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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Limited knowledge of financial concepts is associated with suboptimal financial behavior such as low rate of formal savings, poor usage of bank accounts, amongst others. Well-designed financial education programs have the potential to improve financial knowledge and behavior, leading to improvements in wellbeing.

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Previous research suggests having community members monitor health service providers can improve the delivery of health services, and greatly improve child health as a result. In Uganda, researchers conducted a large-scale randomized evaluation of a program called Accountability Can Transform (ACT) Health that followed this model.

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Youth unemployment is a key barrier to economic growth in developing countries, and is a key policy priority for the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Researchers partnered with DOLE and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation to evaluate the impact of a national employment bridging program on education outcomes, youth employability, and employment.

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A child is given deworming medicine in Kenya

Intestinal helminths—including hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and schistosomiasis—infect more than one in four people worldwide. Researchers evaluated the short-run impacts of a mass school-based deworming program in western Kenya, and found that deworming substantially improved health and school participation of treated children, as well as of untreated children in treatment schools and children in neighboring schools.

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, farmers are often paid low prices for their produce, yet customers often pay high prices for staple foods. There are multiple potential explanations for this phenomenon, one of which is that traders may hold market power and collude, leading to higher food prices than there would be if those traders offered competing prices.

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Renewable off-grid home lighting systems have the potential to reduce the use of kerosene lanterns and other expensive and dirty forms of light in areas that lack electricity, but adoption of such lighting systems is low.

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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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Many adults over age 65 across the world live in extreme poverty, however only 20 percent of seniors worldwide receive any form of pension. Non-contributory pension programs for seniors living below a certain income threshold may improve food consumption, mental health, and lower reliance on younger family members for economic support.

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How do standard development programs compare to just giving people cash?

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Poor nutrition and exposure to fecal contamination are associated with diarrhea and growth faltering, and both have long-term consequences for child health and development. In Kenya, researchers partnered with IPA to conduct a large-scale randomized evaluation of the impacts of water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition interventions delivered alone and in combination.

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Poor sanitation leads to major diseases, increased public health expenditures, and causes diarrhea—a leading cause of mortality in children under five. In western Rwanda, researchers evaluated the impact of community health clubs on the health and hygiene of children under five in particular. They found that the clubs had no impact on caregiver-reported rates of diarrhea among the children in the study.

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Photo of Person Holding Phone

Globally, bureaucrats are responsible for the day-to-day matters of policy implementation and government service provision. However, we know very little about how bureaucrats’ own interests and biases influence the ultimate distribution of public goods and services. To measure how citizens’ identities and the characteristics of their petitions affect municipal bureaucrats’ bias and efficiency, researchers conducted a national-scale audit of two of Colombia’s largest social service programs.

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Few microenterprises grow and employ more than one worker, and policymakers have struggled to identify what keeps these businesses from growing further. To study these limitations, researchers offered microentrepreneurs capital to incentivize them to hire. Results showed that a wage subsidy did not lead to lasting increases in employment sales or profits.

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Identifying eligible beneficiaries for social programs, a process known as “targeting,” can be a challenging and costly process for development and humanitarian organizations. Many widely-used targeting strategies were developed for rural environments and may not work as well in dynamic and densely populated urban centers. One potential new technique is “decentralized targeting,” a process that relies on information from socially knowledgeable members of a community.

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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.

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Testing Agricultural Technologies

Using improved hybrid seed varieties may generate higher yields for maize farmers in sub-Saharan Africa—where agricultural productivity is low relative to other regions—but many farmers have not adopted these seeds. This project, which was not a randomized evaluation, studied the comparative yields of several seed varieties and farmer purchasing decisions in an effort to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana.

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Business training programs aim to instill standardized management practices in participants in hopes that these will help raise business performance. However, decision makers and researchers have struggled to find conclusive evidence on the firm-level impacts of these trainings.

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Credit: World Bank Erick Kaglan

What makes someone a successful entrepreneur? Is it a matter of teaching the right business skills, or instilling a proactive entrepreneurial mindset? If the latter, can these personal qualities be taught? This research in Togo investigated these questions, and found that a training focused on personal initiative skills, such as self-starting, future-oriented, and persistent behavior, was more successful than a traditional business training at increasing sales and profits.

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People often report wanting to save more money than they actually do, and rigorous evidence has shown that simple reminders to save can be effective at helping people save more.

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