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Like many developing countries, the Philippines has made considerable progress toward the Millennium Development Goal of universal access to primary school: In 2008, the country achieved a 92 percent primary school enrollment rate. However, the challenge for education policy does not end with increasing enrollment and filling classrooms. Helping schools find cost-effective ways to improve student learning is also vitally important in light of the resource constraints that many school systems face. Literacy is an especially critical skill, given the importance of reading for learning in every subject, for future employment, and for children’s ability to navigate successfully through life. Simply providing more resources without changing the learning environment has not proven effective in improving most children’s reading skills, so more innovative approaches are required. A randomized evaluation by Ama Baafra Abeberese (Columbia University), Todd J. Kumler (Columbia University), and J-...
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June 01, 2012
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This paper reports an experiment in 640 Indonesian villages on three approaches to target the poor: proxy means tests (PMT), where assets are used to predict consumption; community targeting, where villagers rank everyone from richest to poorest; and a hybrid. Defining poverty based on PPP$2 per capita consumption, community targeting and the hybrid perform somewhat worse in identifying the poor than PMT, though not by enough to significantly affect poverty outcomes for a typical program. Elite capture does not explain these results. Instead, communities appear to apply a different concept of poverty. Consistent with this finding, community targeting results in higher satisfaction.
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Published Paper
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June 01, 2012
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Are minorities treated differently by the legal system? Systematic racial differences in case characteristics, many unobservable, make this a difficult question to answer directly. In this paper, we estimate whether judges differ from each other in how they sentence minorities, avoiding potential bias from unobservable case characteristics by exploiting the random assignment of cases to judges. We measure the between-judge variation in the difference in incarceration rates and sentence lengths between African-American and White defendants. We perform a Monte Carlo simulation in order to explicitly construct the appropriate counterfactual, where race does not influence judicial sentencing. In our data set, which includes felony cases from Cook County, Illinois, we find statistically significant between-judge variation in incarceration rates, although not in sentence lengths.
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Published Paper
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June 01, 2012
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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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Published Paper
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June 01, 2012
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Mounting evidence suggests that behavioral factors depress wealth accumulation. Although much research and policy focuses on asset accumulation, for many households debt decumulation is more efficient. Yet the mass market for debt reduction services is thin. So we develop and pilot test Borrow Less Tomorrow (BoLT), a behavioral approach to debt reduction that combines a simple decision aid, social commitment, and reminders. Results from a sample of free tax-preparation clients with eligible debt in Tulsa (N=465) indicate strong demand for debt reduction: 41% of those offered BoLT used it to make a plan to accelerate debt repayment. Using random assignment to BoLT offers, we find weak evidence that the BoLT package offered reduces credit card debt.
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Working Paper
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May 01, 2012
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Biomass combustion with traditional cookstoves causes substantial environmental and health harm. Nontraditional cookstove technologies can be efficacious in reducing this adverse impact, but they are adopted and used at puzzlingly low rates. This study analyzes the determinants of low demand for nontraditional cookstoves in rural Bangladesh by using both stated preference (from a nationally representative survey of rural women) and revealed preference (assessed by conducting a cluster-randomized trial of cookstove prices) approaches. We find consistent evidence across both analyses suggesting that the women in rural Bangladesh do not perceive indoor air pollution as a significant health hazard, prioritize other basic developmental needs over nontraditional cookstoves, and overwhelmingly rely on a free traditional cookstove technology and are therefore not willing to pay much for a new nontraditional cookstove. Efforts to improve health and abate environmental harm by promoting nontradi...
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May 01, 2012
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This article presents results of innovative surveys that tracked academic high achievers from five countries to wherever they moved in the world to directly measure at the micro level the channels through which high-skilled emigration affects sending countries. There are high levels of emigration and of return and the income gains to the best and brightest from migrating are an order of magnitude greater than any other effect. Most high-skilled migrants from poorer countries remit but involvement in trade and foreign direct investment is rare. Fiscal costs vary widely but are much less than the benefits to the migrants themselves.
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2012
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We utilize the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (1964) mechanism to estimate the willingness to pay for clean drinking water technology in northern Ghana. The BDM mechanism has attractive properties for empirical research, allowing us to directly estimate demand, compute heterogeneous treatment effects, and study the screening and causal effects of prices with minor modifications to a standard field experiment setting. We demonstrate the implementation of BDM along these three dimensions, compare it to the standard take-it-or-leave it method for eliciting willingness to pay, and discuss practical issues for implementing the mechanism in true field settings.
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Working Paper
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April 01, 2012
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A quota system for female village leaders in India changed perceptions of women’s abilities, improved women’s electoral chances, and raised aspirations and educational attainment for adolescent girls.
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Brief
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April 01, 2012
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This study provides experimental evidence about the barriers to adoption of formal savings in Africa. In collaboration with a large commercial bank, I conduct an experiment designed to measure the relative importance of convenience and information on the adoption of formal savings. When individuals can open an account at their place of business they are much more likely to open an account. Novel information about the benefits of savings has a slight but insignificant negative effect on account opening. While over half (55%) of individuals report an interest in opening an account when initially approached, only 2% of individuals are using the accounts 2 months later. I explore several potential explanations between individuals’ selfreports of interest in the accounts and their later behavior. I argue that individuals’ behavior in the experiment is consistent with social pressure to conform to the encouragement to open an account and some projection bias in predicting their future behavi...
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Working Paper
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April 01, 2012
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Despite their importance, there is limited evidence on how institutions can be strengthened. Evaluating the effects of specific reforms is complicated by the lack of exogenous variation in institutions, the difficulty of measuring institutional performance, and the temptation to "cherry pick" estimates from among the large number of indicators required to capture this multifaceted subject. We evaluate one attempt to make local institutions more democratic and egalitarian by imposing participation requirements for marginalized groups (including women) and test for learning-by-doing effects. We exploit the random assignment of a governance program in Sierra Leone, develop innovative real-world outcome measures, and use a preanalysis plan (PAP) to bind our hands against data mining. The intervention studied is a "community-driven development" program, which has become a popular strategy for foreign aid donors. We find positive short-run effects on local public goods and economic outcomes,...
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April 01, 2012
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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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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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