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We use a field experiment to show referral-based hiring has the potential to disadvantage qualified women, highlighting another potential channel behind gender disparities in the labor market. Through a recruitment drive for a firm in Malawi, we look at men's and women's referral choices under different incentives and constraints. We find that men systematically refer few women, despite being able to refer qualified women when explicitly asked for female candidates. Performance pay also did not alter men's tendencies to refer men. Additionally, women did not refer enough high quality women to offset men's behavior.
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Working Paper
Date:
December 01, 2016
A field experiment in Sri Lanka provided wage subsidies to randomly chosen microenterprises to test whether hiring additional labor benefits such firms, and whether a short-term subsidy can have a lasting impact on firm employment. Using 12 rounds of surveys to track dynamics four years after treatment, we find that firms increased employment during the subsidy period. Treated firms were more likely to survive, but there was no lasting impact on employment, and no effect on profitability or sales either during or after the subsidy period. There is some heterogeneity in effects; the subsidies have more durable effect on manufacturers.
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Working Paper
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December 01, 2016
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Potential Energy: Monitoring Cookstoves Use Through Environmental Sensors Around the world, 3 billion people cook with biomass, causing over four million annual premature deaths, and generating 30% of global black carbon emissions. In addition to the acute health and environmental effects of biomass cooking, there are economic effects, as women across the developing world spend considerable time and money acquiring fuel. For a family in Sub-Saharan Africa, it can cost between 10-30% of total household income to purchase fuel for cooking fires.  Potential Energy (PE) is a not-for-profit organization with a mission of making cooking safe, and affordable, for women and their families. PE’s core product is the Berkeley-Darfur Stove (BDS), a high-efficiency wood-burning cookstove. As compared to preparing meals over an open fire, the BDS was designed to save users 50% on fuel while reducing cooking time and exposure to smoke. To date, PE’s primary focus has been the distribution of the BDS...
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Goldilocks Toolkit
Date:
November 28, 2016
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The welfare impact of expanding access to bank accounts depends on whether accounts crowd out pre-existing financial relationships, or whether private gains from accounts are shared within social networks. In this experiment, we provided free bank accounts to a random subset of 885 households. Across households, we document positive spillovers: treatment households become less reliant on grown children and siblings living outside their village, and become more supportive of neighbors and friends within their village. Within households, we randomized which spouse was offered an account and find no evidence of negative spillovers.
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Working Paper
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November 10, 2016
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We experimentally test the impact of expanding access to basic bank accounts in Uganda, Malawi, and Chile. Over two years, 17 percent, 10 percent, and 3 percent of treatment individuals made five or more deposits, respectively. Average monthly deposits for them were at the 79th, 91st, and 96th percentiles of baseline savings. Survey data show no clearly discernible intention–to–treat effects on savings or any downstream outcomes. This suggests that policies merely focused on expanding access to basic accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably since impacts, even if present, are likely small and diverse.
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Working Paper
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October 31, 2016
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Antipoverty programs in developing countries are often difficult to implement; in particular, many governments lack the capacity to deliver payments securely to targeted beneficiaries. We evaluate the impact of biometrically authenticated payments infrastructure (“Smartcards”) on beneficiaries of employment (NREGS) and pension (SSP) programs in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, using a large-scale experiment that randomized the rollout of Smartcards over 157 subdistricts and 19 million people. We find that, while incompletely implemented, the new system delivered a faster, more predictable, and less corrupt NREGS payments process without adversely affecting program access. For each of these outcomes, treatment group distributions first-order stochastically dominated those of the control group. The investment was cost-effective, as time savings to NREGS beneficiaries alone were equal to the cost of the intervention, and there was also a significant reduction in the “leakage” of funds...
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Published Paper
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October 31, 2016
This paper evaluates a policy intervention designed to attract good political candidates – competent and honest ones – to public service. Inspired by the idea that schooling can act as a screening mechanism, and that non-monetary status awards can be a cost-effective tool to incentivize individuals, we evaluate whether a leadership training workshop with performancebased awards can screen and incentivize good people to serve in public office. In the context of a randomized field experiment among aspirants for the village youth councils in the Philippines, we find that this policy intervention is effective in terms of attracting individuals with abovemedian measures of public service motivation, intellectual ability, integrity, and aspiration.
