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.
Country:
Program area:
Topics:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
December 19, 2020
Download
Randomized controlled trials in lower-income countries have demonstrated ways to increase learning, in specific settings. This study uses a large-scale, nationwide RCT in Ghana to show the external validity of four school-based interventions inspired by other RCTs. Even though the government implemented the programs within existing systems, student learning increased across all four models, more so for female than male students, and many gains persisted one year after the program ended. Three of the four interventions had a similar cost effectiveness. The intervention that directly targeted classroom teachers increased the likelihood that teachers were engaged with students.
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
June 22, 2020
Download
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....
Country:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
May 21, 2020
Download
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%...
Country:
Program area:
Topics:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
May 19, 2020
Download
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...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
April 02, 2020
Download
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...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
March 06, 2020
Download
We evaluate the impact of an educational program that aims to build inter-ethnic cohesion in schools by developing perspective-taking ability in children. The program takes place in southeastern Turkey, a high-stakes context in which there has been a massive influx of refugees. We measure outcomes that are fundamental to economic interactions and social cohesion, including peer violence, social exclusion, and prosocial behavior. Using randomized variation in program implementation, we find that the program significantly lowers peer violence and victimization on school grounds. It also reduces social exclusion and ethnic segregation in the classroom, measured by inter-ethnic friendship ties. We find that the program is highly effective in enhancing prosocial behavior: Treated students exhibit significantly higher trust, reciprocity, and altruism toward each other. Our results suggest that well-targeted educational strategies can go a long way in building social capital, even in sociopol...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
February 10, 2020
Download
Can intergroup contact build social cohesion after war? I answer this question by randomly assigning Iraqi Christians displaced by ISIS either to an all-Christian soccer team or to a team mixed with Muslims. I find persistent changes to behaviors toward Muslim peers: Christians with Muslim teammates are more likely to sign up for a mixed soccer team in the future (12 pp., p < 0.08), vote for a Muslim player (not on their team) to receive a sportsmanship award (16 pp., p < 0.01), and train with Muslims six months after the intervention ends (34 pp., p < 0.01). Players on mixed teams are also more likely to believe that coexistence is possible (63 SDs., p < 0.01). These results seem to be driven by changing norms around social contact as well as a positive experience, with top-performing teams being more likely to patronize a restaurant in Muslim-dominated Mosul. Contact was less effective, however, at shifting generalized tolerance toward Muslim strangers. These findings poi...
Authors:
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
December 11, 2019
Download
Can greater control over earned income incentivize women to work and influence gender norms? In collaboration with Indian government partners, we provided rural women with individual bank accounts and randomly varied whether their wages from a public workfare program were directly deposited into these accounts or into the male household head’s account (the status quo). Women in a random subset of villages were also trained on account use. In the short run, relative to women just offered bank accounts, those who also received direct deposit and training increased their labor supply in the public and private sectors. In the long run, gender norms liberalized: women who received direct deposit and training became more accepting of female work, and their husbands perceived fewer social costs to having a wife who works. These effects were concentrated in households with otherwise lower levels of, and stronger norms against, female work. Women in these households also worked more in the long...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
September 01, 2019
Download
There is little evidence on how the large market for credit score improvement products affects consumers or credit market efficiency. A randomized encouragement design on a standard credit builder loan (CBL) identifies null average effects on whether consumers have a credit score and the score itself, with important heterogeneity: those with loans outstanding at baseline fare worse, those without fare better. Selection, treatment effect, and prediction models indicate the CBL reveals valuable information to markets, inducing positive selection and making credit histories more precise, while keeping credit scores’ predictive power intact. With modest targeting changes, CBLs could work as intended.
Country:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
July 01, 2019
Download
Over the past two decades, sports programs have proliferated as a mode of engaging youth in development projects. Thousands of organizations, millions of participants, and hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in sports-based development programs each year. The underlying belief that sports promote socioemotional skills, improve psychological well-being, and foster traits that boost labor force productivity has provided motivation to expand funding and offerings of sport for development (SFD) programs. We partnered with an international NGO to randomly assign 1200 young adults to a sports and life skills development program. While we do not see evidence of improved psychosocial outcomes or resilience, we do find evidence that the program caused a 0.12 standard deviation increase in labor force participation. Secondary analysis suggests that the effects are strongest among those likely to be most disadvantaged in the labor market.
