Young people living in urban slums face several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockouts. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted three rounds of surveys among 780 adolescent boys and girls in three urban slums in Bangladesh. The results showed an increased involvement of out-of-school adolescents in paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those from poor households.

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Many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa may be reluctant to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies because they lack persuasive information on the proper use of new inputs or agricultural techniques from credible sources. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to test whether the position of a trained lead farmer within a community’s social network affected other farmers’ decisions to adopt a new agricultural technology in Malawi.

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The extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on adolescents. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted a panel survey (one round pre-pandemic, and two rounds during) among 2,000 students in Bangladesh to understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on male and female adolescents.

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How can communities be encouraged to accept former members of violent extremist groups who demobilize from conflict and begin the process of reintegration? Working in communities affected by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, researchers examined whether messages from religious leaders—widely trusted in the region—could influence attitudes and intended behaviors, as well as shift perceived social norms, related to community support for the reintegration of former Boko Haram members.

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In low-income countries, the unmet need for family planning contributes to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. In Kenya, there are nearly 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 37 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. Despite the critical role of family planning service providers, many providers engage in negative behaviors that inhibit family planning use. Poor accountability may enable these negative behaviors.

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In recent years, the prevalence of predatory or fraudulent finance-related mobile applications has increased as mobile access and finance technology providers expand. Many consumers have fallen victim to such apps, in particular after the onset of COVID-19, which drove an increase in usage of digital financial services.

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Improving the productivity and export competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SME) is a common path governments take to promote economic development. In Colombia, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test whether improving management practices leads companies to export more, diversify what they are exporting and where they are exporting, and increase export productivity in the context of the “Colombia Productiva” program. 

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Digital payments offer a fast and transparent way to distribute cash aid to households that have been economically hard hit by the pandemic. In the Philippines, researchers conducted a survey to learn about the experience of recipients of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), an emergency cash transfer program implemented by the government.

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A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that face masks can protect against COVID-19. There is, however, limited rigorous evidence on the extent to which mask-wearing is effective in reducing COVID-19 in a real-life situation with imperfect and inconsistent mask use.

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Facebook Campaign

Electoral irregularities—illegal activities seeking to influence elections—often threaten democratic institutions in low- and middle-income countries. In Colombia, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of an intervention that encouraged citizens to report irregularities to a local NGO and varied whether candidates were informed about the reporting campaign.

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How can we improve students' educational achievement? Can radio instruction successfully support distance learning? In rural Peru, researchers implemented a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of an interactive radio instruction program aiming to increase the mathematics skills of preschoolers. The preliminary results show the program had a positive impact on math and oral comprehension skills, and on parental investment. More results forthcoming.

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Nutrition-Focused Livelihoods Program

Almost half of all deaths of children under five years of age are attributable to malnutrition, and despite the decline in numbers, progress continues to be very slow. In Burkina Faso researchers evaluated whether a nutrition-focused livelihoods program consisting of a cash transfer, productive asset, and nutrition intervention can impact child nutrition, household income, and assets.

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Access to quality jobs is a pressing concern in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, researchers partnered with the technology company Sama and Innovations for Poverty Action to conduct a randomized evaluation of Sama’s training and job referral programs. The training program provided youth from underserved communities with digital training, while the referral program provided trainees with a job referral to work with the company.

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Women are commonly underrepresented in the formal sector in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers introduced a recruitment drive for a firm in Malawi to evaluate the impact of referral-based hiring on women’s employment at the company. Results from the randomized evaluation indicate that men systematically referred fewer women, and women’s referral of other qualified women was not enough to offset men’s behavior.

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In recent years, the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh has experienced rapid growth. Overall, most of these new jobs have gone to women, yet few women have been hired as managers. Researchers randomly assigned co-supervisors to production lines to evaluate the impact of exposing garment factory workers and supervisors to women managers on factory productivity, supervisor retention, and attitudes toward women.
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An arial map of electrical power supply in Kenya

Over the past century, rural electrification has served as a key benchmark for economic development and social progress. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of offering subsidies to connect to the power grid on the demand for electricity in rural areas of Kenya. Few households took up the offer to connect to the grid, even at highly subsized prices.

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In the wake of Covid-19, countries around the world have experienced an increase in reported cases of intimate partner violence (IPV). In partnership with the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, researchers are evaluating a text-based campaign designed to help men regulate their emotions and reduce perpetration of IPV.

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A patient receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria

As COVID-19 vaccination ramps up worldwide, understanding factors that may lead people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to reject COVID-19 vaccination is of global concern, as lags in vaccination could facilitate global spread of virus variants. Researchers surveyed nearly 45,000 individuals in 10 LMICs, the United States, and Russia between June 2020 and January 2021on vaccine acceptance and trusted sources for vaccination advice.

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Can public health interventions help ameliorate the negative effects of disasters? How do disasters affect individual decision-making about important health behaviors?  In Mozambique, researchers are leveraging an ongoing randomized evaluation to examine whether a community-level HIV/AIDS program with risk-coping components, such as Village Savings and Loan groups, helps people cope with the aftermath of Cyclone Idai and reduce disaster-induced deterioration of health decision-making.

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Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are severely limited by regulations outlawing formal work, in addition to movement restrictions that limit access to nearby informal work, potentially contributing to poor mental health outcomes. This randomized evaluation examined the effects of employment on psychosocial wellbeing and found that employment delivers significant psychosocial wellbeing, particularly among men.

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