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Working Paper
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October 26, 2016
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This paper provides empirical evidence regarding the causal effects that upgrading slum dwellings has on the living conditions of the extremely poor. In particular, we study the impact of providing better houses in situ to slum dwellers in El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay. We experimentally evaluate the impact of a housing project run by the NGO TECHO (“roof”), which provides basic pre-fabricated houses to members of extremely poor population groups in Latin America. The main objective of the program is to improve household well-being. Our findings show that better houses have a positive effect on overall housing conditions and general well-being: the members of treated households are happier with their quality of life. In two countries, we also document improvements in children’s health; in El Salvador, slum dwellers who have received the TECHO houses also feel that they are safer. We do not find this result, however, in the other two experimental samples. There are no other noticeable...
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Published Paper
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October 25, 2016
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Public employment programs play a major role in the anti-poverty strategy of many developing countries, but their impact on poverty reduction could be attenuated or amplified by changes they induce in private labor market wages and employment. We estimate these general equilibrium effects using a large-scale experiment that randomized the roll-out of a technological reform, which significantly improved the implementation of India's public employment scheme, across 157 sub-districts of 60,000 people each. We find that this reform increased the earnings of low-income households by 12.7%, and reduced an income-based measure of poverty by 17.2% despite no increase in fiscal outlays on the program. These income gains were overwhelmingly driven by higher private-sector earnings (90%) as opposed to earnings directly from the program (10%). We find that improving implementation of the public employment scheme led to a 6.2% increase in private market wages for rural unskilled labor, a similar i...
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Working Paper
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October 25, 2016
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The “community-based development” approach may empower citizens and improve outcomes through three mechanisms: (1) an immediate direct effect of engaging citizens to decide how to allocate resources within the community-based development program, (2) an indirect effect on community organization that improves citizen engagement with other local institutions, and (3) an indirect effect on community organization that improves representation within centralized government structures. Using a randomized evaluation of a nongovernmental-organization-led CBD program in Ghana, we examine whether community-based development results in citizens’ empowerment to improve their socioeconomic well-being through these mechanisms. We find that the leadership training and experiences associated with community-based development translate into higher perceived quality of village leaders, but they simultaneously decrease contributions to collective projects outside the context of the community-based developm...
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Working Paper
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October 03, 2016
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Poor public service provision and government accountability is commonplace in low-income countries. Although mobile phone–based platforms have emerged to allow constituents to report service deficiencies to government officials, they have been plagued by low citizen participation. We question whether low participation may root in low political efficacy to politically participate. In the context of a text message–reporting platform in Uganda, we investigate the impact of adding efficacy-boosting language to mobilization texts—(a) citizen name personalization and (b) politician encouragement— on citizens’ willingness to report service deficiencies to politicians via text messages. Both treatments, designed to increase internal and external efficacy, respectively, have a large, positive effect on participation. The results are driven by traditionally less internally efficacious constituents (females) and less externally efficacious constituents (those represented by opposition party membe...
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Published Paper
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September 23, 2016
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We implemented a randomized controlled trial among transnational households in the Philippines estimating impacts on financial behaviors of a financial education treatment, a financial access treatment, and the combination of the two. We test whether there are complementarities between financial education and financial access interventions, and also provide insight into the nature of constraints operating in financial services markets. We find no evidence of complementarities between the financial education and financial access treatments. In addition, while we find no evidence of constraints in access to formal credit and savings products, our results do suggest that access constraints exist in the formal insurance market. Impacts on other financial behaviors are suggestive of the importance of information constraints in financial decision-making. These results provide guidance to designers of financial interventions in similar populations.
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Working Paper
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September 22, 2016
Despite poverty and limited access to health care, evidence is growing that patients in low-income countries are taking a more active role in their selection of health care providers. Urban areas such as Nairobi, Kenya offer a rich context for studying these “active” patients because of the large number of heterogeneous providers available. We use a unique panel dataset from 2015 in which 402 pregnant women from peri-urban (the “slums” of) Nai- robi, Kenya were interviewed three times over the course of their pregnancy and delivery, allowing us to follow women's care decisions and their perceptions of the quality of care they received. We define active antenatal care (ANC) patients as those women who switch ANC providers and explore the prevalence, characteristics and care- seeking behavior of these patients. We analyze whether active ANC patients appear to be seeking out higher qual- ity facilities and whether they are more satisfied with their care. Women in our sample visit over 150...
