In order to manage the delivery of social services, central governments often delegate authority to local supervisors. Despite possibly having greater knowledge of the local context, these supervisors may still be unable to fully monitor the performance of public workers. Researchers partnered with the Government of Paraguay to measure the impact of a new monitoring technology—GPS-enabled cell phones—on the job performance of agricultural extension agents (AEAs).

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Evidence suggests that pay-for-performance (P4P) contracts can elicit greater effort from civil servants when designed well, but does advertising performance pay affect who applies for these public sector jobs?

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Globally, many rural farmers lack access to effective savings and storage devices. This issue is particularly acute for rural farmers who receive income as a lump sum at harvest but have ongoing expenditures throughout the year. Researchers worked with existing savings clubs in Kenya to study the effect of two interventions on savings: the provision of communal crop storage devices and the provision of savings accounts earmarked for farm purchases.

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Educate!

In sub-Saharan Africa, where youth unemployment rates are very high, teaching students the skills required to be successful entrepreneurs or to compete in the formal labor market has the potential to reduce youth unemployment, drive economic growth, and reduce poverty. Whether such skills – particularly soft skills – can be taught, however, is an open question. In Uganda, researchers partnered with Educate!

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, wage job opportunities are limited, and a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productive work. Many governments support formal apprenticeship programs to help youth find suitable employment, but there is limited evidence on the direct and indirect effects of these public interventions.

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Improving education quality in low-income countries is a top priority for the global human development agenda, with governments and donors spending over a hundred billion dollars annually on education. Researchers evaluated the impact of providing schools with an unconditional cash grant, a teacher incentive program, or both on student learning. The cash grant had no impact on student learning, while the teacher incentive program had mixed results.

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In 2016, Myanmar started a new land reform intended to improve the land tenure rights of their lower income citizens. Acknowledging the importance of evidence to support the land reform, the research and advocacy organization Landesa partnered with IPA to conduct a mixed methods study to better understand the extent of landlessness in the Ayeyarwady Region, the connection between land tenure rights and food security, as well as the extent of women and men’s knowledge of their land rights.

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Many poor women around the world rely on sexual partners for the purpose of financial assistance, particularly when faced with financial setbacks. Providing these women with appropriate financial tools has the potential to reduce transactional sex as a coping strategy and reduce exposure to sexually transmitted infections.

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Youth unemployment and underemployment are pressing policy challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa and job-training programs have not proven to be effective (or cost-effective) at improving youth labor market outcomes. In Ghana, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to estimate the impact of a government program that placed young people in traditional apprenticeships and matched them with training providers.

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As in many developing countries, in Sierra Leone the process of selecting candidates often caters to the elite and lacks direct input from ordinary voters, which raises questions about representation and accountability. In response, researchers designed an evaluation to measure the efficacy of an intervention that informs party executives about the qualifications and policy visions of “aspirants," or potential candidates, during the primary selection stage, as well as which aspirant the local

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Previous evidence suggests that providing bicycles to school girls reduced the gender gap in school enrollment in India, but little has been known about the impact of bicycle distribution programs in sub-Saharan Africa and whether such programs can increase girls’ empowerment. In rural Zambia, researchers partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) to evaluate the impact of bicycle access on girls’ educational and empowerment outcomes.

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Digital loans, through mobile platforms such as Kenya’s M-Pesa, may be a way to increase access to affordable credit. Researchers used a regression discontinuity design to measure the impact of M-Shwari, a short-term savings and loan service run through M-Pesa, on access to credit, resilience, and savings of Kenyan households. Results show M-Shwari increased access to credit from any source.

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Entrepreneurs in Bogota working with Agruppa

Microenterprises such as produce vendors face disadvantages compared to larger firms in sourcing inventory because they must travel frequently to restock and pay higher costs when doing so. Researchers evaluated Agruppa, a mobile phone-based technology service, which creates virtual buyer groups to buy more cheaply in bulk. The evaluation found that initial demand for the service was high, saving business owners time and expense, and increasing profits on certain staple goods.

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A Zambian health worker administers medicine

The quality of healthcare and other public services depends critically on the efforts of those who provide these services, but little is known about how to recruit the highest-performing public service providers. The Government of Zambia partnered with researchers to test the effect of two different recruitment strategies for a newly created healthcare position, the Community Health Assistant (CHA).

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A student uses the tablet program.

One reason children from disadvantaged backgrounds receive less schooling and join the labor force at younger ages with fewer skills may be that they and their families lack crucial information needed to make the right long run investment decisions regarding their human capital. In Peru, IPA and J-PAL worked with researchers and the Ministry of Education to evaluate at scale two low-cost ways of providing relevant information to help students and their families make more informed decisions.

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Ghanaian girls dancing in drama presentation

Women face significant barriers to participation and leadership in politics and government in many countries, including Ghana. Shortly before Ghana’s 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, researchers evaluated whether community meetings focused on encouraging women’s participation in local politics could close the gender gap that exists in grassroot politics. The evaluation found no change in women’s political participation or in views of gender norms in local politics.

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In Mexico, one in four women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, and addressing violence against women remains a challenge across the world. This study evaluated the impact of a nurse-delivered screening and counseling program on intimate partner violence in Mexico City.

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Around the world, 152 million children are engaged in child labor, and in the Philippines many of the children working illegally are in occupations that pose a threat to their health and safety. Because poverty is considered to be the root cause of child labor, policymakers have aimed to reduce child labor by improving the economic welfare of poor households that are using or vulnerable to using child labor.

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Though Zambia has made significant progress in increasing access to education, allocation of resources within the system remains a challenge. This study describes the distribution of teachers across public primary schools in Zambia, examines the underlying administrative challenges and geographic factors linked to the allocation of teachers, and offers policy recommendations in order to create a more equitable teacher distribution, which may also be more efficient.

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Programs that allow citizens to contact their government representatives may help to improve the delivery of basic services, such as resources in schools and health clinics, in low-income countries. However, citizen participation in these programs is often low.

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