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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
Evaluations of employment programs usually focus on direct impacts on participants, but potential indirect effects are rarely quantified. This paper analyzes the impact of a subsidized apprenticeship program in Côte d’Ivoire. The experiment simultaneously randomized whether apprenticeship positions opened by firms were filled by the program, and whether interested youths were assigned to a formal apprenticeship. This design allows for estimating whether individuals forgo other apprenticeship opportunities (windfall effects), and whether firms replace other apprentices with program participants (substitution effects). We find both effects to be moderate. A framework shows how they combine: overall, 0.74 to 0.77 apprenticeship position is created per subsidized apprentice. Short term impacts on youth earnings were not significant. However, the net value of work provided by apprentices in firms increased, pointing to large indirect effects of the program.
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Working Paper
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October 11, 2018
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Commitment products can remedy self-control problems. However, imperfect knowledge about their preferences may (discontinuously) lead individuals to select into incentive-incompatible commitments, which reduce their welfare. I conduct a field experiment where low-income individuals were randomly offered a new installment-savings commitment account. Individuals chose a personalized savings plan and a default penalty themselves. A majority appears to choose a harmful contract: While the average effect on bank savings is large, 55 percent of clients default, and incur monetary losses. A possible explanation is that the chosen penalties were too low (the commitment was too weak) to overcome clients’ self-control problems. Measures of sophisticated hyperbolic discounting correlate negatively with take-up and default, and positively with penalty choices – consistent with theoretical predictions that partial sophisticates adopt weak commitments and then default, while full sophisticates are m...
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October 01, 2018
English
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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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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September 26, 2018
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How do standard development programs compare to just giving people cash? In Rwanda, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to shed light on this question. Villages were randomly assigned to one of four groups: they received either a USAID-funded, integrated WASH and nutrition program (with savings and asset transfer components), unconditional cash grants of equal cost to the donor, a larger cash transfer, or no program at the time of study. The transfers were funded by USAID and Google.org. The evaluation measured impacts on five main health and economic outcomes: household dietary diversity, maternal and child anemia, child growth (height-for-age, weight-for-age, and mid-upper arm circumference), household wealth, and household consumption, as well as other secondary outcomes, such as savings. Key Findings: After approximately one year: »  The integrated nutrition and WASH program had a positive impact on savings, a secondary outcome, among the eligible population, but did not...
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September 18, 2018
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African agricultural markets are characterized by low revenues for farmers and high food prices for consumers. Many have worried that this wedge is partially driven by imperfect competition among intermediaries. This paper provides experimental evidence from Kenya on intermediary market structure. Experimentally elicited parameters governing cost pass-through and demand curvature are used to calibrate a structural model of market competition. Estimates reveal a high degree of intermediary market power, with large implied losses to consumer welfare and market e ciency. Exogenously induced firm entry has negligible effects on prices and competitiveness parameters, implying that marginal entry does not meaningfully enhance competition.
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September 08, 2018
Changing pedagogy is a promising avenue for improving education in developing countries, especially when done without changing current inputs, such as teachers and instruction time. Previous research suggests that tailoring instruction to each student needs can produce significant learning gains. In this paper, we present the results of a randomized evaluation of a program that uses an individualized approach to tailor instruction to each student to teach Mathematics to preschoolers in Peru. Our results show an improvement of overall Mathematics outcomes, which persist even one year after the program ended for some areas. We find no evidence of differential effects by gender, language-spoken at home, and proxies for socioeconomic status, in contrast with results from previous research that suggest Mathematics programs are biased along gender and socioeconomic lines but we do find persistent stronger impacts on students whose teachers have university degrees.
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Working Paper
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August 29, 2018
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Designers and funders of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs have long worried that payments flow to landholders who would have conserved forests even without the program, undermining the environmental benefits (“additionality”) and cost-effectiveness of PES. If landholders self-select into PES programs based on how much conservation they were going to undertake anyway, then those who were planning to conserve should always enroll. This paper discusses the less-appreciated fact that enrollment is often based on other factors too. The hassle of signing up or financial costs of enrollment (e.g., purchasing seedlings) can affect who participates in a PES program. These enrollment costs reduce overall take-up, and, importantly, they can also influence the composition of landholders who select into the program—and thereby the program’s environmental benefits per enrollee. Enrollment costs can increase a program’s benefits per enrollee if they are systematically higher for (and th...
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August 02, 2018
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Although abortion is now legal in Kenya under expanded circumstances, access is limited and many providers and individuals still believe it is illegal. This study aimed to characterise Kenyan women’s perceptions and experiences with abortion and post-abortion care (PAC) services in Nairobi regarding barriers to care, beliefs about abortion, and perceived stigma. We conducted 15 semi-structured in-depth interviews with Kenyan women aged 18–24 years who recently received abortion and PAC services at four Marie Stopes Kenya clinic sites in Nairobi. The most significant psychosocial barrier respondents faced in promptly seeking abortion and PAC was perceived stigma. In response to stigma, participants developed a sense of agency and self-reliance, which allowed them to prioritise their own healthcare needs over the concerns of others. To adequately address perceived stigma as a barrier to abortion- and PAC-seeking, significant cultural norm shifting is required.
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July 30, 2018
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In 2008, Uganda granted hundreds of small groups $400/person to help members start individual skilled trades. Four years on, an experimental evaluation found grants raised earnings by 38% (Blattman, Fiala, Martinez 2014). We return after 9 years to find these start-up grants acted more as a kick-start than a lift out of poverty. Grantees' investment leveled off; controls eventually increased their incomes through business and casual labor; and so both groups converged in employment, earnings, and consumption. Grants had lasting impacts on assets, skilled work, and possibly child health, but had little effect on mortality, fertility, health or education.
