Despite the rapid global expansion of mobile phone coverage, many isolated, rural communities do not have connectivity. In the Philippines, researchers are evaluating the impact of installing cellular towers and providing free SIM cards for mobile phone use on communication activity and frequency, social ties, access to information, migration and labor market outcomes, bargaining power and market prices, and income and employment decisions. 

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Urban armed groups, especially criminal gangs, are a growing threat to peace and economic growth in cities across the world, and often exert state-like powers such as enforcing contracts, policing, and taxing businesses.

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For millions of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, the shift from subsistence agriculture to engagement with markets is a promising way to improve rural livelihoods. However, engaging with markets often requires the difficult task of adopting new inputs, such as improved seed varieties and fertilizers, as well as implementing new farming techniques.

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Recent evidence has demonstrated the difficulty of stimulating entrepreneurship and reducing poverty through microcredit. In rural Morocco, where microcredit take-up is relatively low, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test the impact of improved microcredit loan design on its take-up, as well as the welfare and business conditions of borrowers.

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Basic “pre-math” skills in young children have been shown to be important for developing later mathematics competency.1 In Costa Rica, researchers are evaluating the impact of a technology-based preschool math and coding program on the math and programming skills of preschool-aged children.

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Many pregnant women face financial barriers to accessing safe delivery services, including high costs associated with transportation to a health facility and materials needed for a safe delivery. In Zambia, researchers are piloting a set of home-based and village savings group interventions focused on empowering pregnant women to save in order to better access their preferred safe delivery services.

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Households living in extreme poverty face a wide range of challenges that limit their ability to make productive investments or cope with unpredictable shocks such as droughts or disease. Productive inclusion programs combine cash transfers with trainings and other support to increase household earnings while also helping households withstand and recover from shocks.

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How does an employment and training program compare, in impacts and cost, to just giving people cash?

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Basic “pre-math” skills in young children have been shown to be important for developing later mathematics competency. In Panama, math scores are lower than other Latin American countries and there are large performance gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous areas. Researchers are evaluating the impact of bilingual and intercultural preschool math curricula on the math skills of preschool-aged children.

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Gender-based violence is a global problem, but little rigorous research exists on the effectiveness of interventions that aim to reduce and prevent such violence. Violence is the result of the complex interplay of several factors, including social norms and attitudes.

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Ghana, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has greatly expanded access to primary school in the last two decades, but very few children meet academic standards for their grade.

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Around the world, studies show that children’s health and cognitive development tend to be higher when parents have more education. However, it is unclear whether education itself causes improved child health, or if other factors account for this relationship.

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Negative experiences in medical facilities can deter women from accessing delivery, family planning, and post-abortion care services and adhering to recommended treatment. In Kenya, researchers are evaluating the impact of quality improvement interventions on improving patient-centered care for delivery and family planning services.

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Elected government officials in many developing countries often do a poor job of performing their core responsibilities of providing public goods, developing legislation and regulation, and representing their constituents at the national level. Additionally, primary elections often cater to the elite and lack input from the average voter.

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Impact evaluations in the financial inclusion sector often attempt to measure the financial health of their participants. However, there is little consensus about what financial health consists of and how it should be measured, making it difficult to compare findings about financial health across studies. IPA is developing a standardized set of metrics for measuring financial health that can be used in a variety of contexts.

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As in many other developing countries, children under the age of five in rural Ghana often fail to reach their developmental potential. Researchers there are partnering with the organization Lively Minds to evaluate the impact of a low-cost, play-based learning program on early childhood cognitive development.

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One reason for low incomes among smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa may be a lack of demand for their crops in the markets that these farmers have access to. In Kenya, Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) is a program that trains smallholder farmers to adopt a “market-oriented farming” approach involving shifts to more in-demand crops and adoption of new agricultural practices.

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Prior evidence on small grants programs to female-owned businesses has found that women entrepreneurs are less likely to invest this capital into their businesses than men are. The intersection between household and business needs seems to play a role in this.

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While workers in larger firms tend to be more productive than those in smaller ones, the underlying reasons for these differences are unclear. In India, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation among data entry employees, to measure the impact of different work arrangements (office- versus home-based) on worker productivity.

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