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Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people do not have a formal bank account. With few viable means to save, these individuals and their families are vulnerable to life-threatening hardships. Community-based savings groups are designed to provide a mechanism for resilience. Jointly, Oxfam America and Freedom from Hunger commissioned the largest study to date to evaluate the impact of community-based savings groups—using both a randomized controlled trial and in-depth qualitative research.
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Brief
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May 01, 2013
English
We conducted an experiment providing fertilizer grants to female rice farmers in Mali. We found that women who received fertilizer used both more fertilizer and more complementary inputs such as herbicides and hired labor. This shows that farmers respond to an increase in one input by re-optimizing other inputs. Second, while the increase in inputs led to a considerable increase in output, we found no evidence that profits increased. Our results suggest that fertilizer's impact on profits is small compared to other sources of variation. This may make it difficult for farmers to learn about the returns to fertilizer.
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2013
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Roughly two billion people in the world live on $2 a day or less. Of these a staggering 50 percent are estimated to be micro-entrepreneurs, running a small business to make ends meet but employing only a handful of people. If just a small proportion of these entrepreneurs were encouraged to grow and invest in their business, and hire more employees, it could transform the fortunes of the developing economies, and billions of people living in poverty. But how? It is a challenge that Stephen Anderson-Macdonald is hoping to help tackle.
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April 13, 2013
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Micro-entrepreneurs often lack the financial literacy required for the complex financial decisions they face. We conduct a randomized control trial with a bank in the Dominican Republic to compare the impact of two distinct programs: a standard accounting training versus a simplified, rule-of-thumb training that teaches basic financial heuristics. Only the latter produced significant improvements in firms’ financial practices, objective reporting quality and revenues. Looking at treatment heterogeneity, the impact is specially pronounced for microentrepreneurs with lower skills or poor initial financial practices. These results suggest that reducing the complexity of training programs might improve their effectiveness, especially for less sophisticated clients.
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Published Paper
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March 01, 2013
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In many developing countries, women frequently leave school, marry, and start having children at a young age. In India, nearly half of women now in their early twenties were married before the age of eighteen. Girls tend to drop out of school earlier than boys, and women are far less likely to work for pay or work outside of the home. These outcomes indicate low social and economic progress of women and may have consequences for poverty and well-being. The availability of employment opportunities for women may play a role in influencing these outcomes. Parents may not invest as much in their daughters’ education as their sons’ if they anticipate fewer employment opportunities for educated women than men. Would parents change how they invest in their daughters and would young women’s aspirations change, if they learned that new, better job opportunities are available? When people learn about well-paying jobs for women, can this change decisions about young women continuing their educati...
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March 01, 2013
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A long-standing question is whether differences in management practices across firms can explain differences in productivity, especially in developing countries where these spreads appear particularly large. To investigate this, we ran a management field experiment on large Indian textile firms. We provided free consulting on management practices to randomly chosen treatment plants and compared their performance to a set of control plants. We find that adopting these management practices raised productivity by 17% in the first year through improved quality and efficiency and reduced inventory, and within three years led to the opening of more production plants. Why had the firms not adopted these profitable practices previously? Our results suggest that informational barriers were the primary factor explaining this lack of adoption. Also, because reallocation across firms appeared to be constrained by limits on managerial time, competition had not forced badly managed firms to exit.
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February 03, 2013
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Business training programs are a popular policy option to try to improve the performance of enterprises around the world. The last few years have seen rapid growth in the number of evaluations of these programs in developing countries. We undertake a critical review of these studies with the goal of synthesizing the emerging lessons and understanding the limitations of the existing research and the areas in which more work is needed. We find that there is substantial heterogeneity in the length, content, and types of firms participating in the training programs evaluated. Many evaluations suffer from low statistical power, measure impacts only within a year of training, and experience problems with survey attrition and measurement of firm profits and revenues. Over these short time horizons, there are relatively modest impacts of training on survivorship of existing firms, but stronger evidence that training programs help prospective owners launch new businesses more quickly. Most stud...
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Working Paper
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February 01, 2013
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Facilitating the purchase of a private water connection on credit improved households’ quality of life.
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Brief
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February 01, 2013
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The majority of the poor lack access to bank accounts and have to use costly informal savings mechanisms. Using a field experiment, I randomly gave access to simple bank accounts with no fees at local bank branches to a large sample of female household heads in Nepal. Results show that there is untapped demand for savings accounts and that the poor do save. Access to the savings accounts increased monetary assets and total assets without crowding out other kinds of assets or savings institutions. Finally, financial access strongly increased households’ investments in health and education.
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Working Paper
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January 28, 2013
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Community-based methods of selecting who qualifies for a cash transfer program were less accurate than proxy means tests overall, but they greatly improved local satisfaction and better matched the poor’s own concept of poverty.