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July 30, 2018
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Maternal mortality remains very high in many parts of the developing world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Limited awareness of risk factors for maternal mortality such as maternal age and birth spacing may contribute to persistently high death rates, and public health campaigns to increase awareness of risk factors could help curb maternal mortality. Research shows that men, in particular, tend to underestimate maternal mortality risk, which may lead to their lower demand for contraception. Researchers worked in close collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and local NGOs to evaluate the impact of providing information to men and women about maternal mortality risk on knowledge of risk, demand for family planning, and maternal and child health outcomes. Preliminary results indicate that providing husbands with the information led to a reduction in fertility in the year that followed, while providing information to women had no comparable impact.
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July 30, 2018
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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July 21, 2018
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Limited financial knowledge, skills, and confidence are associated with suboptimal financial behavior such as low rates of saving, limited usage of deposit and transactional accounts, and overindebtedness. The Government of Rwanda, the World Bank Group, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) partnered to conduct a large-scale randomized evaluation that measured the impact of Phase One of the Financial Education through SACCOs program. The evaluation measured and compared the impacts of two program delivery models—autonomous vs. fixed trainer selection—on SACCO members’ financial knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Key Findings SACCO members attended more sessions of the Financial Education through SACCOs when SACCOs had autonomy to choose trainers from the local community (“autonomous selection”). SACCO members in this autonomous selection group showed improvements in financial knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, including with respect to knowledge of key rules of thumb, at...
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July 13, 2018
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Key Findings: Simple growth charts, which allowed parents to see if their child had a normal height for their age, did not reduce reduce growth deficits on average among the 547 children in the study, but among malnourished children, reduced stunting by 22 percentage points. In contrast, inviting caregivers to quarterly meetings to learn if their children had a normal height and weight and providing food supplements to malnourished children had no impact on rates of stunting. Neither home-based growth charts nor community-based monitoring were found to impact children’s cognitive development. Home-based growth charts appear to be a cost-effective tool to reduce physical growth deficits in this context. For every dollar that was invested in growth charts, children who otherwise would have been stunted gained an estimated $16 in additional lifetime wages. 
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July 10, 2018
We present the results of a study designed to ‘benchmark’ a major USAID-funded child malnutrition program against what would have occurred if the cost of the program had simply been disbursed directly to beneficiaries to spend as they see fit. Using a three-armed trial from 248 villages in Rwanda, the study measures impacts on households containing poor or underweight children, or pregnant or lactating women, as well as the broader population of study villages. We find that the bundled health program delivers benefits in an outcome directly targeted by specific sub-components of the intervention (savings), but does not improve household dietary diversity, child anthropometrics, or anemia within the year of the study. A cost-equivalent cash transfer boosts productive asset investment and allows households to pay down debt. The bundled program is significantly better in cost-equivalent terms at generating savings and worse for debt reduction, while cost-equivalent cash drives more asset...
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June 15, 2018
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Governments are tasked with delivering basic services such as education, security, and infrastructure, but access to and quality of these services is often undermined by poor oversight, corruption, and lack of community participation. While countless programs aim to address these issues, their effectiveness is often not clear. IPA’s governance research investigates ways to increase the performance of the government institutions that serve as the foundation for development. Our research teams have shed light on pressing questions including how to reduce vote-selling, how to increase the demand for government accountability, how technology can be used to reduce corruption, and how information can improve voting behavior, but many unanswered questions remain. 
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June 13, 2018
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This document provides a brief overview of the policies and best practices for ensuring the safe and ethical conduct of violence research at IPA. It also articulates the specific roles and responsibilities of IPA and its academic partners with respect to violence research. It is intended for principal investigators and research staff at IPA who are already familiar with the ethics of human subjects research, but are interested in more specific guidance related to the collection of violence data.
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Research Resource
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June 13, 2018
Spanish
A pesar de la importancia del desarrollo de habilidades en ciencias y resolución de problemas para educadores, padres, y estudiantes, la evidencia rigurosa sobre el aprendizaje y enseñanza de ciencias en edades tempranas es escasa. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) se encargó de evaluar una intervención que fue implementada como resultado de una colaboración entre el Ministerio de Educación y Ciencias (MEC), el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID), la Asociación de Utilidad Pública Juntos por la Educación, y Agencia Internacional de Cooperación del Japón (JICA). La intervención es una pedagogía bilingüe (guaraní-español) basada en el enfoque de la indagación para la enseñanza de ciencias guiada a través de audio-grabaciones.
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June 04, 2018
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Un equipo de investigadores de Innovations for Poverty Action, en colaboración con el Gobierno Colombiano, desarrolló una auditoría aleatoria de dos de los programas sociales más grandes del país—Sistema de Identificación de Potenciales Beneficiarios de Programas Sociales (Sisbén) y Más Familias en Acción (MFA)—para medir cómo el estatus social de los ciudadanos y los factores políticos locales afectan la eficiencia de los servidores municipales en el procesamiento y atención de las solicitudes ciudadanas. Resultados principales* La tasa de respuesta de las llamadas a las alcaldías municipales del territorio nacional y las alcaldías locales en Bogotá fue baja: cerca del 65% de los solicitantes recibieron una respuesta en hasta seis intentos. Un número importante de alcaldías (148/618 o 23%) son inaccesibles por teléfono durante horas de servicio al ciudadano. Era menos probable que las llamadas fueran respondidas en horas de la tarde (después de almuerzo) que, en horas de la mañana, pr...
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May 23, 2018

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