Can automatic monthly transfers from a checking account into a dedicated savings account help bank clients meet their savings goals? Can monthly SMS reminders to save or short ‘rules of thumb’ based financial training do the same at a lower cost?

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Many beneficiaries of social welfare programs around the world receive benefits in cash or by check. Can distributing welfare benefits through electronic transfers directly into bank accounts help some of these low-income individuals enter the formal financial sector?

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Mobile health technologies have the potential to strengthen health systems by increasing transparency and accountability in those systems. In Uganda, researchers are partnering with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to develop a mobile health (mHealth) accountability system and to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the delivery of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services in Uganda.

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Why do people sometimes make poor financial choices? What drives individuals’ decisions about what to do with their money? IPA is partnering with a private shipping company in Lima, Peru to deliver a financial coaching program that aims to address behavioral biases that could be preventing their employees from making healthy financial choices. Researchers will evaluate the impact of the program on the employees’ financial decisions related to credit, savings, and money management.

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Increasing the adoption rates of female-initiated methods of contraception may help fill an unmet demand for family planning and reduce rates of HIV infection in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, researchers are measuring how an interpersonal communication intervention impacts knowledge, acceptability, use of condoms and uptake of female condoms in the context of a mass distribution and marketing campaign for the new Maximum Diva Woman’s Condom.

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Peru Bank Photo Credit Dario Rodriguez

Financial products have the potential to help the poor, yet most financial institutions are driven by commercial goals, and their staff may not be incentivized to offer products most suitable to low-income clients. This audit study aims to determine the types of information institutions provide to low-income financial customers in urban Colombia, and identify any differences in institutions’ treatment of customers based on perceived financial knowledge.

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Evidence suggests that facilitating access to formal savings services can increase savings, investment, and income among the poor in developing countries. However, use of these accounts is relatively low, and it is less clear how to increase interest in, and usage of, formal savings services among the poor.

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Seasonal fluctuations in crop prices can have direct impacts on farmers’ earnings and savings. Crop prices are often lowest right after harvest, increasing substantially in the months afterwards, but farmers are not always able to take advantage of these price changes. Researchers evaluated whether well-timed access to credit allows maize farmers to make better use of storage and sell their output at higher prices.

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Few subsistence farmers engage in paid labor, even when pursuing these opportunities would enable them to earn more and protect against risk. A variety of factors may influence this trend, including poor nutrition, the complexity of the work, and lack of access to financial services. Researchers designed an employment program in northern Ghana and evaluated participants’ willingness to engage in paid labor and carry out complex tasks on the job.

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Previous research suggests that charging even very small user fees sharply limits access to preventive health care, such as bed nets or home water purification. While distributing health products for free in low-income countries is common, it is unclear whether this is the best practice for all products.

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A young boy and girl gather rice in Sierra Leone

The economic impacts of the Ebola virus required monitoring in real time for policymakers to estimate the short- and long-term costs of the epidemic and respond appropriately, yet information on the magnitude of the effects was scarce. The aim of this monthly survey in Sierra Leone was to measure the economic and social impacts of the outbreak on households and provide timely updates on the survey's findings to policymakers.

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Previous research found that in northern Ghana, where agricultural productivity is low, access to rainfall insurance led small-scale farmers to invest more in their farms.

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Many farmers in developing countries lack the capital necessary to invest in potentially profitable inputs, as these investments must be made months after the harvest when households lack cash. Commitment savings accounts, which have features to discourage withdrawals, have been shown to help the poor save, and could help farmers put aside money to invest in their farms. However, demand for these products is low.

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Tax evasion generates significant losses in government revenues and distortions in a country’s economic activities. Evasion is of particular concern in developing countries, where the share of the informal economy is typically larger and the government has limited sources of information. Over the last decade, an increasing number of revenue authorities around the world have started collaborating with academic researchers to rigorously evaluate initiatives aimed at increasing tax revenue.

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Starting the summer of 2014, many risk factors pointed to a potential food crisis in areas of West Africa hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Innovations for Poverty Action, in partnership with researchers and the International Growth Center, began monitoring markets across Sierra Leone for changes in food prices and supply. Researchers provided rapid feedback to the government and other development partners on where food shortages were occurring. 

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Many governments and organizations implement school-based financial literacy programs to promote positive financial behaviors at an early age, yet little is known about the impacts. In southern and eastern Ghana, researchers evaluated two youth financial literacy programs to test their impact on savings, labor, academic performance, and financial decision-making. One program integrated financial and social education, while the second only offered financial education.

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Providing better information to farmers about local agricultural conditions could enable them to make more informed and locally appropriate agricultural decisions, with potentially positive consequences for their income, food production, and the environment. This study in Western Kenya will test for failures in the market for local agricultural information and measure the impact of disseminating local information on farmers’ decisions to invest in agricultural inputs.

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Small and medium enterprises in developing countries generally face a number of barriers to expanding their businesses and employing more workers, including limited access to credit and other financial services.

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Despite recent economic growth in Bangladesh, food insecurity remains widespread. Researchers evaluated the impact of an agricultural training program for farmer groups on technology adoption in rural Bangladesh, and investigated what drives adoption and who is affected by the training, both directly and indirectly.

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Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by a fungus that grows on certain crops, such as maize and groundnuts. Consumption of high levels of aflatoxin can be fatal, and chronic exposure has been linked to liver cancer, suppressed immune response, and child stunting.

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