A multi-faceted program comprising a grant of productive assets, training, coaching, and savings has been found to build sustainable income for those in extreme poverty. We focus on two important questions: whether a mere grant of productive assets would generate similar impacts (it does not), and whether access to a savings account and a deposit collection service would generate similar impacts (it does not).
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Working Paper
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January 23, 2018
A debt trap occurs when someone takes on a high-interest rate loan and is barely able to pay back the interest, and thus perpetually finds themselves in debt (often by re-financing). Studying such practices is important for understanding financial decision-making of households in dire circumstances, and also for setting appropriate consumer protection policies. We conduct a simple experiment in three sites in which we paid off high-interest moneylender debt of individuals. Most borrowers returned to debt within six weeks. One to two years after intervention, treatment individuals were borrowing at the same rate as control households.
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Working Paper
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January 23, 2018
We report results of a randomized control trial in which parents of primary school leavers were encouraged to open a convenient bank account operated over a mobile money platform. A lock savings account (LSA) was randomly promoted to half the treatment group. Treatment boosted account take-up by 25 percentage points. Intent-to-treat estimates show that being offered either account increased savings on the mobile phone. Total financial savings increased by 3-4 times, suggesting access to the mobile bank account crowded in other forms of savings. High school enrollment was 5-6 percentage points higher – representing a one third increase for compliers.
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Working Paper
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January 23, 2018
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its final bulletin from 2017. This bulletin features updates from our Saving for Safe Delivery study and the scale-ups of the food constraints and Catch Up projects. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's dissemination events for the "Making Ghanaian Girls Great!" and "Interpersonal Communication to Encourage Use of Female Condoms in Zambia" studies.
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Brief
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January 16, 2018
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Improving learning outcomes is a key policy priority in Ghana. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) evaluate the success of education programs through rigorous research; and (2) build sector-wide frameworks of accountability through improved monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Both forms of evidence are necessary for a strong education system. Evidence Day, a part of the Ghana Ministry of Education's Education Week, will bring together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to: a) share rigorous evidence about improving accountability and learning outcomes in education, in Ghana and internationally; b) identify ways in which evidence from evaluations can be used for better decision- making; and c) share monitoring and evaluation tools that can inform a framework of accountability for Ghana’s education sector.
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January 12, 2018
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Improving learning outcomes is a key policy priority in Ghana. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) evaluate the success of education programs through rigorous research; and (2) build sector-wide frameworks of accountability through improved monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Both forms of evidence are necessary for a strong education system. The Ministry of Education is therefore calling for proposals for presentations on research relating to the aforementioned topics. Authors of accepted proposals may be invited to present their work at the Ghana education evidence summit scheduled to take place in July 2018.
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January 12, 2018
Gender gaps in participation and representation are common in new democracies, both at the elite level and at the grassroots. We investigate efforts to close the grassroots gender gap in rural Ghana, a patronage-based democracy in which a dense network of political party branches provides the main avenue for local participation. We report results from a randomized field experiment to address norms against women's participation and encourage women's participation ahead of Ghana's December 2016 elections. The treatment is a large community meeting presided over by the traditional chief, known locally as a durbar. We find null results. The treatment was hampered in part by its incomplete implementation, including by local political party leaders who may have feared an electorally-risky association with a controversial social message. The study emphasizes the importance of social norms in explaining gender gaps in grassroots politics in new democracies and contributes new evidence on the l...
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December 31, 2017
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Can democratic elections reduce rent extraction by public decision makers? Existing research suggests that reelection incentives can reduce the embezzlement of public funds. This paper examines three additional mechanisms through which democratic elections could have an impact on embezzlement, even in the absence of reelection incentives: (1) electoral selection effects, (2) social norms and norm enforcement, and (3) citizens’ trust in decision makers. Evidence from an experiment with 472 groups of citizens in rural Burkina Faso suggests that electoral selection favors benevolent candidates. Furthermore, elections increase citizens’ willingness to punish corrupt decision makers, even if their ability to do so remains unchanged. However, these beneficial effects of elections are offset by an unexpected adverse effect: elections cause citizens to trust decision makers more than they should be trusted. These findings have important implications for the role of information in electoral dem...
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Working Paper
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December 27, 2017
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The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Program at IPA discovers and promotes effective solutions to the constraints faced by entrepreneurs and SMEs in developing countries. SMEs are the largest generators of employment in the developing world, creating nearly 60% of new jobs. They also generate a myriad of opportunities across sectors and geographic areas, and employ broad and diverse segments of the labor force. SMEs in developing countries, however, face constraints that are disproportionately large compared to those faced by larger firms and by SMEs in developed countries. Limited access to finance, low levels of human capital, and difficulty accessing markets stand out as some of the most challenging barriers to business growth.
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Brief
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December 21, 2017
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Politicians shirk when their performance is obscure to constituents. We theorize that when politician performance information is disseminated early in the electoral term, politicians will subsequently improve their performance in anticipation of changes in citizens’ evaluative criteria and possible challenger entry in the next election. However, politicians may only respond in constituencies where opposition has previously mounted. We test these predictions in partnership with a Ugandan civil society organization in a multiyear field experiment conducted in 20 district governments between the 2011 and 2016 elections. While the organization published yearly job duty performance scorecards for all incumbents, it disseminated the scorecards to constituents for randomly selected politicians. These dissemination efforts induced politicians to improve performance across a range of measures, but only in competitive constituencies. Service delivery was unaffected. We conclude that, conditional...
