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People may under-report sensitive and risky behaviors such as violence or substance abuse in surveys. Misreporting correlated with treatment is especially worrisome in causal analysis. We develop and test a survey validation technique that uses intensive qualitative work to check for measurement error in random subsamples of respondents. Trained local researchers spent several days speaking with and observing respondents within a few days of their survey, validating six behaviors: four potentially sensitive (crime, drug use, homelessness, gambling) and two non-sensitive (phone charging and video club expenditures). Subjects were enrolled in a randomized trial designed to reduce poverty and anti-social behaviors. We find no evidence of underreporting of sensitive behaviors, partly because (we discovered) stigma in this population is low. Nonsensitive expenditures were underreported, however, especially by the control group, probably because of strategic behavior and recall bias. The mai...
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Working Paper
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June 11, 2014
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Empirical evidence on peer intermediation lags behind many years of lending practice and a large body of theory in which lenders use peers to mitigate adverse selection and moral hazard. Using a simple referral incentive mechanism under individual liability, we develop and implement a two-stage field experiment that permits separate identification of peer screening and enforcement effects. We allow for borrower heterogeneity in both ex-ante repayment type and ex-post susceptibility to social pressure. Our key contribution is how we deal with the interaction between these two sources of asymmetric information. Our method allows us to cleanly identify selection on the likelihood of repayment, selection on the susceptibility to social pressure, and loan enforcement. We estimate peer effects on loan repayment in our setting, and find no evidence of screening (albeit with an imprecisely estimated zero) and large effects on enforcement. We then discuss the potential utility and portability o...
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Published Paper
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June 01, 2014
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Small-scale farming remains the primary source of income for a majority of the population in developing countries. While most farmers primarily work on their own fields, off-farm labor is common among small-scale farmers. A growing literature suggests that off-farm labor is not the result of optimal labor allocation, but is instead driven by households' inability to cover short-term consumption needs with savings or credit. We conduct a field experiment in rural Zambia to investigate the relationship between credit availability and rural labor supply. We find that providing households with access to credit during the growing season substantially alters the allocation of household labor, with households in villages randomly selected for a loan program selling on average 25 percent less off-farm labor. We also find that increased credit availability is associated with higher consumption and increases in local farming wages. Our results suggest that a substantial fraction of rural labor s...
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Working Paper
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June 01, 2014
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We study a government program in Uganda designed to help the poor and unemployed become self-employed artisans, increase incomes, and thus promote social stability. Young adults in Uganda’s conflict-affected north were invited to form groups and submit grant proposals for vocational training and business start-up. Funding was randomly assigned among screened and eligible groups. Treatment groups received unsupervised grants of $382 per member. Grant recipients invest some in skills training but most in tools and materials. After four years, half practice a skilled trade. Relative to the control group, the program increases business assets by 57%, work hours by 17%, and earnings by 38%. Many also formalize their enterprises and hire labor. We see no effect, however, on social cohesion, antisocial behavior, or protest. Effects are similar by gender but are qualitatively different for women because they begin poorer (meaning the impact is larger relative to their starting point) and becau...
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May 31, 2014
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Microfinance institutions have started to bundle their basic loans with other financial services, such as health insurance. Using a randomized control trial in Karnataka, India, we evaluate the impact on loan renewal from mandating the purchase of actuarially-fair health insurance covering hospitalization and maternity expenses. Bundling loans with insurance led to a 16 percentage points (23 percent) increase in drop-out from microfinance, as many clients preferred to give up microfinance than pay higher interest rates and receive insurance. In a Pyrrhic victory, the total absence of demand for health insurance led to there being no adverse selection in insurance enrollment.
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May 30, 2014
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We partnered with a micro‐lender in Mali to randomize credit offers at the village level. Then, in no‐loan control villages, we gave cash grants to randomly selected households. These grants led to higher agricultural investments and profits, thus showing that liquidity constraints bind with respect to agricultural investment. In loan‐villages, we gave grants to a random subset of farmers who (endogenously) did not borrow. These farmers have lower – in fact zero – marginal returns to the grants. Thus we find important heterogeneity in returns to investment and strong evidence that farmers with higher marginal returns to investment self‐select into lending programs.
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Working Paper
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May 30, 2014
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Compared to the number of randomized evaluations that have been conducted on cash transfers in Latin America, evaluations on cash grant interventions in African settings are few. However, the recent studies that have been conducted in Africa help to answer several key questions about cash grants.
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Brief
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May 22, 2014
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We combine data from a randomized evaluation and a laboratory experiment to measure the causal impact of human capital on respect for earned property rights, a component of social preferences with important implications for economic growth and development. We find that higher academic achievement reduces the willingness of young Kenyan women to appropriate others’ labor income, and shifts players toward a 50-50 split norm in a modified dictator game. This study demonstrates that education may have long-run impacts on social preferences, norms and institutions beyond the human capital directly produced.