Country:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
July 01, 2019
Accumulating evidence suggests that pay-for-performance (P4P) contracts can elicit greater effort from incumbent civil servants, but less is known about how these contracts affect the composition of the public sector workforce. We provide the first experimental evidence of the impact of P4P on both the compositional and effort margins. In partnership with the Government of Rwanda, we implemented a ‘pay-for-percentile’ scheme (Barlevy and Neal 2012) in a novel two-tier experimental design. In the first tier, we randomly assigned teacher labor markets to either P4P or equivalent fixed-wage contracts. In the second tier, we implemented a ‘surprise’, school-level re-randomization, allowing us to separately identify the compositional effects of advertised P4P contracts and the effort effects of experienced P4P contracts. Our pre-analysis plan sets out a theoretical framework that helps to define a set of hypotheses, and conducts simulations on blinded data to develop high-powered tests. We...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
June 20, 2019
Download
For the most vulnerable, even small negative shocks can have significant short- and long-term impacts. Few interventions that improve shock-coping are widely available in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers test whether individual pre- cautionary savings can mitigate a shock-coping behavior with potentially neg- ative spillovers: transactional sex. Sex for money is a common shock-coping behavior in sub-Saharan Africa and is believed to be a leading driver of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a field experiment in Kenya, researchers randomly assigned half of 600+ participating, vulnerable women to a savings intervention that consists of opening a mobile banking savings account labeled for emergency expenses and individual goals. The intervention led to an increase in total mobile savings, reductions in transactional sex as a risk-coping response to shocks, and a decrease in symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
June 05, 2019
Download
Financial knowledge is critical for making sound decisions that foster financial health and protect consumers from predation. A widely-used tool for building this capability is financial education. Yet evidence suggests that conventional approaches which teach concepts in classroom-style settings are ineffective and expensive at scale, especially for lower-income users. More recent findings indicate that customizing financial education to the needs, interests, and location of participants may increase impact, though doing so in a cost-effective and scalable way remains challenging. This randomized evaluation of a tablet-based financial education program with mostly female recipients of a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in Colombia offers evidence for how to design and scale an effective digital-based financial education program. Results indicate that the LISTA Initiative had significant positive impacts on financial knowledge, attitudes, practices, and performance, increasing f...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
June 01, 2019
We test whether the provision of multiple labeled savings accounts affects savings decisions and downstream outcomes in a field experiment with 481 entrepreneurs in urban Malawi. Treatment respondents received either one or multiple savings boxes, while a control group received nothing. Multiple accounts increased savings in treatment accounts by about 30%. Savings boxes had sizeable effects on a number of outcomes, including farming decisions, household expenditures, land purchases, credit extended to customers, and interpersonal transfers. However, we find no evidence that multiple accounts had larger downstream effects than single accounts.
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
May 17, 2019
This paper examines the effects of a government-sponsored apprenticeship training program designed to address high levels of youth unemployment in Ghana. The study exploits randomized access to the program to examine the short-run effects of apprenticeship training on labor market outcomes. The results show that apprenticeships shift youth out of wage work and into self-employment. However, the loss of wage income is not offset by increases in self-employment profits in the short run. In addition, the study uses the randomized match between apprentices and training providers to examine the causal effect of characteristics of trainers on outcomes for apprentices. Participants who trained with the most experienced trainers or the most profitable ones had higher earnings. These increases more than offset the program’s negative treatment effect on earnings. This suggests that training programs can be made more effective through better recruitment of trainers.
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
May 01, 2019
Differences in management quality are an important contributor to productivity differences across countries. A key question is how to best improve poor management in developing countries. This paper tests two different approaches to improving management in Colombian auto parts firms. The first uses intensive and expensive one-on-one consulting, while the second draws on agricultural extension approaches to provide consulting to small groups of firms at approximately one-third of the cost of the individual approach. Both approaches lead to improvements in management practices of a similar magnitude (8–10 percentage points), so that the new group-based approach dominates on a cost-benefit basis. Moreover, the paper finds some evidence that the group-based intervention led to increases in firm size over the next three years, while the impacts on firm outcomes are smaller and statistically insignificant for the individual consulting. The results point to the potential of group-based approa...
Country:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
May 01, 2019
Download
Working with a private bank in Ghana, this study examines the impacts of a commitment savings product designed to help clients taking repeated overdrafts break their debt cycles. Overall, the product significantly increased savings with the bank without increasing overdrafts. However, after accounting for other sources of savings, the study finds that clients with above-median baseline overdraft histories do not accrue new savings during the commitment period. Rather, they draw down other savings to offset the committed amount and take on new debt. In contrast, individuals with below-median overdraft histories significantly increase savings during and after the commitment period.
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
April 24, 2019
We evaluate the impact of a large-scale information and mobilization intervention designed to improve health service delivery in rural Uganda by increasing citizens’ ability to monitor and apply bottom-up pressure on underperforming health workers. Modeled closely on the landmark “Power to the People” study (Björkman and Svensson, 2009), the intervention was undertaken in 376 health centers in 16 districts and involved a three-wave panel of more than 14,000 households. We find that while the intervention had a modest positive impact on treatment quality and patient satisfaction, it had no effect on utilization rates or health outcomes (including child mortality). We also find no evidence that the channel through which the intervention affected treatment quality was citizen monitoring. The results hold in a wide set of pre-specified subgroups and also when, via a factorial design, we break down the complex intervention into its two most important components. Our findings cast doubt on t...
Country:
Program area:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
March 26, 2019
Download
We use a randomized experiment in Kenya to study the impact of unconditional cash transfers on intimate partner violence. Transfers to women of on average USD 709 led to a 0.26 standard deviation (SD) decrease in physical violence, and transfers to men to a 0.18 SD decrease. Sexual violence was reduced after transfers to women (0.22 SD), but not men. We construct a theory which together with our empirical findings suggests that husbands use violence to extract resources, but dislike it otherwise. We observe large and significant spillovers: nonrecipient women in treatment villages report a 0.16 SD reduction in physical violence.
Country:
Program area:
Topics:
Type:
Working Paper
Date:
February 24, 2019

Pages