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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
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. With that in mind, we partnered with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), a leading Philippine business school, to launch a classbased program that had MBA students providing consulting services for local small and medium enterprises.
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2015
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We implement a randomized experiment offering Salvadoran migrants matching funds for educational remittances, which are channeled directly to a beneficiary student in El Salvador chosen by the migrant. The matches lead to increased educational expenditures, higher private school attendance, and lower labor supply of youths in El Salvador households connected to migrant study participants. We find substantial “crowd-in” of educational investments: for each $1 received by beneficiaries, educational expenditures increase by $3.72. We find no shifting of expenditures away from other students, and no effect on remittances.
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Published Paper
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April 30, 2015
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Farmers may grow crops for local consumption despite more profitable export options. DrumNet, a Kenyan NGO that helps small farmers adopt and market export crops, conducted a randomized trial to evaluate its impact. DrumNet services increased production of export crops and lowered marketing costs, leading to a 32% income gain for new adopters. The services collapsed one year later when the exporter stopped buying from DrumNet because farmers could not meet new EU production requirements. Farmers sold to other middlemen and defaulted on their loans from DrumNet. Such experiences may explain why farmers are less likely to adopt export crops.
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Published Paper
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April 29, 2015
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Poor sanitation contributes to morbidity and mortality in the developing world, but there is disagreement on what policies can increase sanitation coverage. To measure the effects of alternative policies on investment in hygienic latrines, we assigned 380 communities in rural Bangladesh to different marketing treatments—community motivation and information; subsidies; a supply-side market access intervention; and a control—in a cluster-randomized trial. Community motivation alone did not increase hygienic latrine ownership (+1.6 percentage points, P = 0.43), nor did the supply-side intervention (+0.3 percentage points, P = 0.90). Subsidies to the majority of the landless poor increased ownership among subsidized households (+22.0 percentage points, P < 0.001) and their unsubsidized neighbors (+8.5 percentage points, P = 0.001), which suggests that investment decisions are interlinked across neighbors. Subsidies also reduced open defecation by 14 percentage points (P < 0.001).
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Published Paper
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April 20, 2015
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This paper studies the response of poor rural households in rural Kenya to large temporary income changes. Using a randomized controlled trial, households were randomly assigned to receive unconditional cash transfers of at least USD 404 from the NGO GiveDirectly. We designed the experiment to address several long-standing questions in the economics literature: what is the shape of households’ Engel curves? Do household members effectively pool income? Are there constraints to savings? Do transfers generate externalities? In addition, we study in detail the effects of transfers on psychological well-being and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. We randomized at both the village and household levels; further, within the treatment group, we randomized recipient gender (wife vs. husband), transfer timing (lump-sum transfer vs. monthly installments over 9 months), and transfer magnitude (USD 404 vs. USD 1,520). We find a strong consumption response to transfers, with an increase in mont...
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Working Paper
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April 20, 2015
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Behavioral therapy with cash grants led to significant fall in crime, drug use, and violence among high-risk urban men.
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Brief
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April 14, 2015
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While there is a fast-growing policy interest in offering financial products to help rural households manage risk, the literature is still scant as to which products are the most effective. In order to inform gender targeting of rural finance policy, this paper investigates which financial products best improve farmers’ productivity, resilience, and welfare, and whether benefits affect men and women equally. Using a randomized field experiment in Senegal and Burkina Faso, we compare male and female farmers who are offered index-based agricultural insurance with those who are offered a variety of savings instruments. We found that female farm managers were less likely to purchase agricultural insurance and more likely to invest in savings for emergencies, even when we controlled for access to informal insurance and differences in crop choice. We hypothesize that this difference results from the fact that although men and women are equally exposed to yield risk, women face additional...
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Working Paper
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April 14, 2015
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The Zambia Health Bulletin is designed to keep stakeholders and partners informed of on-going research in the Zambian health sector.
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Report
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April 01, 2015
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The Teacher Community Assistant Initiative, which provided targeted instruction in basic skills to small groups of low-performing students, significantly increased student learning in Ghana.
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Brief
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April 01, 2015

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