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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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
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February 06, 2018
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Can outsourcing improve government services in fragile states? To answer this question, we present results from a field experiment to study the Partnership Schools for Liberia program. This program delegated management of 93 public schools — staffed by government teachers and run free of charge to students — to private providers. We randomly assigned treatment at the school level and sampled students from pre-treatment enrollment records to identify the effectiveness of the treatment without confounding the effect of endogenous sorting of pupils into schools. After one academic year, students in outsourced schools scored .18σ higher in English and mathematics than students in control schools. Private providers improved significantly reduced teacher absenteeism (“better management”), but also spent more per student and employed more teachers than control schools (“extra resources”). Non- experimental mediation analysis suggests better management and extra resources played roughly equal...
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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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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
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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January 23, 2018
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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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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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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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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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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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December 01, 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

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