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We use a randomized evaluation of a Kenyan deworming program to estimate peer effects in technology adoption and to shed light on foreign aid donors’ movement towards sustainable community provision of public goods. Deworming is a public good since much of its social benefit comes through reduced disease transmission. People were less likely to take deworming if their direct first-order or indirect second-order social contacts were exposed to deworming. Efforts to replace subsidies with sustainable worm control measures were ineffective: a drug cost-recovery program reduced take-up 80 percent; health education did not affect behavior, and a mobilization intervention failed. At least in this context, it appears unrealistic for a one-time intervention to generate sustainable voluntary local public goods provision.
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August 01, 2007
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The economics literature suggests that enhanced social connection can increase trust amongst agents, which can ultimately lead to more efficient economic outcomes, including increased provision of public goods. This study provides a test of whether social connectedness (proxied via agent similarities in race and gender) influences giving to a charitable fundraiser. Using data gathered from more than 2000 households approached in an actual door-to-door fundraising drive, we find limited evidence of the importance of such social connections. A robust result in the data, however, is that our minority solicitors, whether approaching a majority or minority household, are considerably less likely to obtain a contribution, and conditional on securing a contribution, gift size is lower than their majority counterparts receive.
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August 01, 2007
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The Millennium Development Goals call for reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. This goal was adopted in large part because clean water was seen as critical to fighting diarrheal disease, which kills 2 million children annually. There is compelling evidence that provision of piped water and sanitation can substantially reduce child mortality. However, in dispersed rural settlements, providing complete piped water and sanitation infrastructure to households is expensive. Many poor countries have therefore focused instead on providing community-level water infrastructure, such as wells. Various traditional child health interventions have been shown to be effective in fighting diarrhea. Among environmental interventions, handwashing and point-of-use water treatment both reduce diarrhea, although more needs to be learned about ways to encourage households to take up these behavior changes. In contrast, there is little evidence that pro...
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May 01, 2007
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Education policy has recently focused on improving accountability and incentives of public providers for actual learning outcomes, often with school-based rewards programs for high performers. The Learning Guarantee Programme in Karnataka, India, is prominent among such efforts, providing cash transfers to government schools that achieve learning at specified high levels. This study examines whether schools that self-selected into the incentive program are different than those that did not. The answer has important implications for how to evaluate the impact of such a program. Although we find no significant differences in resources and characteristics, we do find significant and substantial differences in test scores prior to selection into the program, with better performing schools more likely to opt-in. These findings also provide insight into how incentive-based programs that focus on levels of (rather than changes in) achievement can exacerbate inequality in education. Failing sc...
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April 01, 2007
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To analyze the prospects for expanding financial access to the poor, bank professionals assessed 1,438 households in six provinces in Indonesia to judge their creditworthiness. About 40 percent of poor households were judged creditworthy according to the criteria of Indonesia’s largest microfinance bank, but fewer than 10 percent had recently borrowed from a microbank or formal lender. Possessing collateral appeared as a minor determinant of creditworthiness, in keeping with microfinance innovations. Although these households were judged able to service loans reliably, most desired small loans. Calculations show that the bank, given its current fee structure and banking practices, would lose money when lending at the scales desired. So, while innovations have helped to extend financial access, it remains difficult to lend in small amounts and cover costs
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March 01, 2007
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We conducted a natural field experiment to further our understanding of the economics of charity. Using direct mail solicitations to over 50,000 prior donors of a non-profit organization, we tested the effectiveness of a matching grant on charitable giving. We find that the match offer increases both the revenue per solicitation and the response rate. Larger match ratios (i.e., $3:$1 and $2:$1) relative to a smaller match ratio ($1:$1) had no additional impact, however. The results provide avenues for future empirical and theoretical work on charitable giving, costbenefit analysis, and the private provision of public goods.
