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IPA is all about leverage. 2014 was focused on bringing in more talented people and more extraordinary partners to leverage existing resources for more impact on the world. Together with our partners, IPA has designed and evaluated more than 275 potential solutions to poverty problems, and has over 245 studies in progress. This performance is a testament to the dedication of IPA staff, both on the ground in the field and in our headquarters, our implementing partners and researchers, the decision-makers who help put our findings to work, and our funders.  Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org/2014annualreport/  
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Annual Report
Date:
October 01, 2015
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This paper measures the economic impacts of social pressures to share income with kin and neighbors in rural Kenyan villages. We conduct a lab experiment in which we randomly vary the observability of investment returns to test whether subjects reduce their income in order to keep it hidden. We find that women adopt an investment strategy that conceals the size of their initial endowment in the experiment, though that strategy reduces their expected earnings. This effect is largest among women with relatives attending the experiment. Parameter estimates suggest that women anticipate that observable income will be “taxed” at a rate above four percent; this effective tax rate nearly doubles when kin can observe income directly. At the village level, we find an association between willingness to forgo expected return to keep income hidden in the laboratory experiment and worse economic outcomes outside the laboratory.
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Published Paper
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September 17, 2015
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A multifaceted livelihood program that provided ultra-poor households with a productive asset, training, regular coaching, access to savings, and consumption support led to large and lasting impacts on their standard of living across a diverse set of contexts and implementing partners.
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Brief
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September 08, 2015
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A seven-year randomized evaluation suggests education subsidies reduce adolescent girls’ dropout, pregnancy, and marriage but not sexually transmitted infection (STI). The government’s HIV curriculum, which stresses abstinence until marriage, does not reduce pregnancy or STI. Both programs combined reduce STI more, but cut dropout and pregnancy less, than education subsidies alone. These results are inconsistent with a model of schooling and sexual behavior in which both pregnancy and STI are determined by one factor (unprotected sex), but consistent with a two-factor model in which choices between committed and casual relationships also affect these outcomes.
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Published Paper
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September 01, 2015
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Scholars have long speculated about education’s political impacts, variously arguing that it promotes modern or pro-democratic attitudes; that it instills acceptance of existing authority; and that it empowers the disadvantaged to challenge authority. This paper studies the political and social impacts of increased education. To address the potential threat of bias from selection into human capital investment, we utilize a randomized girls’ merit scholarship incentive program in Kenya that raised test scores and secondary schooling. We find little evidence for modernization theory. Consistent with the empowerment view, young women in program schools were less likely to accept domestic violence. Moreover, the program increased objective political knowledge, and reduced acceptance of political authority. However, this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater perceived political efficacy, community participation, or voting intentions. Instead, there is suggestive evidenc...
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Working Paper
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September 01, 2015
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The Financial Services for the Poor Initiative supports research on innovations that help low-income households in the developing world access and benefit from formal financial services. We address outstanding questions on how to design and scale innovations to bring affordable and effective services within the reach of previously unbanked and underserved clients.
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Brief
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September 01, 2015
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The results are in for the Community Health Assistant (CHA) incentives evaluation: increases in the productivity of CHAs that were recruited via career (versus social) incentives are mirrored by significantly improved health outcomes at the household level.
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August 31, 2015
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We examine whether returns to capital are higher for farmers who borrow than for those who do not, a direct implication of many credit market models. We measure the difference in returns through a two‐stage loan and grant experiment. We find large positive investment responses and returns to grants for a random (representative) sample of farmers, showing that liquidity constraints bind. However, we find zero returns to grants for a sample of farmers who endogenously did not borrow. Thus we find important heterogeneity, even conditional on a wide range of observed characteristics, which has critical implications for theory and policy.
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Working Paper
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August 01, 2015
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Performance pay for tax collectors has the potential to raise revenues, but might come at a cost if it increases the bargaining power of tax collectors vis-a-vis taxpayers. We report the first large-scale field experiment on these issues, where we experimentally allocated 482 property tax units in Punjab, Pakistan into one of three performance-pay schemes or a control. After two years, incentivized units had 9.4 log points higher revenue than controls, which translates to a 46 percent higher growth rate. The scheme that rewarded purely on revenue did best, increasing revenue by 12.9 log points (64 percent higher growth rate), with little penalty for customer satisfaction and assessment accuracy compared to the two other schemes that explicitly also rewarded these dimensions. The revenue gains accrue from a small number of properties becoming taxed at their true value, which is substantially more than they had been taxed at previously. The majority of properties in incentivized areas in...
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Working Paper
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August 01, 2015
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Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) have been shown to increase human capital investments, but their standard features make them expensive. We use a large randomized experiment in Morocco to estimate an alternative government-run program, a “labeled cash transfer” (LCT): a small cash transfer made to fathers of school-aged children in poor rural communities, not conditional on school attendance but explicitly labeled as an education support program. We document large gains in school participation. Adding conditionality and targeting mothers made almost no difference in our context. The program increased parents’ belief that education was a worthwhile investment, a likely pathway for the results.
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Published Paper
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August 01, 2015
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We design a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the adoption of credit scoring with a bank that uses soft information in small businesses lending. We find that credit scores improve the productivity of credit committees, reduce managerial involvement in the loan approval process, and increase the profitability of lending. Credit committee members’ effort and output also increase when they anticipate the score becoming available, indicating that scores improve incentives to use existing information. Our results imply that credit scores improve the efficiency and decentralize decision-making in loan production, which has implications for the optimal organization of banks.
