We organized business associations for the owner-managers of young Chinese firms to study the effect of business networks on firm performance. We randomized 2,820 firms into small groups whose managers held monthly meetings for one year, and into a “no-meetings” control group. We find the following. (i) The meetings increased firm revenue by 8.1%, and also significantly increased profit, factors, inputs, the number of partners, borrowing, and a management score. (ii) These effects persisted one year after the conclusion of the meetings. (iii) Firms randomized to have better peers exhibited higher growth. We exploit additional interventions to document concrete channels. (iv) Managers shared exogenous business-relevant information, particularly when they were not competitors, showing that the meetings facilitated learning from peers. (v) Managers created more business partnerships in the regular than in other one-time meetings, showing that the meetings improved supplier-client matching...
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April 18, 2018
Several field experiments find positive returns to grants for male and not female microentrepreneurs. But, these analyses largely overlook that male and female micro-entrepreneurs often belong to the same household. Using data from randomized trials in India, Sri Lanka and Ghana, we show that the gender gap in microenterprise performance is not due to a gap in aptitude. Instead, low average returns of female-run enterprises are observed because women’s capital is invested into their husbands’ enterprises rather than their own. When women are the sole household enterprise operator, capital shocks lead to large increases in profits. Household-level income gains are equivalent regardless of the grant or loan recipient’s gender.
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April 18, 2018
Standard models of delegation assume that agents are better informed than principals about how to implement a particular task. We estimate the value of the informational advantage held by supervisors (the agents) when ministerial leadership (the principal) introduced a new monitoring technology aimed at improving the performance of agricultural extension agents (AEAs) in rural Paraguay. Our approach employs a novel experimental design in which, before randomization of treatment, we first elicited from supervisors which AEAs they believed should be prioritized for treatment. We semi-parametrically estimate marginal treatment effects (MTEs) and perform counterfactual exercises varying the principal’s allocation rule and access to information. We find that supervisors did have valuable information—they prioritized AEAs who would be more responsive to the monitoring treatment. The AEAs’ responsiveness is not easily observable to principals or analysts. We show both theoretically and empiri...
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April 04, 2018
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A randomized control trial with 432 small and medium enterprises in Mexico shows positive impact of access to 1 year of management consulting services on total factor productivity and return on assets. Owners also had an increase in “entrepreneurial spirit” (an index that measures entrepreneurial confidence and goal setting). Using Mexican social security data, we find a persistent large increase (about 50 percent) in the number of employees and total wage bill even 5 years after the program. We document large heterogeneity in the specific managerial practices that improved as a result of the consulting, with the most prominent being marketing, financial accounting, and longterm business planning.
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April 01, 2018
Using a randomized-control trial, this study evaluates a program designed to support Ghanaian kindergarten student-teachers during pre-service training through mentorship and in-classroom training. Several potential barriers to improved teaching quality and learning outcomes are examined. Findings show that the program improved knowledge and implementation of the national curriculum for individuals both when they were student-teachers and, the following year, when they became newly qualified teachers (NQTs). There were mixed impacts on professional well-being, increasing personal accomplishment and motivation but decreasing job satisfaction for NQTs. There were mixed impacts on teaching quality, with increases in child-led learning but decreases in some other aspects of quality. There were no impacts on NQTs’ student learning outcomes. The findings highlight system level challenges with both the posting of NQTs and the absence of support in their first teaching year. Implications for g...
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March 30, 2018
We present findings from a pilot study exploring whether and how existing ties between urban migrants and rural farmers may be used to provide the latter improved access to formal insurance. Urban migrants in Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) originating from nearby villages were offered, at the prevailing market price, a rainfall index insurance product that can potentially protect their rural relatives from adverse weather shocks. The product had an uptake of 22% during the two-week subscription window. Uptake rates were higher by 17-22 ppts among urban migrants who were randomly offered an insurance policy that would make pay-outs directly to the intended beneficiary rather than the subscriber. We argue that rainfall index insurance can complement informal risk-sharing networks by mitigating problems of informational asymmetry and self-control issues.
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March 20, 2018
This study uses data from the Health and Literacy Intervention (HALI) program evaluation, an in-service teacher training program focused on early grade literacy instruction for class one teachers. We assess how changes in classroom instructional processes impacted by the HALI teacher training were associated with improved early literacy outcomes for children. We find that experimentally induced increases in exposure to print—measured both through changes to time spent reading in class and through print displayed in the classroom—were associated with improvements in students’ reading fluency and reading comprehension. Implications for global education efforts to improve learning outcomes are discussed.
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March 08, 2018
In 2015-2017 Twaweza East Africa implemented KiuFunza II, a randomized performance pay trial in the early grades of public primary schools in Tanzania. This trial is part of an experimental program to improve learning introduced by Twaweza in collaboration with J-PAL/IPA. KiuFunza implemented two different teacher performance pay systems. The first system is called Stadi (levels) and rewards teachers based on the number of students that reach specific proficiency levels. The second is called Mashindano (gains) and rewards teachers based on their students’ test score ranking relative to children with the same starting level.  The performance pay learning impact was studied in a nationally representative sample of 180 schools (60 schools randomly selected into each of the two incentive pay programs, and 60 control schools). The evaluation finds that both teacher performance pay systems improved student test scores. The simpler “levels” system was at least as effective in raising student...
