The goal of this study is to test whether outreach with religious leaders in Pakistan can enhance state effectiveness at dealing with the COVID-19 public health crisis. State interactions with religious leaders present both a challenge and an opportunity: there has been lack of clarity on the official stance on whether and how congregational prayer is restricted as part of ongoing lockdowns. Many mosques in Pakistan continue to hold congregational prayer, and there have been some clashes between the state and mosques over this issue. Effective outreach to the clergy at the community level may help to address this challenge. The research team will conduct information treatment calls with a randomized sub-sample of imams to test secular and religious approaches to persuading community imams to carry out social distancing within their mosques.

Funding for this project was provided by the UK Department for International Development, awarded through IPA's Peace & Recovery Program.

Program Area:
Study Type:
Randomized Evaluation
April-July 2020
Implemented by IPA:
Implementing Organization:
Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP)
Impact Goals:
Reduce COVID-19 transmission rates
Outcomes of Interest:
Mosque-level implementation of COVID-19 mitigation measures
Data Collection Mode:
CATI (Computer-assisted telephone interviewing)
Results Status:
Key Findings:
The study finds that simple one-on-one engagement significantly improves the advice given by religious leaders to congregants on preventing COVID-19 transmission in the mosque. Engagement was equally effective with or without explicitly religious content. Treatment effects are driven by the subsample who are already convinced of basic information about COVID-19 at baseline, suggesting the treatment does not work by correcting basic knowledge about the disease. Rather, it may work through the effectiveness of one-on-one engagement that reinforces existing knowledge and connects it to actions that respondents can take intheir role as community leaders.