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Inexpensive, school-based deworming treatment improves health and school attendance in the short term, improves productivity in the long term, and even benefits untreated neighbors and siblings.
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Brief
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March 01, 2012
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We partner with a New York City-based credit union to test a commitment savings product and financial counseling among a low-income population. The product, marketed as a Super Saver Certificate of Deposit (SSCD), allows gradual deposits toward a client’s savings goal but imposes penalties for missed goals or early withdrawals. We randomly assigned credit union members to a SSCD product offer, an offer of free financial counseling, or a survey-only control group. We find strong demand for both SSCD and counseling that is positively correlated with proxies for behavioral biases. 65.7% of SSCD holders avoided substantial penalties by holding to maturity, and the average closing balance was $910. However, only 32.3% of SSCD clients met their chosen goal amount, and we do not find significant evidence that either the SSCD product offer or the financial counseling treatment increases savings balances or net assets, or affects borrowing behavior, relative to our control group.
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Working Paper
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March 01, 2012
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Institutions in developing countries, particularly those inherited from the colonial period, are often thought to be subject to strong inertia. This study presents the results of a unique randomized trial testing whether these institutions can be reformed through incremental administrative change. The police department of the state of Rajasthan, India collaborated with researchers at US and Indian universities to design and implement four interventions to improve police performance and the public’s perception of the police in 162 police stations (covering over one-fifth of the State’s police stations and personnel): (1) placing community observers in police stations; (2) a freeze on transfers of police staff; (3) in?service training to update skills; and (4) weekly duty rotation with a guaranteed day off per week. These reforms were evaluated using data collected through two rounds of surveys including police interviews, decoy visits to police stations, and a large-scale public opinion...
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Working Paper
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March 01, 2012
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Most people in rural Africa do not have bank accounts. In this paper, we combine experimental and survey evidence from Western Kenya to document some of the supply and demand factors behind such low levels of financial inclusion. Our experiment had two parts. In the first part, we waived the fixed cost of opening a basic savings account at a local bank for a random subset of individuals who were initially unbanked. While 63% of people opened an account, only 18% actively used it. Survey evidence suggests that the main reasons people did not begin saving in their bank accounts are that: (1) they do not trust the bank, (2) service is unreliable, and (3) withdrawal fees are prohibitively expensive. In the second part of the experiment, we provided information on local credit options and lowered the eligibility requirements for an initial small loan. Within the following 6 months, only 3% of people initiated the loan application process. Survey evidence suggests that people do not borrow b...
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Working Paper
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February 06, 2012
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Conflict early warning remains an important but elusive goal in Liberia. If outbreaks of violence could be predicted before they occur, early responders could focus their energies and scarce resources on the highest-risk communities. Is such a goal realistic? Early warning requires a simple system for generating reliable predictions—a system that is not only accurate, but is also consistent over time and across counties and communities. This is a difficult, maybe impossible, task. In this report we describe results from a two-year study that suggest prediction may be more promising than we initially expected. We use fine-grained quantitative data from a survey of 247 rural Liberian towns and villages to assess whether statistical analysis can be used to predict conflict over time. To our surprise, we find that models built on fewer than 10 risk factors measured in 2008 accurately predict up to 75% of all conflicts two years later. We began this exercise skeptical, and these accuracy ra...
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Working Paper
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February 01, 2012
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The authors evaluated the use of conditional cash transfers as an HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention strategy to incentivise safe sex. An unblinded, individually randomised and controlled trial of 10 villages within the Kilombero/Ulanga districts of the Ifakara Health and Demographic Surveillance System in rural south-west Tanzania. The authors enrolled 2399 participants, aged 18–30 years, including adult spouses. The primary study end point was combined prevalence of the four sexually transmitted infections, which were tested and reported to subjects every 4 months:Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Trichomonas vaginalis and Mycoplasma genitalium. The authors also tested for HIV, herpes simplex virus 2 and syphilis at baseline and month 12. Conditional cash transfers used to incentivise safer sexual practices are a potentially promising new tool in HIV and sexually transmitted infections prevention. Additional larger study would be useful to clarify the effec...
