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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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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September 07, 2017
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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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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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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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Background: Rigorous evaluations of health sector interventions addressing intimate partner violence (IPV) in low- and middle-income countries are lacking. We aimed to assess whether an enhanced nurse-delivered intervention would reduce IPV and improve levels of safety planning behaviors, use of community resources, reproductive coercion, and mental quality of life. Methods: We randomized 42 public health clinics in Mexico City to treatment or control arms. In treatment clinics, women received the nurse-delivered session (IPV screening, supportive referrals, health/safety risk assessments) at baseline (T1), and a booster counselling session after 3 months (T2). In control clinics, women received screening and a referral card from nurses. Surveys were conducted at T1, T2, and T3 (15 months from baseline). Our main outcome was past-year physical and sexual IPV. Intent-to-treat analyses were conducted via three-level random intercepts models to evaluate the interaction term for treatment...
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July 12, 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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In Sierra Leone, 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 work described in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the poor in Sierra Leone.
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Brief
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June 08, 2017
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In Liberia, 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 work described in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Liberian poor.
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June 08, 2017
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Research on intrahousehold decision making often finds that fathers have more decision-making power than mothers, but mothers put more weight on children’s well-being. One policy response has been to try to shift decision-making power toward mothers, for example by making mothers the recipient of transfers aimed at improving children’s welfare (Lundberg, Pollak, and Wales 1997). However, changing decision making in the family is not always feasible or advisable. In such cases, the divergent preferences and decision making of parents suggest a trade-off when targeting policies to improve children’s well-being. On the one hand, fathers have more power to change household behavior in ways that help children. On the other hand, mothers might have a stronger desire to do so. This trade-off might be especially stark in developing countries where women have especially low bargaining power (Jayachandran 2015). We study this trade-off in the context of classes that teach parents low-cost ways t...
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June 01, 2017
Previous research suggests that tailoring instruction to each student needs can produce significant learning gains. However, few programs have successfully implemented this approach in practice. In this paper, we present the results of a randomized evaluation of a program that uses an individualized scaffolding approach during regular school hours to teach the basic elements of numbers and shapes to preschoolers using a sample of 107 preschool centers and almost 3,000 children in Peru. The program improves Math outcomes among all children (by 0.10 standard deviations) and has stronger impacts for students in the lower quintiles of the distribution of outcomes and for students with teachers with university degrees. The effect in the areas that were implemented in a more intense way persists even one year after the program ended. Interestingly, we find no evidence of effects that are different across gender, language-spoken at home, and proxies for SES, contrasting with results from prev...
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Working Paper
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June 01, 2017
Background: Community health clubs are multi-session village-level gatherings led by trained facilitators and designed to promote healthy behaviours mainly related to water, sanitation, and hygiene. They have been implemented in several African and Asian countries but have never been evaluated rigorously. We aimed to evaluate the effect of two versions of the community health club model on child health and nutrition outcomes. Methods: We did a cluster-randomised trial in Rusizi district, western Rwanda. We defined villages as clusters. We assessed villages for eligibility then randomly selected 150 for the study using a simple random sampling routine in Stata. We stratified villages by wealth index and by the proportion of children younger than 2 years with caregiverreported diarrhoea within the past 7 days. We randomly allocated these villages to three study groups: no intervention (control; n=50), eight community health club sessions (Lite intervention; n=50), or 20 community health...
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May 01, 2017
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In Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, 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 work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Francophone West African poor.
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Brief
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April 24, 2017
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Over the past five years, the SME Program at IPA has grown from an ambitious idea to a thriving, prolific, and influential initiative. It is with great enthusiasm that we share this report highlighting some of our accomplishments—which would not have been possible without the collaboration and support of so many of you. Our work began at the end of 2010, when we sat down with leading practitioners and academics working on entrepreneurship and SME growth in developing countries, and assessed the most pressing knowledge gaps in the sector. At the time, only a handful of impact evaluations had been conducted on SME support programs in developing countries, and there was an urgent need for evidence to help guide decision-making. Following that initial event, IPA launched the SME Program (formerly known as the “SME Initiative”), with the goal of addressing the existing knowledge gaps and generating evidence on the most effective solutions to the constraints SMEs face in developing countries...
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Report
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April 24, 2017
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its first quarter bulletin of 2017. This bulletin highlights our research projects on the impact of teaching girls negotiation skills and the challenges of water provision, including policy dissemination events co-hosted with the International Growth Centre on results from these two studies. This bulletin also features our project on maternal mortality risk and the gender gap in desired fertility.
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Brief
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April 18, 2017
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We show that a number of noncognitive skills and preferences, including patience and identity, are malleable in adults, and that investments in them reduce crime and violence. We recruited criminally engaged men and randomized one-half to eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to foster self-regulation, patience, and a noncriminal identity and lifestyle. We also randomized $200 grants. Cash alone and therapy alone initially reduced crime and violence, but effects dissipated over time. When cash followed therapy, crime and violence decreased dramatically for at least a year. We hypothesize that cash reinforced therapy's impacts by prolonging learning-by doing, lifestyle changes, and self-investment.
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April 03, 2017

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