Inadequate nutrition during the earliest years of life can cause stunting and contribute to long-term developmental consequences that can affect future productivity and well-being. In Zambia, an IPA research team found that providing parents with full-sized growth charts, which included information about nutrition and were placed on the walls inside homes, reduced stunting rates among malnourished children by 22 percentage points.

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Governments must pay their employees for states to function, but frequent delays and leakage of salary payments can undermine government effectiveness. In partnership with the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to study whether mobile salary payments (MSPs) improve learning by increasing teacher attendance and morale.

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Entrepreneurs in developing countries face a number of constraints that limit their growth and therefore their contribution to employment and long-term economic development.

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Credit: Erik Charlton / Flickr
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be an important source of innovation and employment. While there is a lot of research on the barriers to SME growth at the individual firm level, there is little evidence on the role of business networks in firm growth.
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Although Rwanda has one of the highest rates of primary enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa, concerns around education quality persist. Researchers are exploring one route to recruiting and motivating skilled teachers: pay-for-performance contracts in public schools.

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Large debt burdens are a significant threat to financial stability for many households. Innovations for Poverty Action is working 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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Little research has explored the potential for mobile technology, and mobile money specifically, to improve the lives of the poor. In Kenya, where a widely-used mobile–based money transfer service, M-PESA, has dramatically reduced the cost of sending money across large distances, researchers evaluated the impact of the service on households’ ability to weather negative income shocks, such as illness or agricultural losses.
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Community-based development is an idea that has gained popularity among governments, practitioners, and funders, but evidence on its effectiveness outside of post-conflict contexts is limited. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impact of community-based development on political participation, public goods provision, and individual well-being in Ghana.

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Pension systems aim to prevent poverty among the elderly and to help ensure people have adequate income across their lifetime. But, only a small proportion (25 percent) of the global labor force contributes or accrues pension funds, and in developing countries essentially no small firms’ employees have pension coverage.

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In places with limited formal institutions, social and family networks play an important role in people’s lives, with friends and relations often sharing financial resources. The social norm which requires resources be shared may reduce incentives to work, with negative economic consequences.

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Child marriage is correlated with negative health and education outcomes around the world. Researchers evaluated the impacts of a conditional incentive program and an adolescent empowerment program on adolescent marriage, teenage childbearing, and education in rural Bangladesh. They found that offering incentives conditional on delayed marriage was an effective way to reduce child marriage, reduce teenage childbearing, and increase education.

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The government of Bangladesh is trying to strengthen local justice systems in rural areas by establishing close-to-home, low-cost village courts that adjudicated minor disputes between residents. Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of the village court system on access to and quality of justice as well as socioeconomic outcomes.

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Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid demographic growth. While formal unemployment is low, wage job opportunities are also limited. In this context, a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productivity self-employment. Traditional apprenticeships are one of the most common sources of skills acquisition for youths. Many governments attempt to intervene in the apprenticeship market, but there is limited evidence on the impacts of these public interventions.

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Recent evidence suggests formal savings accounts can lead to increased savings for the poor, but uptake of bank accounts has been low. There is also evidence suggesting that savings for specific goals can potentially be increased by enabling people to commit money towards goal-specific “mental accounts”.

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Recent efforts to increase primary school education enrollment in developing countries have been extremely successful, yet major challenges persist in improving educational outcomes. In rural areas, this challenge is even more severe, as remote communities struggle to attract and retain professionally trained teachers. This study assesses the impact of a program that aims to improve student learning for marginalized pupils in rural Ghana through an interactive distance learning model.

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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 rural electrification in Kenya.

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Although the ability to control fertility can have broad social and economic consequences, social norms and misinformation can discourage contraceptive use in many countries. Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of a three-year mass media campaign focused on family planning and gender norms in Burkina Faso. 

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Although attending and completing a high quality secondary school program can propel students towards greater success in the job market, many students do not enroll in secondary school. Further, some of those who do enroll either drop out or attend low quality secondary schools, even when they qualify for higher performing options.

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Can social incentives increase demand for skilled pregnancy care? How much do people care to signal to others that they looked after their and their children's health? How much do people learn from observing others’ actions?

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Millions of children die from preventable diseases every year, primarily in low-income countries. In rural Uganda, researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action to evaluate the impact on child mortality of an at-scale community health worker program based on a micro-franchise business model.

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