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Published Paper
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February 01, 2012
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Restructuring a traditional cash transfer program in Colombia significantly increased re-enrollment in secondary school without weakening students’ incentives to attend on a daily basis.
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Brief
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February 01, 2012
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Can training Zambian girls in negotiation skills positively impact their health and education outcomes?
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Brief
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January 01, 2012
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This paper documents a widely overlooked dimension of relationship lending: the personal interaction between the borrower and the lender reduces the willingness of the borrower to engage in moral hazard and default on the loan officer. We conduct a randomized experiment with small business borrowers of the largest commercial bank in India to test the impact of three different levels of interactions between the borrower and the bank. Borrowers who are regularly called either by a single assigned relationship manager or by one manager randomly selected from a small team of managers shows much better repayment behavior and greater satisfaction with the bank services than borrowers who either receive no follow up or only receive follow up calls from the bank when they are delinquent. The results are economically and statistically significant: borrowers who receive the more intensive treatment see a large reduction in the number of late payment spells and delinquencies.
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Working Paper
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January 01, 2012
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Can cash transfers promote employment and reduce poverty in rural Africa? Will lower youth unemployment and poverty reduce the risk of social instability? We experimentally evaluate one of Uganda's largest development programs, which provided thousands of young people nearly unconditional, unsupervised cash transfers to pay for vocational training, tools, and business start-up costs. Mid-term results after two years suggest four main findings. First, despite a lack of central monitoring and accountability, most youth invest the transfer in vocational skills and tools. Second, the economic impacts of the transfer are large: hours of non-household employment double and cash earnings increase by nearly 50% relative to the control group. We estimate the transfer yields a real annual return on capital of 35% on average. Third, the evidence suggests that poor access to credit is a major reason youth cannot start these vocations in the absence of aid. Much of the heterogeneity in impacts is u...
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Working Paper
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December 01, 2011
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Financial development is critical for growth, but its microdeterminants are not well understood. We test leading theories of low demand for financial services in emerging markets, combining novel survey evidence from Indonesia and India with a field experiment. We find a strong correlation between financial literacy and behavior. However, a financial education program has modest effects, increasing demand for bank accounts only for those with limited education or financial literacy. In contrast, small subsidies greatly increase demand. A follow-up survey confirms these findings, demonstrating that newly opened accounts remain open and in use 2 years after the intervention.
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Published Paper
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December 01, 2011
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We report on a study that used observations, conversations, and formal interviews to explore literacy instruction in 24 lower-primary classrooms in coastal Kenya. Specifically, we report the ways literacy instruction is delivered and how that delivery aligns with practices understood to promote reading acquisition. We find (1) prioritization of developing oral language skills over teaching the relationships between sounds and symbols, (2) enablers to literacy instruction that are the result of teachers’ efforts, and (3) constraints to successful literacy instruction as perceived by the teachers.We identify challenges and opportunities to improve literacy instruction in English and Swahili.
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Published Paper
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November 15, 2011
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Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) have recently received considerable attention as a potentially innovative and effective approach to the prevention of HIV/AIDS. We evaluate a conditional cash transfer program in rural Malawi which offered financial incentives to men and women to maintain their HIV status for approximately one year. The amounts of the reward ranged from zero to approximately 3–4 months wage. We find no effect of the offered incentives on HIV status or on reported sexual behavior. However, shortly after receiving the reward, men who received the cash transfer were 9 percentage points more likely and women were 6.7 percentage points less likely to engage in risky sex. Our analyses therefore question the “unconditional effectiveness” of CCT program for HIV prevention: CCT Programs that aim to motivate safe sexual behavior in Africa should take into account that money given in the present may have much stronger effects than rewards offered in the future, and any effect of...
