Public-private partnerships to provide education in low-income countries are common, yet controversial. In Liberia, researchers worked with IPA, the Ministry of Education, and a set of eight private operators to conduct a randomized evaluation that measured the impact of 93 partnership schools—free public schools with management outsourced to private operators.

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Despite the scale and persistence of forced displacement, little data and evidence exists to inform long-term policy responses. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in southern Bangladesh beginning in August 2017 poses a significant policy question: how to integrate refugees into the host economy while simultaneously maintaining or improving the wellbeing of nationals.

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A Ugandan youth working on a bicycle
In developing countries with high unemployment, cash grants can provide poor people with the capital to invest in small enterprises. If people are not too constrained in their ability to earn and save, grants will simply offer a kick start to higher work and income levels, levels they would have some years later even without the grants. If it is difficult to save or accumulate assets, however, one-time investments could propel people out of poverty permanently. Which is it?
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SME manufacturing

Startups in developing countries tend to grow more slowly on average than those in high-income countries, but the reasons why are not well understood. Researchers analyzed data on all manufacturers with more than 10 employees in Colombia and the U.S. over a period of 30 years to compare employment growth among manufacturers in each country.

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Uganda has made substantial advancements in financial consumer protection policy in recent years but understanding whether and how the financial sector complies with these new regulations can be a challenge.

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Social networks are often seen as a cost-effective way to disseminate information, but there is lack of evidence to inform who to give information to within a network to best reach others within the community. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation in Mali to study the role of giving information to different people within a network in the spread of that information.

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Improving tax administration is an important priority for many developing country governments. An efficient and equitable tax system can increase government revenue, lessen dependence on foreign aid, and strengthen state authority. Researchers studied the impact of an innovative taxpayer recognition program that appealed to business owners’ desires for social recognition on firms’ VAT tax compliance and payment rates in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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Graduating the Ultra Poor in Ghana

More than one fifth of the world’s population lives on less than US$1.25 per day. While many credit and training programs have not been successful at raising income levels for these ultra-poor households, recent support for livelihoods programs has spurred interest in evaluating whether comprehensive “big push” interventions may allow for a sustainable transition to self-employment and a higher standard of living.

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Saving for multiple goals at the same time is difficult, especially for individuals without access to formal bank accounts. In Malawi, researchers offered micro-entrepreneurs either single or multiple lockboxes to evaluate the impact of the boxes on savings and other business and financial outcomes. Individuals offered multiple lockboxes saved more than those offered a single lockbox, suggesting that providing lockboxes may be a cost-effective way to promote savings.

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Large debt burdens are a significant threat to financial stability for many households. Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to evaluate whether prize-linked incentives can help borrowers reduce their debt burdens more effectively. A randomly selected group of borrowers on debt repayment plans were offered entry into a program that turns on-time debt repayments into entries in a lottery.

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In Mexico, as in many other countries, retirement savings levels are low. The situation is worse for informal workers and the unemployed, who cannot rely on employer contributions to help build their nest eggs.

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Photo Credit: Colpensiones

In Colombia, as in many other countries, workers face many barriers to saving for retirement. The situation is much worse for informal workers, who make up about 65 percent of the total workforce in Colombia.

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Inadequate nourishment in the first years of life can impair children’s physical and cognitive development, with long-term consequences on their earnings and productivity. In Myanmar, which has one of the highest rates of stunting in the Asia-Pacific region, IPA worked with researchers to evaluate the impact of cash transfers to mothers––both with and without social and behavioral change communication (SBCC) ––on determinants and indicators of child malnutrition.

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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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Increasing access to safe water is important for reducing child morbidity and mortality. Mass distribution of water treatment products can considerably increase access but it is expensive, especially if some of the recipients do not end up using the subsidized products.

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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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