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There is a lack of consensus between different researchers and organizations on how exactly to define and measure financial health. As a result, it is difficult to understand the relative impact of different policies and interventions on improving financial health, as the way progress is measured will vary from case to case. This paper proposes a solution to this problem by introducing a quantitative measurement tool for financial health. The tool can be adopted globally to benchmark progress on financial health as well as to better understand the impact of specific policy interventions and product solutions. As part of this tool, we propose three primary concepts that encompass financial health: Access-to-Funds, which is a final outcome construct, and Access-to-Finance and Financial Behavior, which are intermediate constructs that each incorporate several components. Between 2018 and 2019, IPA tested this measurement tool in eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, the Domi...
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Report
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June 01, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools around the world, forcing school systems and students to quickly attempt remote learning. A rapid response phone survey of over 1,500 high school students aged 14 to 18 in Ecuador was conducted to learn how students spend their time during the period of quarantine, examine their access to remote learning, and measure their mental health status. The data show that 59 percent of students have both an internet connection at home and a computer or tablet, 74 percent are engaging in some online or telelearning, and 86 percent have done some schoolwork on the last weekday. Detailed time-use data show most students have established similar daily routines around education, although gender and wealth differences emerge in time spent working and on household tasks. Closure of schools and social isolation are the two main problems students say they face, and while the majority are mostly happy, 16 percent have mental health scores that indicate depression....
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Working Paper
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May 21, 2020
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We study the prevalence of COVID‐19 symptoms in refugee and host communities and their correlates with current and pre‐COVID‐19 living conditions. We administered a phone‐based survey to a sample of 909 households in Cox’s Bazar which was drawn from a household panel representative of Rohingya refugees and the host population. We conducted a symptoms checklist to assess COVID‐19 risk based on the WHO guidelines. We included questions covering returning migration, employment, and food security. We asked additional questions on health knowledge and behaviors to a random subsample (n=460). 24.6% of camp residents and 13.4% of those in host communities report at least one common symptom of COVID‐19. Among those seeking treatment, a plurality did so at a pharmacy (42.3% in camps, 69.6% in host communities). While most respondents report good respiratory hygiene, between 76.7% (camps) and 52.2% (host community) had attended a communal prayer in the previous week. Another 47.4% (camps) 34.4%...
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Working Paper
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May 19, 2020
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Uganda has made substantial advancements in nancial consumer protection policy in recent years but understanding whether and how the nancial sector complies with these new regulations can be a challenge in the absence of systematic monitoring. Setting rules is insufficient to ensure proper market conduct, so supervision of sales visits is needed to ensure that the rules established are upheld in practice. To provide a snapshot of current practices and compliance with existing guidelines on consumer credit information provision at the point of sale, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted a “mystery shopping” exercise of lending institutions in three districts of Uganda. For this survey, a mystery shopper posed as a regular customer and, unannounced, visited lenders in order to discover information about the loan application process without the credit officer knowing they are being observed, and thus avoiding impacting their normal behavior or practices.
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Report
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May 08, 2020
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Children often walk long distances to get to school in rural areas of developing countries, which contributes to high rates of absenteeism, particularly for girls. Can providing girls with bicycles to travel to school help address this problem? In rural Zambia, researchers partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) to evaluate the impact of providing girls with bicycles to travel to school. The evaluation measured the impacts of the program on girls’ educational attainment and empowerment outcomes. Girls were eligible for the program if they were in 5th, 6th, or 7th grade and walked at least three kilometers to school.
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April 30, 2020
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Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh has received multiple waves of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar since the 1970s, but late 2017 saw the largest and fastest refugee influx in Bangladesh’s history. Between August 2017 and December 2018, 745,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, following an outbreak of violence in Rakhine State. As of December 31, 2019, Teknaf and Ukhia sub-districts host an estimated 854,704 stateless Rohingya refugees, almost all of whom live in densely populated camps (UNHCR 2019). Researchers from Yale University, the World Bank, and the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) initiative started the Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) in order to provide accurate data to humanitarian and government stakeholders involved in the response to the influx of refugees. The survey is an in-depth household survey covering 5,020 households living in both refugee camps and host communities. This quantitative data collection is complemented with qua...