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January 01, 2007
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This paper uses survey data from 13 countries todocument the economic lives of the poor (those livingon less than $2 dollar per day per capita at purchasingpower parity ) or the extremely poor (those living onless than $1 dollar per day). We describe theirpatterns of consumption and income generation aswell as their access to markets and publicly providedinfrastructure. The paper concludes with a discussionof some apparent anomalous choices.
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January 01, 2007
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This paper presents a randomized field experiment on reducing corruptionin over 600 Indonesian village road projects. I find that increasinggovernment audits from 4 percent of projects to 100 percentreduced missing expenditures, as measured by discrepancies betweenofficial project costs and an independent engineers' estimate of costs,by eight percentage points. By contrast, increasing grassroots participationin monitoring had little average impact, reducing missing expendituresonly in situations with limited free-rider problems andlimited elite capture. Overall, the results suggest that traditional topdownmonitoring can play an important role in reducing corruption,even in a highly corrupt environment.
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January 01, 2007
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This paper is a practical guide (a toolkit) for researchers, students and practitioners wishing to introduce randomization as part of a research design in the field. It first covers the rationale for the use of randomization, as a solution to selection bias and a partial solution to publication biases. Second, it discusses various ways in which randomization can be practically introduced in a field settings. Third, it discusses designs issues such as sample size requirements, stratification, level of randomization and data collection methods. Fourth, it discusses how to analyze data from randomized evaluations when there are departures from the basic framework. It reviews in particular how to handle imperfect compliance and externalities. Finally, it discusses some of the issues involved in drawing general conclusions from randomized evaluations, including the necessary use of theory as a guide when designing evaluations and interpreting results.
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Report
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December 01, 2006
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We analyze a randomized experiment in which 14,000 tax filers in H&R Block offices in St. Louis received matches of zero, 20 percent, or 50 percent of IRA contributions. Take-up rates were 3 percent, 8 percent, and 14 percent, respectively. Among contributors, contributions, excluding the match, averaged $765 in the control group and $1100 in the match groups. Taxpayer responses to similar incentives in the Saver’s Credit are much smaller. Taxpayers did not game the experiment by receiving a match and strategically withdrawing funds. Tax professionals significantly influenced contribution choices. These results suggest that both incentives and information affect behavior.
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November 01, 2006
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This paper presents the results of two randomized experiments conducted in schools in urban India. A remedial education program hired young women to teach students lagging behind in basic literacy and numeracy skills. It increased average test scores of all children in treatment schools by 0.28 standard deviation, mostly due to large gains experienced by children at the bottom of the test-score distribution. A computer-assisted learning program focusing on math increased math scores by 0.47 standard deviation. One year after the programs were over initial gains remained significant for targeted children, but they faded to about 0.10 standard deviation.
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October 01, 2006
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The authors report results from a randomized evaluation comparing three school-based HIV/AIDS interventions in Kenya: (1) training teachers in the Kenyan Government's HIV/AIDS-education curriculum; (2) encouraging students to debate the role of condoms and to write essays on how to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS; and (3) reducing the cost of education. Their primary measure of the effectiveness of these interventions is teenage childbearing, which is associated with unprotected sex. The authors also collected measures of knowledge, attitudes, and behavior regarding HIV/AIDS. After two years, girls in schools where teachers had been trained were more likely to be married in the event of a pregnancy. The program had little other impact on students' knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, or on the incidence of teen childbearing. The condom debates and essays increased practical knowledge and self-reported use of condoms without increasing self-reported sexual activity. Reducing the cost...
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October 01, 2006
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Youth are simultaneously the primary victims and the primary actors in the two-decade long war in northern Uganda. Yet, while we know that youth have suffered (and continue to do so), we have not been able to answer with confidence or precision some crucial questions, namely: who is suffering, how much, and in what ways? Moreover, while we know that youth have made up the bulk of the armed rebel group, almost always forcibly, we have little sense of the magnitude, incidence, and nature of the violence and trauma.
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September 01, 2006
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This paper argues that the important challenge for an impact evaluation study is to determine the answer to the question how lives of participants would have changed had the policy not been implemented. An evaluation that provides an answer to be above question can be considered as a reliable evaluation.
