities will deter them from crime and violence. Rigorous evidence is rare. We experimentally evaluate a program of agricultural training, capital inputs, and counseling for Liberian ex-fighters who were illegally mining or occupying rubber plantations. 14 months after the program ended, men who accepted the program offer increased their farm employment and profits, and shifted work hours away from illicit activities. Men also reduced interest in mercenary work in a nearby war. Finally, some men did not receive their capital inputs but expected a future cash transfer instead, and they reduced illicit and mercenary activities most of all. The evidence suggests that illicit and mercenary labor supply responds to small changes in returns to peaceful work, especially future and ongoing incentives. But the impacts of training alone, without capital, appear to be low.
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Working Paper
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June 01, 2015
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There is a disconnect between academic economists’ search for individual mechanisms that constrain firm growth and the more complex reality facing firms and policymakers aiming to alleviate these constraints. The comprehensive, some would say scattershot, approaches that are common in practice are considered challenging for evaluators because of the difficulty in identifying any particular causal mechanism. More targeted attempts to improve business performance typically generate mixed performance (McKenzie and Woodruff 2012) or do not seem to scale either in the market or with public support.
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Working Paper
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May 28, 2015
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We present results from six randomized control trials of an integrated approach to improve livelihoods among the very poor. The approach combines the transfer of a productive asset with consumption support, training, and coaching plus savings encouragement and health education and/or services. Results from the implementation of the same basic program, adapted to a wide variety of geographic and institutional contexts and with multiple implementing partners, show statistically significant cost-effective impacts on consumption (fueled mostly by increases in self-employment income) and psychosocial status of the targeted households. The impact on the poor households lasted at least a year after all implementation ended. It is possible to make sustainable improvements in the economic status of the poor with a relatively short-term intervention.
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Published Paper
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May 15, 2015
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We study political economy responses to a large scale intervention in Bangladesh, where four sub-districts consisting of 100 villages (12,000 households) were randomly assigned to control, information or subsidy treatments to encourage investments in improved sanitation. In theory, leaders may endogenously respond to large interventions by changing their allocation of effort, and their constituents’ views about the leader may rationally change as a result. In one intervention where the leaders’ role in program allocation was not clear to constituents, constituents appear to attribute credit to their local leader for a randomly assigned program. However, when subsidy assignment is clearly and transparently random, the lottery winners do not attribute any extra credit to the politician relative to lottery losers. The theory can rationalize these observations if we model leaders’ actions and constituent reactions under imperfect information about leader ability. A third intervention retur...
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Working Paper
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May 13, 2015
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We implemented a randomized field experiment that tested ways to stimulate savings by international migrants in their origin country. We find that migrants value and take advantage of opportunities to exert greater control over financial activities in their home countries. In partnership with a Salvadoran bank, we offered U.S.-based migrants bank accounts in El Salvador. We randomly varied migrant control over El Salvador-based savings by offering different types of accounts across treatment groups. Migrants offered the greatest degree of control accumulated the most savings at the partner bank, compared to others offered less or no control over savings. Impacts are likely to represent increases in total savings: there is no evidence that savings increases were simply reallocated from other savings mechanisms. Enhanced control over home-country savings does not affect remittances sent home by migrants.
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2015

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