Globally, women have experienced the socioeconomic impacts from COVID-19 particularly severely. The pandemic led to a dramatic short-term downturn in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector, an industry in which women predominate. Researchers worked with IPA to survey RMG workers during the first year of the pandemic, collecting short- to medium-term data on the crisis’ impacts on workers’ livelihoods.

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Ethnomathematics, an approach to teaching mathematics that incorporates local cultural understandings of mathematics, may improve student learning in indigenous communities. Researchers worked with IPA and the Inter-American Development Bank to conduct a randomized evaluation of an ethnomathematics program called JADENKÄ developed by Panama’s government for preschool students in the country’s Ngäbe-Buglé region.

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Digital technologies enable new financial products to reach historically unbanked populations, increasing financial access but also raising questions as to their broader social and economic impact. In Nigeria, researchers are working with a digital financial service provider who provided loans to applicants to assess how access to digital loans impacts the welfare of borrowers.

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Evidence suggests that microloans often fail to improve outcomes for borrowers, but providing micro-enterprises with larger loans may be more effective in helping them grow, while increasing business opportunities for microfinance lenders and reducing poverty.

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Mobile financial services have become the main channel of financial inclusion, especially in low-income countries. However, consumer protection failures in the sector remain common.

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Evidence from multiple contexts suggests that the Graduation Approach, which provides holistic livelihood support for ultra-poor households, has lasting positive impacts on a range of outcomes. However, graduation programs are relatively expensive because of the intense level of support they offer. The costs pose a challenge for governments that want to implement the approach at scale.

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As migration patterns change, further evidence of the impact of regulatory programs in developing countries is needed. In Colombia, researchers are evaluating the impact of a temporary working and residence permit program for Venezuelan migrants. Outcomes to be studied include labor indicators, health, and integration measures. Results show that the permit program had significant positive effects on employment, welfare, and resilience for migrants.

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COVID-19 forced students across the world to move from in-person to remote schooling, presenting particularly acute challenges for children in low- and middle-income countries living in households with limited resources and internet access.

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Digital tools have enabled people around the world to access banking and financial services. The rise of these technologies, however, has been accompanied by an increase in fraud risks, which are often difficult to measure due to consumer underreporting or unawareness. In Kenya, researchers conducted a research project to measure individuals’ level of scam identification ability, asking participants to classify example messages as fraudulent or genuine.

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Widespread adoption of social distancing can help communities and countries slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be an effective mental health approach for people living in poverty, who are especially vulnerable to mental distress and face unique demands on their mental “bandwidth.” Researchers worked with Innovations for Poverty Action and the University of Ghana Medical School to design, implement, and conduct a randomized evaluation of the impacts of a group CBT curriculum on low-income individuals in rural Ghana.

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How do inexperienced consumers learn to use a new financial technology? Consumer financial products, such as bank and mobile money accounts, can significantly increase financial inclusion, yet inexperienced consumers of new financial technologies are often vulnerable to exploitation by financial intermediaries. Can an electronic bank or mobile money payroll system increase account usage and savings, while reducing consumer risks?

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Illegal mining is prominent throughout the world but is rarely reported to authorities responsible for monitoring mining activities. In Colombia, Colombia Mining Monitoring (CoMiMo1) uses artificial intelligence and satellite technology to locate possible illegal mines.

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Millions of informal sector workers in low- and middle-income countries are excluded from formal pension and social security systems, posing potential economic challenges for old age populations. Micropensions may help to address these challenges—but more information is needed about the demand for these products.

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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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As conflict forcibly displaces millions of people, social ties and trust across groups can disintegrate and be difficult to rebuild after violence subsides. Positive and cooperative intergroup contact has the potential to reduce prejudice and improve relationships with outgroup members. Researchers evaluated the impact of mixed Christian-Muslim soccer teams on social cohesion and interactions between these groups in an ISIS-affected area of Iraq.

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In low- and middle-income countries, women-owned enterprises are generally small in scale and provide limited income. Researchers evaluated the impact of a business training intervention, alone and combined with a cash grant, on the income and other business outcomes for self-employed women in Sri Lanka.

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Citizen trust and participation in the political system are necessary for stable democratic regimes. During the 2013 National Elections in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sent text messages to approximately two million registered voters to promote public interest and knowledge and to raise voter turnout. Researchers found that the text message campaign increased voter turnout but decreased trust in the electoral commission.

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The typical firm in most low- and middle-income countries consists of a self-employed entrepreneur with no paid workers, raising questions about whether labor market barriers prevent firm owners from hiring additional labor. In Sri Lanka, researchers provided wage subsidies to randomly chosen microenterprises to determine if they would hire more workers, and whether the additional labor would benefit such firms.

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