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Published Paper
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September 19, 2016
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Background: The recent global climate agreement in Paris aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while fostering sustainable development, and establishes an international trading mechanism to meet this goal. Currently, carbon offset program implementers are allowed to collect their own monitoring data to determine the number of carbon credits to be awarded. Objectives: We summarize reasons for mandating independent monitoring of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. In support of our policy recommendations, we describe a case study of a program designed to earn carbon credits by distributing almost one million drinking water filters in rural Kenya to avert the use of fuel for boiling water. We compare results from an assessment conducted by our research team in the program area among households with pregnant women or caregivers in rural villages with low piped water access with the reported program monitoring data and discuss the implications. Discussion: Our assessment in Keny...
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Published Paper
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September 16, 2016
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IPA is synonymous with impact. We’re known for both measuring impact and using those results to impact people’s lives. In 2015, we further improved our research quality and grew in research quantity, and we began new efforts to share results to improve programs and policies for the poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 400 leading academics to conduct over 600 evaluations in 51 countries. This research has informed hundreds of successful programs that now impact millions of individuals worldwide. Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org
Type:
Annual Report
Date:
September 12, 2016
English
Asymmetric information can be costly in insurance markets and can even hinder market development, as is the case for most agricultural insurance markets. I study information asymmetries in crop insurance in the Philippines using a randomized field experiment. Using a combination of preference elicitation, a two-level randomized allocation of insurance and detailed data collection, I test for and find evidence of adverse selection, moral hazard and their interaction – that is, selection on anticipated moral hazard behavior. I conclude that information asymmetry problems are substantial in this context and that variations on this experimental design may be useful in future work for identifying interactions between choice and treatment effects.
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Working Paper
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September 07, 2016
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We conduct a randomized experiment that generates exogenous variation in the access to foreign markets for rug producers in Egypt. Combined with detailed survey data, we causally identify the impact of exporting on firm performance. Treatment firms report 16-26 percent higher profits and exhibit large improvements in quality alongside reductions in output per hour relative to control firms. These findings do not simply reflect firms being offered higher margins to manufacture high-quality products that take longer to produce. Instead, we find evidence of learning-by-exporting whereby exporting improves technical efficiency. First, treatment firms have higher productivity and quality after controlling for rug specifications. Second, when asked to produce an identical domestic rug using the same inputs and same capital equipment, treatment firms produce higher quality rugs despite no difference in production time. Third, treatment firms exhibit learning curves over time. Finally, we docu...
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Working Paper
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September 01, 2016
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We examine the potential of asset-collateralized loans in low-income country credit markets. When a Kenyan dairy cooperative exogenously replaced high down payments and joint liability requirements with loans collateralized by the asset itself—a large water tank—loan take-up increased from 2.4%to 41.9%. In contrast, substituting joint liability requirements for deposit requirements had no impact on loan take up. There were no repossessions among farmers allowed to collateralize 75% of their loans, and a 0.7% repossession rate among those offered 96% asset collateralization. A Karlan-Zinman test based on waiving borrowing requirements ex post finds evidence of adverse selection with very low deposit requirements, but not of moral hazard. A simple model and rough calibration suggests that adverse selection and regulatory caps on interest rates may deter lenders from making welfare-improving loans with low deposit requirements. We estimate that 2/3 of marginal loans led to increased water...
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Working Paper
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September 01, 2016
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Paving streets in marginalized neighborhoods in Mexico increased property values, allowing households to purchase more home appliances and vehicles and to invest more in home improvements.
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Brief
Date:
September 01, 2016
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Systematic reviews of existing evidence show promising effects of community health worker (CHW) programs as a strategy to improve child survival, but also highlight challenges faced by CHW programs, including insufficient incentives to deliver timely and appropriate services. We assessed the effect of an incentivized community health delivery program in Uganda on all-cause under-five mortality. A cluster-randomized controlled trial, embedded within the scale-up of a new community health delivery program, was undertaken in 214 clusters in 10 districts in Uganda. In the intervention clusters micro entrepreneur-based community health promoters (CHPs) were deployed over a three-year period (2011-2013). On average 38 households were surveyed in each cluster at the end of 2013, for a total sample size of 8,119 households. The primary study outcome was all-cause under-five mortality (U5MR). U5MR was reduced by 27% (adjusted RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.58-0.93).
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Working Paper
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September 01, 2016

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