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January 01, 2013
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This paper examines whether an intra-household externality prevents adoption of a technology with substantial implications for population health and the environment: improved cookstoves. Motivated by a model of intra-household decision-making, the experiment markets stoves to husbands or wives in turn at randomly varying prices. We find that women – who bear disproportionate cooking costs – have stronger preference for healthier stoves, but lack the authority to make purchases. Our findings suggest that if women cannot make independent choices about household resource use, public policy may not be able to exploit gender differences in preferences to promote technology adoption absent broader social change.
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Working Paper
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January 01, 2013
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Using data from a field experiment in Kenya, we document that providing individuals with simple informal savings technologies can substantially increase investment in preventative health and reduce vulnerability to health shocks. Simply providing a safe place to keep money was sufficient to increase health savings by 66 percent. Adding an earmarking feature was only helpful when funds were put toward emergencies, or for individuals that are frequently taxed by friends and relatives. Group-based savings and credit schemes had very large effects.
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Published Paper
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January 01, 2013
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Does limited access to formal savings services impede business growth in poor countries? To shed light on this question, we randomized access to noninterest-bearing bank accounts among two types of self-employed individuals in rural Kenya: market vendors (who are mostly women) and men working as bicycle taxi drivers. Despite large withdrawal fees, a substantial share of market women used the accounts, were able to save more, and increased their productive investment and private expenditures. We see no impact for bicycletaxi drivers. These results imply significant barriers to savings and investment for market women in our study context.
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January 01, 2013
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Gender-based violence against women, including intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pervasive health and human rights concern. However, relatively little intervention research has been conducted on how to reduce IPV in settings impacted by conflict. The current study reports on the evaluation of the incremental impact of adding “gender dialogue groups” to an economic empowerment group savings program on levels of IPV. This study took place in north and northwestern rural Côte d’Ivoire.
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January 01, 2013
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Incentive pay is a key component of management strategy, and yet field evidence on the impacts of both individual and team incentives is limited to studies carried out in high-income countries. The mechanisms that lie behind individual responses to incentives go far beyond rational considerations of wage maximization, and encompass concerns for social visibility, preferences for collective work and other behavioral norms. These norms tend to vary by culture, potentially creating considerable heterogeneity in responses to incentives across countries. We present evidence from a field experiment designed to evaluate the impact of individual and group monetary incentives and individual and group rank incentives in Accra, Ghana. We precisely estimate that, contrary to earlier findings in other settings, these incentives have no impact on productivity, work quality and firm profitability. The findings indicate that more research is needed to shed light on the cultural characteristics of the...
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January 01, 2013
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We use a randomized experiment and a structural model to test whether monitoring and financial incentives can reduce teacher absence and increase learning in India. In treatment schools, teachers’ attendance was monitored daily using cameras, and their salaries were made a nonlinear function of attendance. Teacher absenteeism in the treatment group fell by 21 percentage points relative to the control group, and the children’s test scores increased by 0.17 standard deviations. We estimate a structural dynamic labor supply model and find that teachers respond strongly to financial incentives. Our model is used to compute cost-minimizing compensation policies.
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December 01, 2012
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This paper examines the effects of learning HIV status on economic behavior among rural Malawians. According to economic life-cycle models, if learning HIV results is informative about additional years of life, being diagnosed HIV-positive or negative should predict changes in consumption, investment and savings behavior with important micro and macro-economic implications. Using an experiment that randomly assigned incentives to learn HIV results, I find that while learning HIV results had short term effects on subjective belief of HIV infection, these differences did not persist after two years. Consistent with this, there were relatively few differences two years later in savings, income, expenditures, and employment between those who learned and did not learn their status.
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November 01, 2012
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Connecting private dwellings to the water main is expensive and typically cannot be publicly financed. We show that households' willingness to pay for a private connection is high when it can be purchased on credit, not because a connection improves health but because it increases the time available for leisure and reduces inter- and intra-household conflicts on water matters, leading to sustained improvements in well-being. Our results suggest that facilitating access to credit for households to finance lump sum quality-oflife investments can significantly increase welfare, even if those investments do not result in any health or income gains.
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November 01, 2012
Spanish
Nuevos hallazgos del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo sobre el pensamiento crítico en la educación pre-primaria y primaria.
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October 09, 2012
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In developing countries, unexpected income shocks are common but informal insurance is typically incomplete. An important question is therefore whether risk-sharing within the household is effective. This paper presents results from a field experiment with 142 married couples in Kenya in which individuals were given random income shocks. Even though the shocks were small relative to lifetime income, men increase private consumption when they receive the shock but not when their wives do, a rejection of efficiency. Such behavior is not specific to the experiment—both spouses spend more on themselves when their labor income is higher.
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October 01, 2012

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