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April 30, 2020
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As public resources available for investment in the pre-primary sector are limited, a good understanding of current provision, and how government can best work with the non-state sector, is important to determine how to target limited resources most effectively. With a rise in public-private partnerships (PPP) in education in developing countries, the timing is right to explore how the Government of Côte d’Ivoire can leverage the non-state sector more strategically to achieve its objectives in the pre-primary sector. The Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de l'Enseignement Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle (MENETFP) requested EPG’s support in 2018 to inform national-level policy discussions by: (i) improving MENETFP’s knowledge base and understanding of the quality of current pre-primary providers in selected areas of Abidjan and Bouaké and, (ii) based on this information; develop a PPP pilot to improve pre-primary education access and quality in alignment with current init...
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April 29, 2020
This paper evaluates a large-scale maternal cash transfer program targeted to pregnant women and mothers of children under two. The program provides monthly cash transfers, and is supplemented with Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) in a random subset of villages. Both interventions lead to a large reduction in the proportion of children (moderately) stunted. Meanwhile, cash alone has no detectable impact on child outcomes. The effects are accompanied by improvements in dietary diversity, breastfeeding, hand-washing practices, prenatal care and food consumption. These results provide strong support for adding SBCC to maternal cash transfer programs in order to realize their impact.
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Working Paper
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April 24, 2020
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The burden of food insecurity is large in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet the evidence-base on the relation between household food insecurity and early child development is extremely limited. Furthermore, available research mostly relies on cross-sectional data, limiting the quality of existing evidence. We use longitudinal data on preschool-aged children and their households in Ghana to investigate how being in a food insecure household was associated with early child development outcomes across three years. Household food insecurity was measured over three years using the Household Hunger Score. Households were first classified as “ever food insecure” if they were food insecure at any round. We also assessed persistence of household food insecurity by classifying households into three categories: (i) never food insecure; (ii) transitory food insecurity, if the household was food insecure only in one wave; and (iii) persistent food insecurity, if the household was food insecure in two or all...
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Published Paper
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April 03, 2020
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Participatory development is designed to mitigate problems of political bias in pre-existing local government but also interacts with it in complex ways. Using a five-year randomized controlled study in 97 clusters of villages (194 villages) in Ghana, we analyze the effects of a major participatory development program on participation in, leadership of and investment by pre-existing political institutions, and on households’ overall socioeconomic well-being. Applying theoretical insights on political participation and redistributive politics, we consider the possibility of both cross-institutional mobilization and displacement, and heterogeneous effects by partisanship. We find the government and its political supporters acted with high expectations for the participatory approach: treatment led to increased participation in local governance and reallocation of resources. But the results did not meet expectations, resulting in a worsening of socioeconomic wellbeing in treatment versus c...
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Working Paper
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April 02, 2020
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Developing countries are characterized by high rates of mortality and morbidity. A potential contributing factor is the low utilization of health systems, stemming from the low perceived quality of care delivered by health personnel. This factor may be especially critical during crises, when individuals choose whether to cooperate with response efforts and frontline health personnel. We experimentally examine efforts aimed at improving health worker performance in the context of the 2014–15 West African Ebola crisis. Roughly two years before the outbreak in Sierra Leone, we randomly assigned two social accountability interventions to government-run health clinics — one focused on community monitoring and the other gave status awards to clinic staff. We find that over the medium run, prior to the Ebola crisis, both interventions led to improvements in utilization of clinics and patient satisfaction. In addition, child health outcomes improved substantially in the catchment areas of comm...
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Working Paper
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March 06, 2020
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Globally, access to good quality abortion services and post-abortion care is a critical determinant for women’s survival after unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortions account for high levels of maternal death in Kenya. We explored women’s experiences and perceptions of their abortion and post-abortion care experiences in Kenya through person-centred care. This qualitative study included focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with women aged 18-35 who received safe abortion services at private clinics. Through thematic analyses of women’s testimonies, we identified gaps in the abortion care and person-centred domains which seemed to be important throughout the abortion process. When women received clear communication and personalised comprehensive information on abortion and post-abortion care from their healthcare providers, they reported more positive experiences overall and higher reproductive autonomy. Communication and supportive care were particularly valued during the post-abo...