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Working Paper
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July 02, 2015
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Agricultural productivity in Africa is low despite the existence of improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. As much of the population works in agriculture, encouraging use of these improved technologies could raise productivity and in turn reduce poverty and encourage economic growth. But why do farmers fail to invest in potentially profitable technologies? One reason may be that they do not have enough cash on hand when they need to purchase them and lack access to credit. Microcredit organizations have attempted to address this problem, but the typical microcredit loan contract—where clients must start repayment after a few weeks—is ill-suited for agriculture. Providing farmers with loans at the beginning of the planting season, to be repaid in a lump sum at the time of harvest, could facilitate investment and increased profitability.
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Brief
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July 01, 2015
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Many technology adoption decisions are made under uncertainty about the costs or benefits of subsequent investments in the technology after the initial take-up. As new information is realized, agents may prefer to abandon a technology that appeared profitable at the time of take-up. Low rates of follow-through (engagement in subsequent investments) are particularly problematic when subsidies are used to increase adoption, in part because they may attract users with a lower value for the technology. We use a field experiment with two stages of randomization to generate exogenous variation in the payoffs associated with taking up and following through with a new technology: a tree species that provides private fertilizer benefits to adopting farmers. Our empirical results show high rates of abandoning the technology, even after paying a positive price to take it up. The experimental variation offers a novel source of identification for a structural model of intertemporal decision making...
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Working Paper
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July 01, 2015
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We test how donors respond to new information about a charity’s effectiveness. Freedom from Hunger implemented a test of its direct marketing solicitations, varying letters by whether they include a discussion of their program’s impact as measured by scientific research. The base script, used for both treatment and control, included a standard qualitative story about an individual beneficiary. Adding scientific impact information has no effect on average likelihood of giving or average gift amount. However, we find important heterogeneity: large prior donors both are more likely to give and also give more, whereas small prior donors are less likely to give. This pattern is consistent with two different types of donors: warm glow donors who respond negatively to analytical effectiveness information, and altruism donors who respond  positively to such information.
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Working Paper
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June 28, 2015
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Investing in women is said to be a key to development. In this view, providing education, a cow, or the ingredients for a business will result in great things: increases in income, empowerment, social inclusion, and improved mental health. In this study, IPA researchers studied whether the most vulnerable women could start and sustain small businesses. They evaluated a program by AVSI Uganda, the Women’s INcome Generating Support (WINGS) program. WINGS offered extremely poor people basic business skills training, ongoing mentorship, and cash grants with a purchasing power of $375. The message: the poorest women have high returns to cash, training and supervision. Not only can cash-centered programs help the poorest start and sustain microenterprises, but they do so cost-effectively. Moving ahead, there are ways to improve cost-effectiveness, and programs should note that higher incomes alone may not address women’s social and personal challenges.
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Brief
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June 25, 2015
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Debates between candidates for public once have a rich historical tradition and remain an integral part of contemporary campaign strategy. There is, however, no definitive evidence of whether debates affect actual voting behavior. Limited media penetration implies that the effects of publicizing debates could be more pronounced, persistent and directly linked to electoral outcomes in the developing world. We experimentally manipulate citizen exposure to debates between Parliamentary candidates in Sierra Leone to measure their impacts on, and the interconnections between, voter behavior, campaign spending, and the performance of elected politicians. We find evidence of strong positive impacts on citizen political knowledge, policy alignment and votes cast on Election Day. We then document an endogenous response by participating candidates, who increased their campaign expenditure in communities where videotapes of the debates were screened in large public gatherings. A complementary ser...
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Working Paper
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June 19, 2015
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Both under- and over-treatment of communicable diseases are public bads. But efforts to decrease one run the risk of increasing the other. Using rich experimental data on household treatment-seeking behavior in Kenya, we study the implications of this trade-off for subsidizing life-saving antimalarials sold over-the-counter at retail drug outlets. We show that a very high subsidy (such as the one under consideration by the international community) dramatically increases access, but nearly one-half of subsidized pills go to patients without malaria. We study two ways to better target subsidized drugs: reducing the subsidy level, and introducing rapid malaria tests over-the-counter.
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Published Paper
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June 18, 2015
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Interlinked transactions in which output prices are determined jointly with the terms of a credit contract are an important feature of many business relationships, particularly in developing economies. We present results from a randomized experiment designed to study how value is passed along the agricultural supply chain in the presence of such interlinkages. In response to an increase in a trader’s wholesale price, we find limited pass-through of the price to farmers. However we also find a large increase in the likelihood that traders provide credit to farmers, suggesting that the value of the wholesale price increase was passed to farmers along a different margin. We develop a model of interlinked transactions that shows how price and credit passthrough are determined, and verify its predictions empirically. Our work suggests that the presence of interlinkages is a candidate explanation for low rates of price pass-through that have been observed, but one with substantially differen...
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Working Paper
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June 17, 2015
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To ensure a Stata dataset does not contain personally identifiable information (PII), you should carefully review the variables it contains: it may not be immediately clear that a variable is PII. However, sometimes it is useful to complete a first sweep of one or more datasets for clear instances of PII.
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June 05, 2015
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Pseudocode is a simplified, half-English, half-code outline of a computer program.
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June 05, 2015

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