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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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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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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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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Uganda land

Curbing deforestation in developing countries may be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of a payments for ecosystem services (PES) program, in which Ugandan landowners were paid not to cut forest trees on their property.

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Startups in developing countries grow more slowly over their life cycle than those in high-income countries, but the reason why is not understood. Slow growth could be due to difficulties for firms’ increasing productivity or because of difficulties boosting demand for their products.

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Democratic accountability relies on performance-based voting, in which citizens vote based on candidates’ expected or previous performance. Yet, if citizens do not have this information, they cannot use it to inform their vote choices.

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Seasonal hunger affects 300 million of the world’s rural poor. Seasonal migration can help some people find temporary employment, but many of those who could potentially benefit from migration face financial constraints that prevent them from traveling during the lean season. Researchers investigated whether providing low-cost travel incentives increases migration, and whether migrants experience better food security as a result of their travel.

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Advances in payments technology have the potential to improve the efficiency of slow and corrupt public welfare programs. Researchers tested how Smartcards, which coupled electronic transfers with biometric authentication, affected the functioning of two government welfare schemes in India. They found that even though the new Smartcard system was not fully implemented, it resulted in a faster and less corrupt payments process without adversely affecting program access.

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Intensified use of agricultural inputs, particularly fertilizer, is a possible route to improved agricultural productivity. Evaluations of fertilizer use show substantial increases in yields, but they are typically done on highly monitored experimental plots rather than by farmers themselves.

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An advertisement for waste management in Accra, Ghana.

Poor sanitation in the developing world leads to major diseases, increased public health expenditures, and causes childhood diarrhea, a leading cause of mortality in children under five.To explore how market interventions can be designed to address the unique sanitation challenges faced in developing countries, Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of an information intervention on access to improved sanitation services in Accra, Ghana.

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Malawi’s public works program is the largest social protection scheme in one of the world’s poorest countries. Although public works programs are widespread, they can be costly, and there is limited evidence of their effectiveness. Researchers worked with Innovations for Poverty Action and the Malawi Social Action Fund to evaluate the program’s effect on food security.

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Sustainable growth requires the management of scarce natural resources, such as water. Although policymakers have put in place pricing structures meant to discourage wasteful water use, a number of barriers may prevent customers from effectively curbing water wastage. Researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action and a water company in Zambia to evaluate whether improved information and incentives can help households manage their water usage.

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Police forces in cities tend to focus their efforts on the highest-crime areas, but increasing state presence in the highest crime spots may simply displace crime to other areas, leaving overall crime levels unchanged. In Bogotá, Colombia, researchers partnered with the city to measure the impact of either concentrated policing, increased municipal clean-ups, or both on crime reduction and displacement.

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