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Published Paper
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December 01, 2017
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Report
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November 20, 2017
Nearly 2.5 million mothers and babies die each year from complications in the immediate period around childbirth. Nairobi, Kenya has among the highest maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the world. Mounting evidence suggests delivering in a facility is not enough to drive mortality reductions, with utilization of poor quality facilities and delays in receiving care the major contributors to continued poor outcomes (Lozano et al. 2011). In addition to delivering in well-equipped facilities, women must arrive at the facility and be attended to in time for complications to be effectively managed. The “three delays” model attributes poor outcomes to delays in: (i) seeking care; (ii) arriving at the facility for delivery; and (iii) receiving adequate treatment once at the facility (Thaddeus 1994). These delays are strongly associated with morbidity and mortality (Pacagnella et al. 2014). Delays could occur for many reasons including the need to travel far distances, information gaps ab...
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November 16, 2017
Many patients in low-income countries express preferences for high-quality health care but often end up with low-quality providers. We conducted a randomized controlled trial with pregnant women in Nairobi, Kenya, to analyze whether cash transfers, enhanced with behavioral “nudges,” can help women deliver in facilities that are consistent with their preferences and are of higher quality. We tested two interventions. The first was a labeled cash transfer (LCT), which explained that the cash was to help women deliver where they wanted. The second was a cash transfer that combined labeling and a commitment by the recipient to deliver in a prespecified desired facility as a condition of receiving the final payment (L-CCT). The L-CCT improved patient-perceived quality of interpersonal care but not perceived technical quality of care. It also increased women’s likelihood of delivering in facilities that met standards for routine and emergency newborn care but not the likelihood of delivering...
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Published Paper
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November 01, 2017
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Bank accounts can provide a secure way for low-income households to build their assets to make large investments or protect themselves against unforeseen expenses. Yet many poor households don’t use formal financial services. In the Dominican Republic, Banco Unión delivers remittances to approximately 400,000 clients who do not have a formal bank account. The bank also created two savings products tailored to the needs of these clients. In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Banco Unión developed SMS message campaigns to try to boost account uptake and usage among its remittance-receiving clientele. Two randomized evaluations found that the messaging campaigns did not increase clients’ use of formal bank accounts, and may have in fact discouraged account holders’ engagement with Banco Unión, as observed through decreased deposit and withdrawal activity and slightly lower balances by the end of the campaigns. There are sev...
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Report
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November 01, 2017
This paper studies the impact on well-being and business outcomes from teaching stress-management practices to small firm owners in Bangladesh. Female owners were randomly assigned either to a treatment group that received a 10-week Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) course featuring priority-setting and relaxation techniques, or to a control group exposed to Empathic Listening. CBT leads to large initial reductions in owner stress, but no initial increase in firm profits. Six months after receiving CBT, owners in sectors with a low concentration of women show large and significant effects on stress, and their firms show increased profits. By contrast, owners in female-dominated sectors experience a short-lived reduction in stress, and firms show no changes in profits. The large post-treatment differences in well-being and profits between industries suggest that the ability to manage stress is malleable, and that industry choice proxies for traits that are strongly correlated with retu...
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October 31, 2017
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IPA stands at the forefront of a movement to build rigorous evidence and ensure it is used to improve the lives of people living in poverty. In 2016, we started 75 new studies and continued our efforts to share research findings and grow our visibility through 70 events across the world. Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org
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Annual Report
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October 25, 2017
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Educators and policymakers want to strengthen teacher preparation in order to improve student learning, but evidence is lacking about what makes training most e ective, especially in early childhood education. Researchers evaluated a pre-service mentoring and training program for student teachers of kindergarten in Ghana’s Western region.  Preliminary Key Findings »  The training program significantly improved student teachers’ implementation of the curriculum and knowledge of early childhood education and development. »  The program’s impacts on teachers’ professional well-being were mixed: FTTT teachers had higher levels of motivation and feelings of personal accomplishment, but lower levels of job satisfaction when placed as full-time teachers. »  One year after being placed as full-time teachers, these improvements had not translated into improved child learning or development outcomes. »  An additional four-day head teacher sensitization training did not have any impacts on teachi...
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October 23, 2017
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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 purchase at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm profits 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 greatly affect our individual level profitability estimates. We also find suggestive evidence that these GE effects generate be...
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October 12, 2017
We explore how intra-household bargaining determines human capital investment through a randomised controlled trial that taught girls negotiation skills. We first study the effects of the negotiation training using a lab-in-the-field investment game that simulates parents’ educational investment decisions: negotiation improves outcomes for daughters when they can communicate with their parents, and moves households closer to the efficient frontier. This is consistent with an incomplete contracting model, where parents inefficiently underinvest in daughters’ education, and negotiation allows daughters to strategically cooperate with parents. Long-run administrative data shows that negotiation training significantly improved educational outcomes over the next three years. 
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October 11, 2017
Can programmatic extensions such as training and mentorship enhance the economic impact of cash transfers, or do they needlessly absorb resources that program recipients could allocate more meaningfully by themselves? Using a randomized trial, we evaluate a program that targets poor Ugandans and offers them an integrated package comprised of lump sum transfers, coaching, and training on microenterprise development as well as savings group formation. We assess its impact and that of its savings component, as well as the impacts of much simplified program variants: one intervention variant that is limited to lump sum cash transfers and another that expands upon transfers using a light-touch behavioral intervention component. The results support the notion that integrated development interventions are sensible poverty reduction tools.
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September 26, 2017

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