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Published Paper
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November 02, 2011
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In 2009, the results from two microcredit impact studies in Hyderabad, India, and Manila, the Philippines were released to mixed responses (Banerjee, Duflo, Glennerster, and Kinnan 2010; Karlan and Zinman 2011). Some media declared microfinance a failure (Bennett 2009). Many in the microfinance community dismissed these randomized studies as too limited to be a true reflection of the entire sector. These first randomized studies caused a sensation because they challenged the dominant impact narrative for microcredit—a narrative that rests on loans to capital-constrained microentrepreneurs who earn a steep return on marginal capital and thus can repay a relatively high interest rate and reinvest to grow out of poverty—and the way in which that narrative had been universalized in the popular imagination. In fact, the results were more nuanced. What the microcredit studies really showed is that this model of microcredit works for some populations—those who successfully grow businesses—but...
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Report
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November 01, 2011
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This study reports the results of a randomized impact evaluation of a program designed to reach the poorest of the poor and elevate them out of extreme poverty. The program, which includes the direct transfer of productive assets (e.g. livestock) and additional training, was initially developed in Bangladesh, where it has reached thousands of beneficiaries, and is being piloted and studied in over seven countries. The results of this study, based on a pilot in India, indicate that this intervention succeeds in elevating the economic situation of the poorest. We find that the program results in a 15% increase in household consumption and has positive impacts on other measures of household wealth and welfare, such as assets and emotional well-being. Our results are consistent with the notion that the wealth transfer, in the form of asset distribution, directly increased consumption among beneficiary households through the liquidation of assets, but other sources of income, notably from s...
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Working Paper
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November 01, 2011
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Small incentives for parents, coupled with reliable services at convenient mobile clinics, increased full immunization rates sixfold. This approach was twice as cost-effective as improving service reliability without incentives. Full published paper is available here.
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Brief
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November 01, 2011
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Policymakers in Liberia face a dearth of evidence to guide their ambitious agenda of security sector reform, strengthening of property rights and the rule of law, and reconciliation. This lack of data is especially acute outside the capital and in areas where UN and police presence is limited.
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Brief
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October 25, 2011
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Enabling farmers to prepay for fertilizer when they had cash on hand was effective in promoting fertilizer adoption. Farmers had high demand for the ability to purchase fertilizer in advance. Among farmers who were offered advanced purchasing, 31 percent bought fertilizer in the first season of the program, and 39 percent bought it in the second season. The incentive offered to the farmers was small (free delivery), suggesting that farmers were attracted by the ability to commit to purchasing fertilizer in advance. Fertilizer adoption increased while advanced purchasing was offered, but once the program was removed, fertilizer usage went back to what it had been. Fertilizer adoption went up by 11-14 percentage points among farmers who were offered advanced purchasing. When the program ended, farmers in the treatment group reverted back to the same level of adoption as the comparison group. Prepayment had an impact on adoption comparable to a large subsidy during the growing season. Pro...
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October 01, 2011
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To the extent that students benefit from high-achieving peers, tracking will help strong students and hurt weak ones. However, all students may benefit if tracking allows teachers to better tailor their instruction level. Lower-achieving pupils are particularly likely to benefit from tracking when teachers have incentives to teach to the top of the distribution. We propose a simple model nesting these effects and test its implications in a randomized tracking experiment conducted with 121 primary schools in Kenya. While the direct effect of high-achieving peers is positive, tracking benefited lower-achieving pupils indirectly by allowing teachers to teach to their level.
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Published Paper
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October 01, 2011
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We model farmers as facing small fixed costs of purchasing fertilizer and assume some are stochastically present biased and not fully sophisticated about this bias. Such farmers may procrastinate, postponing fertilizer purchases until later periods, when they may be too impatient to purchase fertilizer. Consistent with the model, many farmers in Western Kenya fail to take advantage of apparently profitable fertilizer investments, but they do invest in response to small, time-limited discounts on the cost of acquiring fertilizer ( free delivery) just after harvest. Calibration suggests that this policy can yield higher welfare than either laissez-faire policies or heavy subsidies.
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Published Paper
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October 01, 2011

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