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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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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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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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Young people living in urban slums face several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockouts. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted three rounds of surveys among 780 adolescent boys and girls in three urban slums in Bangladesh. The results showed an increased involvement of out-of-school adolescents in paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those from poor households.

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Many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa may be reluctant to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies because they lack persuasive information on the proper use of new inputs or agricultural techniques from credible sources. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to test whether the position of a trained lead farmer within a community’s social network affected other farmers’ decisions to adopt a new agricultural technology in Malawi.

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The extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on adolescents. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted a panel survey (one round  pre-pandemic, and two rounds during) among 2,000 students in Bangladesh to understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on male and female adolescents.

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Digital payments offer a fast and transparent way to distribute cash aid to households that have been economically hard hit by the pandemic. In the Philippines, researchers conducted a survey to learn about the experience of recipients of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), an emergency cash transfer program implemented by the government.

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A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that face masks can protect against COVID-19. There is, however, limited rigorous evidence on the extent to which mask-wearing is effective in reducing COVID-19 in a real-life situation with imperfect and inconsistent mask use.

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Nutrition-Focused Livelihoods Program

Almost half of all deaths of children under five years of age are attributable to malnutrition, and despite the decline in numbers, progress continues to be very slow. In Burkina Faso researchers evaluated whether a nutrition-focused livelihoods program consisting of a cash transfer, productive asset, and nutrition intervention can impact child nutrition, household income, and assets.

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In recent years, the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh has experienced rapid growth. Overall, most of these new jobs have gone to women, yet few women have been hired as managers. Researchers randomly assigned co-supervisors to production lines to evaluate the impact of exposing garment factory workers and supervisors to women managers on factory productivity, supervisor retention, and attitudes toward women.
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An arial map of electrical power supply in Kenya

Over the past century, rural electrification has served as a key benchmark for economic development and social progress. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of offering subsidies to connect to the power grid on the demand for electricity in rural areas of Kenya. Few households took up the offer to connect to the grid, even at highly subsized prices.

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Women are commonly underrepresented in the formal sector in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers introduced a recruitment drive for a firm in Malawi to evaluate the impact of referral-based hiring on women’s employment at the company. Results from the randomized evaluation indicate that men systematically referred fewer women, and women’s referral of other qualified women was not enough to offset men’s behavior.

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Access to quality jobs is a pressing concern in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, researchers partnered with the technology company Sama and Innovations for Poverty Action to conduct a randomized evaluation of Sama’s training and job referral programs. The training program provided youth from underserved communities with digital training, while the referral program provided trainees with a job referral to work with the company.

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A patient receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria

As COVID-19 vaccination ramps up worldwide, understanding factors that may lead people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to reject COVID-19 vaccination is of global concern, as lags in vaccination could facilitate global spread of virus variants. Researchers surveyed nearly 45,000 individuals in 10 LMICs, the United States, and Russia between June 2020 and January 2021on vaccine acceptance and trusted sources for vaccination advice.

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Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are severely limited by regulations outlawing formal work, in addition to movement restrictions that limit access to nearby informal work, potentially contributing to poor mental health outcomes. This randomized evaluation examined the effects of employment on psychosocial wellbeing and found that employment delivers significant psychosocial wellbeing, particularly among men.

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How do cash transfers support newly-designated vulnerable populations and informal workers during an economic crisis? To help answer these questions, researchers studied  the effect of Ingreso Solidario (Solidarity Income), a new unconditional cash transfer in Colombia that was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Payday loans—small short-term loans with high interest rates that become due at the time of the borrower’s next paycheck—are a common form of lending to people with low income in the United States. Do borrowers taking out these loans make rational decisions, or do they borrow more than they expect or would like to in the long run? Researchers partnered with a large payday lender in Indiana to conduct an evaluation to better understand consumers’ decision-making.

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In rural Bangladesh, women living in extreme poverty face barriers to engaging in work that provides higher returns, such as livestock rearing. Researchers partnered with BRAC to evaluate their multi-faceted livelihood program known as the Graduation Approach, which aims to encourage occupational change among these women.

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