Researchers study how cash advances and information delivered via text messages can encourage farmers to adopt efficient agricultural practices and new crop varieties.

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The addition of health insurance to microcredit products is increasingly popular; but is it sustainable for microfinance institutions? This study complements other IPA research on hospitalization insurance in the Philippines and should provide important policy lessons on providing public services.

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The majority of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Traditional power companies often find it too costly to bring electricity to rural and suburban areas, but in recent years, the cost of alternative energy sources like solar power has fallen dramatically.

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Researchers are evaluating whether incentives to save are effective at increasing savings levels and whether these higher savings levels persist after the incentives are removed. 

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Can improved toilet facilities, combined with innovative accountability systems for maintenance, increase the use of community toilets in urban India?

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Conditional cash transfers have proven effective as incentives for the extreme poor to visit a health clinic or send their children to school. But are such programs sustainable? If the cash assistance is taken away, will families find themselves back where they started before the program? In this study, researchers evaluate if financial education and business training can help recipients graduate from a conditional cash transfer program, and what type of training is most beneficial.

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The vast majority of new HIV infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 2 million people become infected with HIV/AIDS every year. This randomized evaluation examines the impact of two HIV prevention strategies among youth in Kenya: voluntary counseling and testing for HIV (VCT) and condom distribution.

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Previous research suggests that many people lack the skills needed to calculate expected returns or present discounted values, which may cause them to make suboptimal financial decisions.  Previous work by Hastings and Tejeda-Ashton in Mexico showed that the way that returns to a pension program were presented (in pesos versus as an annual percentage) affected price sensitivity.  Another explanation offered for sub optimal financial decisions is the present bias of many decision makers, who a

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An informal savings group meeting

To understand the potential gains from formal banking, we must first understand the risks and returns that the poor face from financial-service options in the informal sector. Yet, while informal financial products dominate the financial lives of the poor, we have scant data and analysis on either informal savings or informal debt.

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One of the most famous innovations of microfinance was the idea of “social collateral” – a way to guarantee the loans of people who have limited physical assets. However, it’s not clear that requiring group liability is actually a good thing. For instance, it can drastically raise the cost of a loan for a good client if she is forced to cover for other loans. Furthermore, it can force someone to guarantee people who take out much larger loans, which may prove to be impossible.

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IPA is working with Mumuadu Rural Bank (MRB) to study the response to and impact of a new account labeling savings product. Working with Susu customers and Susu agents, the study compares the success of this new product with the current Susu savings product. The new savings product has only a psychological difference: it allows the labeling of funds within an account so that deposits can be directed to a specific goal, such as health, education or business savings.
 
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New agricultural technologies, such as high-yielding crop varieties, offer the promise of increased productivity, but adoption of these technologies has often been slow, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sierra Leone, researchers are testing whether price subsidies and agricultural extension training can reduce the costs of early adoption, and whether using the improved seed varieties will ultimately benefit poor farmers.

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Political clientelism is often deemed to undermine democratic accountability and representation. This study argues that economic vulnerability causes citizens to participate in clientelism. Researchers tested this hypothesis with a randomized control trial that reduced household vulnerability through a development intervention: constructing residential water cisterns in drought-prone areas of Northeast Brazil.

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This project will evaluate the impact of commitment contracts and reminder messaging on savings behaviors among low- and medium-income credit union members in Washington DC. Traditional financial products which dominate the consumer finance market tend to operate under the assumption that consumers act in a rational manner and fail to take into account cognitive biases which can impede the realization of financial goals.

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Can communicating beneficiary feedback to donors augment philanthropic gifts or improve the operations of charitable organizations?

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How effective is vocational training in Western Kenya? This study leverages a longitudinal survey to examine the impact on individuals with different childhood and background characteristics. Individuals are invited to apply (and then randomly selected) for a tuition voucher. The study will also measure the demand for vocational training, and the difference between public and private sector training institutes. 

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This study assesses the willingness of households in Northern Ghana to purchase a ceramic water filter. The Kosim filter is sold by Pure Home Water (PHW), a Ghana-based NGO, and has been demonstrated to be highly effective at improving water quality without needing electricity. We will also measure the health effects of household-level water treatment in areas with high waterborne disease loads.  

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Farmers face many challenges as they try to grow and sell enough crops to support their families. Uncertain rainfall, potential crop failure due to natural distasters or disease, unpredictable crop prices, and shaky land tenure all contribute to the difficulties and risks inherent in farming. Improvements in the production processes and productivity of farmland could help many poor families achieve a better life. The Alatona zone is one of the most disadvantaged zones in Mali.

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