Differences in productivity between firms, which are especially large in developing countries, are often attributed to the quality of their management practices. Researchers tested the effect of management practices by randomly assigning some Indian textile firms to receive free consulting advice. Firms that received this advice significantly raised their productivity within a year, resulting in an estimated increase in annual profits of US$325,000.

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Many financial products such as 401k plans have been designed to help U.S. consumers overcome limited self-control and limited attention in order to reach their savings goals.

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There are an estimated 411 million mobile money accounts worldwide, allowing even the poor in remote areas to send and receive money at low cost. How access to this financial tool affects long-term financial well-being, however, is not well understood. In Kenya, IPA worked with researchers to track the economic progress of households as the M-PESA mobile money service expanded over six years.

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A panel discusses the entrepreneurship evaluation in Mexico

A lack of access to finance can impede the potential for growth among small firms. To meet this finance gap and to encourage high-growth entrepreneurship, governments and multilateral agencies throughout the developing world often directly fund small and medium enterprises. Governments, however, have little guidance when it comes to choosing the firms with growth potential, and making sure that limited funds are targeted where they will spur the most growth.

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Despite a substantial decline in child mortality in recent years, millions of children still die from preventable diseases every year. In this study in rural Uganda, researchers evaluated the impact of a micro-franchise model, which incentivizes door-to-door community health workers. The program reduced mortality among infants and children, improved knowledge about health among clients, and increased the visits that households received from health workers. 

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Numerous governments in low- and middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have adopted conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs as a social safety net, but most recipients of these transfers have little or no experience with formal financial products.

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Many microentrepreneurs in developing countries may lack the training or skills to make the most effective financial and business management decisions. In India, researchers tested a  low-cost and easy-to-scale financial capability intervention that delivered easy-to-remember and easy-to-adopt rules of thumb via voice-based mobile phone messages.

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Women in Malawi are assigned family planning courses

Improving access to family planning in Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to help women and couples achieve their desired family size and avert unintended pregnancies and unwanted births. It may also have longer-term effects by improving women’s health, educational attainment, and socio-economic status. However, little is actually known about the effectiveness of family planning.

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An IPA surveyor interviews a microfinance borrower in the Philippines

Although the success of microcredit was originally attributed to the group loan model, there is little evidence on the relative impacts of individual lending versus group lending on household consumption, income, and enterprise creation. In this study, researchers randomly selected existing group-lending centers to convert to an individual liability model.

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A fertilizer retailer in Tanzania

Small farm productivity in sub-Saharan Africa lags behind that in Asia and other parts of the world. One reason for this may be low rate of adoption of inputs such as fertilizer. In Tanzania one reason for this may simply be the absence of local retailers, especially in more remote areas. Researchers are testing if their absence may be because of the costs of entering these markets or demand, with interventions targeted to each.

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IPA surveyors interview loan borrowers in Ghana

Microcredit has been successful in bringing formal financial services to the poor, but given that many microcredit clients live in poverty, this success has sparked a debate surrounding the question of how to set interest rates. In Ghana, researchers set out to measure how different interest rates on individual loans affect demand for the loans and if and how different interest rates affect borrower profile.

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An industrial cotton processing factory in Ethiopia

Industrial sector development is seen as an important poverty alleviation strategy for reducing un- and underemployment in low-income countries. But how those jobs affect workers, particularly in early stages of industrial sector development, and the extent to which workers prefer these jobs over others is less well-understood.

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Lack of access to finance constrains small business growth—a problem that is exacerbated for Muslim business-owners, many of whom do not take out traditional loans for religious reasons. Innovations for Poverty Action is supporting research in Pakistan on a lease-based product that features more flexible repayment schedules, allows businesses to share risk with a large microfinance institution, and complies with local Islamic financial norms.

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Incentive (or performance-based) pay has been shown to increase worker productivity in high-income countries, yet it is uncommon in developing countries and little evidence exists on the impacts of individual- and group-level incentives in these contexts. Cultural norms, such as the desire to stand out or get ahead, may influence how people respond to incentives.

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Farmers in Burkina Faso are selling more of their crops and taking on non-agricultural work

The agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa has been changing in recent years, with more farmers living near urban areas, selling more of their crops for income, and also engaging in more off-farm work and non-agricultural activities to supplement farm revenue. However, little evidence exists thus far on how these trends are affecting nutrition, especially that of the most vulnerable members of farming families—women and children.

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Close to 450,000 people in the U.S. die prematurely each year from smoking-related causes and annual losses in productivity due to smoking-related morbidity top US$96 billion. While many programs exist to help people quit smoking, many have only been effective in the short term. This study will examine whether a combination of positive and negative commitment devices can induce long-term smoking cessation in smokers from a low-to-moderate income background in Connecticut.

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Female entrepreneurs in developing countries often face significant stress from the combination of long working hours, family responsibilities and barriers to work that requires being away from home1,2. This randomized evaluation studied whether targeting women’s ability to cope with such daily stresses could help improve well-being and business outcomes.

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A sugar cane farm in Kenya

Farming is risky: a drought, bad harvest, or dip in crop prices can leave small farmers in developing countries without much-needed income. Attempts to mitigate these risks with agricultural insurance have typically been unsuccessful because farmers have chosen not to buy insurance. Researchers partnered with a large sugar cane company to see if delaying the premium payment until after the harvest would increase farmers’ demand for insurance.

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For new democracies and societies emerging from conflict, effective systems of dispute resolution are essential to maintaining a lasting peace and preventing violence. In Liberia, researchers examined the impact of introducing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) trainings on the rate at which community members resolved property disputes, the level of satisfaction with the resolution, and the incidence of violence related to the disputes.

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In theory, local government meetings provide important opportunities for citizens to be directly involved in decisions about important services that affect their daily lives. In practice, citizens can be disengaged from local governments, either because they are uninformed or because they do not believe their involvement is welcome or effective.

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