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Published Paper
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February 27, 2020
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As in many other developing countries, children under the age of five in rural parts of Ghana often fail to reach their development potential. This study evaluated the impacts of the Lively Minds program, a low-cost, community-run, play-based preschool learning program, that engaged both teachers and parents on early childhood development. Key Findings: At the end of the one-year study: The Lively Minds program increased children’s cognition, with significant improvements in emergent-numeracy, executive function, and fine motor skills. The effect of the program on the cognitive skills of children from the poorest 20 percent of households was twice as high as that of children from better-off households. There was also a significant improvement in the literacy skills of the disadvantaged children that was not observed for the rest. Children’s socio-emotional development improved, with the program leading to a reduction in externalizing behavior, including both conduct problems and hypera...
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Brief
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February 25, 2020
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Over 700 million people live on less than US$1.90 per day. Many of these families depend on insecure and fragile livelihoods. Globally nearly half of all deaths in children under five are attributable to undernutrition, translating into the loss of about three million young lives a year. Recent research has shown that holistic livelihoods programs, such as the Graduation Approach can have a wide range of benefits for these poor families, from increasing household consumption and income to improving food security and mental health. The Graduation model provides families with a range of services, including income-generating assets, training, access to savings accounts, consumption support, and coaching visits, and variations of the model have been successfully replicated in several contexts. The aim of this research in Burkina Faso is to rigorously evaluate whether an adapted Graduation program design, which focuses on strengthening the household’s ability to cope with crises, leads to i...
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February 25, 2020
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Context: A growing body of evidence indicates that nonclinical health care facility staff provide support beyond their traditional roles, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. It is important to examine the role of health facility cleaners in Kenya—from their perspective—to better understand their actual and perceived responsibilities in maternity care. Methods: In-depth, face-to-face interviews using a semistructured guide were conducted with 14 cleaners working at three public health facilities in Nairobi and Kiambu Counties, Kenya, in August and September 2016. Results were coded and categorized using a thematic content analysis approach. Results: Cleaners reported performing a range of services beyond typical maintenance responsibilities, including providing emotional, informational and instrumental support to maternity patients. They described feeling disrespected when patients were untidy or experienced bleeding; however, such examples revealed cleaners' need to bette...
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February 12, 2020
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In 2016, the Liberian government delegated management of 93 randomly selected public schools to private providers. Providers received US$50 per pupil, on top of US$50 per pupil annual expenditure in control schools. After one academic year, students in outsourced schools scored 0.18σ higher in English and mathematics. We do not find heterogeneity in learning gains or enrollment by student characteristics, but there is significant heterogeneity across providers. While outsourcing appears to be a cost-effective way to use new resources to improve test scores, some providers engaged in unforeseen and potentially harmful behavior, complicating any assessment of welfare gains.
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Published Paper
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January 31, 2020
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This brief draws on mixed-methods data collected in 2019 as part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) programme—a unique longitudinal mixed-methods research and impact evaluation study that is focusing on what works to support the development of adolescents’ capabilities during the second decade of life (10–19 years) (GAGE consortium, 2019 forthcoming). In Cox’s Bazar, GAGE partnered with researchers from Yale University and the World Bank to implement the Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) in order to provide accurate data to humanitarian and government stakeholders involved in the response to the influx of refugees.
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Brief
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December 30, 2019
How large economic stimuli generate individual and aggregate responses is a central question in economics, but has not been studied experimentally. We provided one-time cash transfers of about USD 1000 to over 10,500 poor households across 653 randomized villages in rural Kenya. The implied fiscal shock was over 15 percent of local GDP. We find large impacts on consumption and assets for recipients. Importantly, we document large positive spillovers on non-recipient households and firms, and minimal price inflation. We estimate a local fiscal multiplier of 2.7. We interpret welfare implications through the lens of a simple household optimization framework.
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Working Paper
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December 19, 2019
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Global efforts are underway to improve education quality—to ensure children are not only in school but learning and developing to their full potential. Although many theories exist on the best approaches to improve education quality, policymakers and implementers need evidence on which programs are effective at helping children actually learn while in school. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy nonprofit that discovers and advances what works to reduce poverty and improve lives. In addition to conducting rigorous research, IPA reviews and consolidates research for policymakers and practitioners. The objective is to distill complex, nuanced, and dynamic research findings into focused and actionable recommendations. This brief summarizes and provides key lessons from multiple meta-analyses and over two-dozen randomized evaluations (both IPA and non-IPA studies) on improving learning outcomes in low-income countries, with a focus on basic education. 
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Brief
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December 17, 2019

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