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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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Published Paper
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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
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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Working Paper
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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
Date:
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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Brief
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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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Working Paper
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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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Working Paper
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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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Working Paper
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September 26, 2017
Standard business training programs aim to boost the incomes of the millions of self-employed business owners in developing countries by teaching basic financial and marketing practices, yet the impacts of such programs are mixed. We test whether a psychology-based personal initiative training approach which teaches and promotes a proactive mindset that focuses on entrepreneurial behaviors can have more success. A randomized controlled trial in Togo assigned microenterprise owners to a control group (N=500); a leading business training program (N=500); or to personal initiative training (N=500). Four follow-up surveys track firm outcomes over two years and show personal initiative training increases firm profits by 30 percent, compared to a statistically insignificant 11 percent for traditional training. The training is cost-effective, paying for itself within one year.
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Published Paper
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September 22, 2017
Past research suggests that improving citizen political knowledge and coordination can increase political participation and accountability and help channel grievances through democratic processes rather than conflict. A randomized field experiment in Peru demonstrates that civic education can sometimes have perverse effects on these outcomes. I find that civic education workshops reduce participation in the district’s “participatory budgeting” process and increase support for protest as a tool for sanctioning politicians. Although the intervention increases the initiation of recalls for poor-performing mayors, these mayors respond to the recall threat by further reducing their effort. Taken together the evidence suggests that improved information and coordination of local elites is not sufficient to improve government performance where it has previous lagged. 
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Working Paper
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September 15, 2017
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In Zambia, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Zambian poor.
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Brief
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September 13, 2017
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“Partnership Schools” are free, public schools managed by private operators. After one year, public schools managed by private operators raised student learning by 60 percent compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across operators, and contracts authorized the largest operator to push excess pupils and under-performing teachers into other government schools. Read the full paper here.
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Brief
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September 07, 2017
Paper
After one year, public schools managed by private contractors in Liberia raised student learning by 60 percent, compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across contractors, and contracts authorized the largest contractor to push excess pupils and underperforming teachers onto other government schools. (Download the full paper at the right, and online appendix from lower button).
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September 07, 2017
Background: Despite the continued high prevalence of faltering growth, height monitoring remains limited in many low- and middle-income countries.Objective: The objective of this study was to test whether providing parents with information on their child’s height can improve children’s height and developmental outcomes.Design: Villages in Chipata District, Zambia (n = 127), were randomly assigned with equal probability to 1 of 3 groups: home- based growth monitoring (HBGM), community-based growth monitoring including nutritional supplementation for children with stunted growth (CBGM+NS), and control. Primary study outcomes were individual height-for-age z score (HAZ) and overall child development assessed with the International Fetal and Newborn Growth Consortium for the 21st Century Neurodevelopment Assessment tool. Secondary outcomes were weight-for-age z score (WAZ), protein consumption, breastfeeding, and general dietary diversity. Results: We enrolled a total of 547 children with...
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August 23, 2017
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its second quarter bulletin of 2017. This bulletin features updates on our research projects on improving public services by improving staff allocation; trust, spontaneous clusters, and the growth of urban small- and medium-sized enterprises; and interpersonal communication to encourage use of the Maximum Diva Woman's Condom. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's presentation of preliminary results from the Girls Negotiation study in early May.
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Brief
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August 22, 2017
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In Uganda, preliminary findings suggest watching video interviews of parliamentary candidates during party primary and multiparty elections increases knowledge about the candidates and increases the likelihood that voters change away from their intended vote choice on Election Day.
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Brief
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August 07, 2017
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In lower- and middle-income countries, including Ghana, students in rural areas dramatically underperform their urban peers. Rural schools struggle to attract and retain professionally trained teachers (GES 2012; World Bank 2012). We explore one potential solution to the problem of teacher recruitment: distance instruction. Through a cluster randomized controlled trial, we estimate the impact of a program that broadcasts live instruction via satellite to rural primary school students. The program equipped classrooms in 70 randomly selected Ghanaian schools with the technology required to connect to a studio in Accra. An additional 77 schools served as the control. Instructors in Accra provided math and English lessons to classrooms in the treatment group. The model is interactive, and students in satellite classes could communicate in real time with their remote teachers. We estimate significant gains (p<.05) in rural students’ numeracy and foundational literacy skills. We find no i...
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Working Paper
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August 01, 2017
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While young adults in many contexts struggle to develop a positive identity or skills such as self-control, those who grow up in low-income or violent settings may have more at stake and receive less support. Cognitive behavioral therapy, an intervention traditionally used to treat mental health disorders like depression, is a promising option for policymakers seeking low-cost solutions to crime and violence.
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Brief
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June 22, 2017

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