In recent years, education systems in Latin America have significantly increased coverage for children in primary school. However, challenges related to early childhood education remain. In Uruguay, student absenteeism at preschool is high in comparison to primary school, and this may be due in part to parents undervaluing preschool education.

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Early educational experiences have been found to have a positive effect on students’ choice of math and science courses in later learning as well as their career aspirations. In Colombia, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test the impact of an interactive multimedia preschool program on the math and science skills of children and the gender and racial stereotypes and beliefs of children, educators, and parents.

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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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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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Exposure to violence in childhood and adolescence is associated with adverse health and socio-economic outcomes. School is one of the most common settings where children and adolescents may experience violence; and in some countries, school staff may be one of the most common perpetrators of violence against children. Levels of violence may be higher in humanitarian settings, where people are displaced and teachers and children may have recent histories of trauma.

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In Uganda, rural households face challenges in ensuring that children attend school due to high school fees and a mismatch in the timing of when fees are due and when income is earned. Researchers are evaluating the impact of a digital school fee loan, with and without a direct repayment incentive, on repayment rates, households’ well-being, and students’ educational outcomes.

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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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Use of modern contraceptives remains low in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers evaluated the impact of a two-and-a-half-year mass media radio campaign that promoted modern contraception use in Burkina Faso. The campaign increased contraception use, largely by reducing misconceptions about potential side effects of modern contraception methods. The campaign also convinced women who were already in favor of modern contraception to use it more consistently. 

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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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Rainfall index insurance can help small-holder farmers cope with risks to their livelihoods, but take-up of this insurance is often low.

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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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Previous research has shown that people living in poverty are more likely to experience psychological constraints, such as lower aspirations, goals, and beliefs about their ability to act effectively, which partly arise from the difficulties of living in extreme poverty.

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Engaging parents in their children’s education via text messages has been shown to be effective at increasing children’s attendance in school and improving grades in Brazil, but it’s unclear whether this model could be adapted to poorer countries where teacher absenteeism is high and many parents are illiterate. This randomized evaluation tests two versions of this model, using text and audio messages for parents either with or without messages to teachers in Côte d‘Ivoire.

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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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Vote-buying remains a major impediment to full democracy in many low-income countries. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to study how a large-scale campaign against vote-buying affected not only citizens’ willingness to sell their votes but also politician and party behavior in the 2016 election in Uganda.  

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