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August 01, 2006
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This paper presents an application of the randomized controlled trial methodology to evaluating modifications to the design of microcredit programs. As microfinance becomes an even more popular tool for fighting poverty, institutions innovate in their products and programs at a rapid pace. Policymakers and practitioners should know the relative impact of different designs, both to the client (in terms of welfare) and to the institution (in terms of financial sustainability). We discuss the current approach to evaluating product or program changes, and the reasons why more rigorous evaluations are necessary. We then discuss why randomized controlled trials can prove vital to icrofinance institutions in identifying effective program designs in different environments. In this paper, we focus on the choice of lending methodologies – credit with education versus credit only, and group versus individual liability -- to illustrate the benefits of randomized controlled trials as a business too...
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July 01, 2006
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Informal lending and savings institutions exist around the world, and often include regular door-to-door deposit collection of cash. Some banks have adopted similar services in order to expand access to banking services in areas that lack physical branches. Using a randomized control trial, we investigate determinants of participation in a deposit collection service and evaluate the impact of offering the service for micro-savers of a rural bank in the Philippines. Of 137 individuals offered the service in the treatment group, 38 agreed to sign-up, and 20 regularly used the service. Take-up is predicted by distance to the bank (a measure of transaction costs of depositing without the service) as well as being married (a suggestion that household bargaining issues are important). Those offered the service saved 188 pesos more (which equates to about a 25% increase in savings stock) and were slightly less likely to borrow from the bank.
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May 01, 2006
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We designed a commitment savings product for a Philippine bank and implemented it using a randomized control methodology. The savings product was intended for individuals who want to commit now to restrict access to their savings, and who were sophisticated enough to engage in such a mechanism. We conducted a baseline survey on 1777 existing or former clients of a bank. One month later, we offered the commitment product to a randomly chosen subset of 710 clients; 202 (28.4 percent) accepted the offer and opened the account. In the baseline survey, we asked hypothetical time discounting questions. Women who exhibited a lower discount rate for future relative to current trade-offs, and hence potentially have a preference for commitment, were indeed significantly more likely to open the commitment savings account. After twelve months, average savings balances increased by 81 percentage points for those clients assigned to the treatment group relative to those assigned to the control group...
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May 01, 2006
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This article considers several aspects of the economic decision making of the poor from the perspective of behavioral economics, and it focuses on potential contributions from marketing. Among other things, the authors consider some relevant facets of the social and institutional environments in which the poor interact, and they review some behavioral patterns that are likely to arise in these contexts. A behaviorally more informed perspective can help make sense of what might otherwise be considered “puzzles” in the economic comportment of the poor. A behavioral analysis suggests that substantial welfare changes could result from relatively minor policy interventions, and insightful marketing may provide much needed help in the design of such interventions.
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March 01, 2006
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Anemia is among the most widespread health problems for children in developing countries. This paper evaluates the impact of a randomized health intervention delivering iron supplementation and deworming drugs to Indian preschool children. At baseline 69 percent were anemic and 30 percent had intestinal worm infections. Weight increased among assisted children, and preschool participation rates rose by 5.8 percentage points, reducing absenteeism by one fifth. Gains were especially pronounced for those most likely to be anemic at baseline. Results contribute to a growing view that school-based health programs are an effective way of promoting school attendance in less developed countries.
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February 01, 2006
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There is a long tradition in development economics of collecting original data to test specific hypotheses. Over the last 10 years, this tradition has merged with an expertise in setting up randomized field experiments, resulting in an increasingly large number of studies where an original experiment has been set up to test economic theories and hypotheses. This paper extracts some substantive and methodological lessons from such studies in three domains: incentives, social learning, and time-inconsistent preferences. The paper argues that we need both to continue testing existing theories and to start thinking of how the theories may be adapted to make sense of the field experiment results, many of which are starting to challenge them. This new framework could then guide a new round of experiments.
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January 01, 2006

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