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Published Paper
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May 20, 2014
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There are few marketing studies of social learning about new technologies in lowincome countries. This paper examines how learning through opinion leaders and social networks influences demand for non-traditional cookstoves – a technology with important health and environmental consequences for developing country populations. We conduct marketing interventions in rural Bangladesh to assess how stove adoption decisions respond to (a) learning the adoption choices of locally identified ‘opinion leaders’ and (b) learning about stove attributes and performance through social networks. We find that households generally draw negative inferences about stoves through social learning, and that social learning is more important for stoves with less evident benefits. In an institutional environment in which consumers are distrustful of new products and brands, consumers appear to rely on their networks more to learn about negative product attributes. Overall, our findings imply that external info...
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Published Paper
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May 02, 2014
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We use a clustered randomized trial, and over 16,000 household surveys, to estimate impacts at the community level from a group lending expansion at 110 percent APR by the largest microlender in Mexico. We find no evidence of transformative impacts on 37 outcomes (although some estimates have large confidence intervals), measured at a mean of 27 months post-expansion, across six domains: microentrepreneurship, income, labor supply, expenditures, social status, and subjective well-being. We also examine distributional impacts using quantile regressions, given theory and evidence regarding negative impacts from borrowing at high interest rates, but do not find strong evidence for heterogeneity.
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May 01, 2014
Retrospective voting models assume that offering more information to voters about their incumbents’ performance strengthens electoral accountability. However, it is unclear whether incumbent corruption information translates into higher political participation and increased support for challengers. We provide experimental evidence that such information not only decreases incumbent party support in local elections in Mexico, but also decreases voter turnout and support for the challenger party, as well as erodes partisan attachments. While information clearly is necessary to improve accountability, corruption information is not sufficient because voters may respond to it by withdrawing from the political process. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings for studies of voting behavior.
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May 01, 2014
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In Malawi, 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 research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Malawian poor.
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May 01, 2014
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Commitment devices offer an opportunity to restrict future choices. However, if severe restrictions deter participation, weaker restrictions may be a more effective means of changing behavior. We test this using a school-based commitment savings device for educational expenses in Uganda. We compare an account fully-committed to educational expenses to an account in which savings are available for cash withdrawal but intended for educational expenses. The weaker commitment generates increased savings in the program accounts and when combined with a parent outreach program, higher expenditures on educational supplies. It also increases scores on an exam covering language and math skills by 0.11 standard deviations. We find no effect for the fully-committed account, and we find no effect for either account on attendance, enrollment, or non-cognitive skills.
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Working Paper
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May 01, 2014
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We conduct randomized experiments around a large-scale financial literacy course in Mexico City to understand the reasons for low take-up among a general population, and to measure the impact of this financial education course. Our results suggest that reputational, logistical, and specific forms of behavioral constraints are not the main reasons for limited participation, and that people do respond to higher benefits from attending in the form of monetary incentives. Attending training results in a 9 percentage point increase in financial knowledge, and a 9 percentage point increase in some self-reported measures of saving, but in no impact on borrowing behavior. Administrative data suggests that any savings impact may be short-lived. Our findings indicate that this course which has served over 300,000 people and has expanded throughout Latin America has minimal impact on marginal participants, and that people are likely making optimal choices not to attend this financial education co...
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2014
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Evidence on the effectiveness of financial education and formal savings account access is lacking, particularly for youth. We randomly assign 250 youth clubs to receive either financial education, access to a cheap group account, or both. The financial education treatments increase financial literacy; the account-only treatment does not. Administrative data shows the education plus account treatment increases bank savings relative to account-only. But survey-measured total savings shows roughly equal increases across all treatment arms. Earned income also increases in all treatment arms. We find little evidence that education and account access are strong complements, and some evidence they are substitutes.
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Working Paper
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May 01, 2014
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We conduct a business plan competition to determine whether survey instruments or panel judges are able to predict which participating firms will grow fastest. Participants were required to submit a simple six- to eight-page business plan and then defend that plan before a panel of three or four judges. We surveyed the pool of applicants shortly after they applied, and then one and two years after the business plan competition. We use the follow-up surveys to construct a measure of enterprise growth, and use the baseline surveys and panel scores to construct measures of the potential for growth of the enterprise. We find that a measure of ability correlates quite strongly with future growth, but that the panel scores add to predictive power even after controlling for the measure of ability and other variables from the survey. The survey questions appear to have more power to explain the variance in growth. Participants presenting before the panel were give a chance to win customized tr...
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Working Paper
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April 03, 2014
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In Uganda, 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 Ugandan poor.
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Brief
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April 01, 2014
English A4
In Kenya, 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 research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Kenyan poor.
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Brief
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April 01, 2014
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In Peru, 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 research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Peruvian poor.
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April 01, 2014
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The cost-effectiveness that education programmes achieve can vary widely, even among those that have a proven impact on learning. When making policy decisions, it is important to first determine which programmes have been rigorously shown to have a positive impact, but this is not enough. TCAI evaluated four different interventions: community assistants providing remedial instruction to low-performing children during or after school, having community assistants alternately split classes with normal teachers to reduce class size, or having teachers split their classes by ability and provide targeted instruction for one hour each day. All four arms of the TCAI programme increased student learning by varying amounts, and they also incurred different costs, meaning that some arms achieved learning gains more cost-effectively than others.
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Brief
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March 26, 2014

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