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Report
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February 20, 2018
To test the causal impact of religiosity, we conducted a randomized evaluation of an evangelical Protestant Christian values and theology education program that consisted of 15 weekly half-hour sessions. We analyze outcomes for 6,276 ultra-poor Filipino households six months after the program ended. We find significant increases in religiosity and income, no significant changes in total labor supply, assets, consumption, food security, or life satisfaction, and a significant decrease in perceived relative economic status. Exploratory analysis suggests the program may have improved hygienic practices and increased household discord, and that the income treatment effect may operate through increasing grit.
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February 19, 2018
Many farmers in the developing world lack access to effective savings and storage devices. Such devices might be particularly valuable for farmers since income is received as a lump sum at harvest but expenditures are incurred throughout the year, and because grain prices are low at harvest but rise over the year. We experimentally provided two saving schemes to 132 ROSCAs in Kenya, one designed around communally storing maize and the other around saving cash for inputs. About 56% of respondents took up the products. Respondents in the maize storage intervention were 23 percentage points more likely to store maize (on a base of 69%), 37 percentage points more likely to sell maize (on a base of 36%) and (conditional on selling) sold later and at higher prices. We find no effects of the individual input savings intervention on input usage, likely because baseline input adoption was higher than expected. Published version available here. 
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February 18, 2018
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Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers, practitioners, and funders are faced with competing ideas about the best way to reduce extreme poverty. Innovations for Poverty Action conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impacts of diverse components and variants of the Village Enterprise microenterprise program, an integrated poverty alleviation intervention that provides poor households with a combination of cash transfers, mentorship, business training, and support with the formation of savings groups, over a one-year period. Key Findings* Village Enterprise’s microenterprise development program led to increased consumption, assets, and income, as well as improvements in nutrition and subjective well-being. Cost-effectiveness appears high: researchers estimate a full cost recovery within three to four years. A cost-equivalent cash transfer appeared to have less promising medium-term impacts on poverty reduction and subjective w...
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Brief
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February 14, 2018
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Background Poor nutrition and infectious diseases can prevent children from reaching their developmental potential. We aimed to assess the effects of improvements in water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition on early child development in rural Kenya. Methods In this cluster-randomised controlled trial, we enrolled pregnant women in their second or third trimester from three counties (Kakamega, Bungoma, and Vihiga) in Kenya’s western region, with an average of 12 households per cluster. Groups of nine geographically adjacent clusters were block-randomised, using a random number generator, into the six intervention groups (including monthly visits to promote target behaviours), a passive control group (no visits), or a double-sized active control group (monthly household visits to measure child mid-upper arm circumference). The six intervention groups were: chlorinated drinking water; improved sanitation; handwashing with soap; combined water, sanitation, and handwashing; improved nu...
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February 12, 2018
English
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Brief
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February 06, 2018
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Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend largely on farming. Identifying ways for these farming families to increase productivity and earn more money has the potential to improve food security, increase financial stability, and alleviate poverty.
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February 01, 2018
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Social networks are an important mechanism for diffusing information when institutions are missing, but there may be distributional consequences from targeting only central nodes in a network. After implementing a social network census, one of three village-level treatments determined which treated nodes in the village received information about composting: random assignment, nodes with the highest degree, or nodes with high betweenness. We then look at how information diffuses through the network. We find information diffusion declines with social distance, suggesting frictions in the diffusion of information. Aggregate knowledge about the technology did not differ across targeting strategies, but targeting nodes using betweenness measures in village-level networks excludes less-connected nodes from new information. Women farmers are less likely to receive information when betweenness centrality is used in targeting, suggesting there are important gender differences, not only in the r...
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Working Paper
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January 31, 2018
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Background Poor nutrition and exposure to faecal contamination are associated with diarrhoea and growth faltering, both of which have long-term consequences for child health. We aimed to assess whether water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition interventions reduced diarrhoea or growth faltering. Methods The WASH Benefits cluster-randomised trial enrolled pregnant women from villages in rural Kenya and evaluated outcomes at 1 year and 2 years of follow-up. Geographically-adjacent clusters were block-randomised to active control (household visits to measure mid-upper-arm circumference), passive control (data collection only), or compound-level interventions including household visits to promote target behaviours: drinking chlorinated water (water); safe sanitation consisting of disposing faeces in an improved latrine (sanitation); handwashing with soap (handwashing); combined water, sanitation, and handwashing; counselling on appropriate maternal, infant, and young child feeding plus...
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January 29, 2018
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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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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January 23, 2018
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Do social networks matter for the adoption of new political communication technologies? We collect complete social network data for sixteen Ugandan villages where an innovative reporting mobile platform was recently introduced, and show robust evidence of peer effects on technology adoption. However, peer effects were not observed in all networks. We develop a formal model showing that while peer effects facilitate adoption of technologies with minimal externalities (like agricultural practices), it can be more difficult for innovations with significant positive externalities to spread through a network. Early adopters might exaggerate benefits, leading others to discount information about the technology’s value. Thus, peer effects are likely to emerge only where informal institutions support truthful communication. We show that the observable implications of our model are borne out in the data. These impediments to social diffusion might help explain the slow and varied uptake of new...
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January 23, 2018

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