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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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Working Paper
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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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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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Working Paper
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June 15, 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
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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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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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Rates of participation in early childhood education (ECE) programs are on the rise globally, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet little evidence exists on the quality of these programs and on the role of classroom quality in predicting learning for young children across diverse contexts. This study uses data from the Greater Accra Region of Ghana (N = 3,407; Mage = 5.8 years; 49.5% female) to examine how changes in four culturally-validated dimensions of ECE classroom quality predict children’s growth in early academic and social-emotional skills from the beginning to the end of one academic year. We find that improvements in domains of classroom instructional quality are related to small, positive gains in children’s early academic and social-emotional outcomes over the school year, and that these improvements are generally larger for children and classrooms with higher baseline proficiency and quality levels. Associations between changes in social-emotional aspects of classroom qual...
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May 22, 2018
This study examines how parent socioeconomic status (SES) directly and indirectly predicts children’s school readiness through pathways of parental investment. Data come from direct assessments with preschool children and surveys with their primary caregivers in Ghana at the start of the 2015–2016 school year (N = 2,137; Mage = 5.2 years). Results revealed SES-related gaps in all parental investment characteristics and child school readiness skills. Preschool involvement served as the primary mediating mechanism in the path from SES to most school readiness skills, though it did not predict executive function. The number of books in the household was marginally positively predictive of early literacy, whereas at-home stimulation was negatively related to motor, literacy, and numeracy skills.
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May 22, 2018
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The Strategic Planning Secretariat of the Ministry of Education, with technical assistance from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), is implementing an education lab for innovations. This Lab is an innovative approach to policymaking, which creates a learning space to design low cost interventions that have the potential to trigger big impacts in learning and implementation outcomes. The proposed interventions will be rigorously tested using the Ministry’s administrative data systems when available, with the aim of scaling those innovations that prove to be effective. The Lab’s combination of low-cost interventions with the use of administrative data offers a highly efficient scheme for innovation and design of public policies based on evidence, both in terms of resources and availability of timely results without interfering with the implementation of the Ministry’s interventions. Read more about MineduLAB here.
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May 03, 2018
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Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana.
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May 01, 2018
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Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture currently operates an agricultural extension agency program to help teach smallholder farmers the most current farming techniques, but there are not enough agents to provide a constant presence in local communities. As part of the Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers (DIRTS) project, researchers collaborated with the ministry to test a new community agricultural extension agent program, which selected and trained local agents to supplement the existing MOFA agents and provide more frequent teaching and support. Key Findings* After three years: Community extension agents successfully increased local farmers’ knowledge and improved their practices. Delivering specific information about a practice close to the time when the practice should be adopted may be an important component of a successful program. However, farmers’ improved knowledge and implementation of best practices did not ultimately translate into...
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May 01, 2018
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Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana. Key Findings* Over the course of one growing season: The seed comparison found a wide variety in yields between seeds, with farmers who grew the foreign hybrid seed, Adikanfo, on average yielding more than double that yielded from the local hybrid seed, Mamaba. Contrary to expectations, the commonly-used local seed, Obaatanpa, outperformed the local hybrid seed, Mamaba. The study suggests a farmer cultivating one hectare of land who switched from Obaatanpa to Adikanfo would harvest about 1.8 tons more maize, translating into an increase in profit of more t...
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May 01, 2018
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In Ghana, and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, farmers invest little in inputs, such as improved seed, fertilizer, and other chemicals to improve their yields. One reason for this may be risk associated with factors out of their control, such as weather. As part of the “Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers” project, researchers partnered with a weather forecasting firm to test the impact of providing daily short-term weather forecasts by SMS. Key Findings After 1 year: Farmers who received the forecasts, as well as farmers living nearby, used this information to change their behavior, timing planting and chemical application for days when light rain was forecast. However, there was no discernable impact of the service on farmers’ overall profits. Overall, the results suggest that forecasts are inexpensive and effective at changing farmer behavior, but they were not sufficient to increase overall profits alone.
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May 01, 2018
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Using a randomized control trial, we examine whether offering adolescent girls nonmaterial resources – specifically, negotiation skills – can improve educational outcomes in a low-income country. In so doing, we provide the first evidence on the effects of an intervention that increased non-cognitive, interpersonal skills during adolescence. Long-run administrative data shows that negotiation training significantly improved educational outcomes over the next three years. The training had greater effects than two alternative treatments (offering girls a safe physical space with female mentors and offering girls information about the returns to education), suggesting that negotiation skills themselves drive the effect. Further evidence from a lab-in-the-field experiment, which simulates parents’ educational investment decisions, and a midline survey suggests that negotiation skills improved girls’ outcomes by moving households’ human capital investments closer to the efficient frontier....
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Working Paper
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April 28, 2018
Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to "sell low and buy high" rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers' abilities to move grain inter-temporally. Providing timely access to credit allows farmers to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm revenues and generating a return on investment of 28%. To understand general equilibrium effects of these changes in behavior, we vary the density of loan offers across locations. We document significant effects of the credit intervention on seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets, and show that these GE effects shape individual level profitability estimates. In contrast to existing experimental work, the results indicate a setting in which...
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April 24, 2018

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