Offering farmers in Kenya the ability to save harvest income for future fertilizer purchase was as effective as offering a 50 percent subsidy on fertilizer at planting time.  READ MORE »

Risk, rather than a lack of capital, appears to drive underinvestment in agriculture in Northern Ghana. When farmers were provided with weather insurance they spent more on inputs such as chemicals, land preparation, and labor.  READ MORE »

Ex-combatants and other high-risk youth in Liberia who attended an innovative and intensive agricultural training program spent more time farming and fewer hours every month engaged in potentially illegal activities than their peers.  READ MORE »


More children are in school than ever, but many are not learning basic skills. Studies in India and Ghana showed that targeted instruction for low-performing students led by community teaching assistants is an effective way to improve learning outcomes in numeracy and literacy.  READ MORE »

Researchers found that giving free uniforms to children in Kenya reduced school days missed for all children by 43 percent, and even more for children who did not have a uniform before the program began.  READ MORE »

An accelerated learning program for out-of-school children in southern Mali impacted students’ educational achievement, home life, and continuation with schooling. The evaluation results suggest that the program is an effective way for out-of-school children to catch up with their in-school peers and be integrated back into the school system.  READ MORE »

Getting teachers to attend school is sometimes more difficult than getting children there. In India, research showed that teacher monitoring through cameras tied to a salary incentive reduced teacher absences. Students in the schools with the program also received about 30 percent more days of instruction and had higher test scores.  READ MORE »

In Morocco, researchers tested “Labeled Cash Transfers,” a small cash transfer made to parents of school-aged children in poor rural communities, not conditional on school attendance but explicitly labeled as an education support program. The program led to large gains in school participation, and adding conditionality and giving cash transfers to mothers rather than fathers made almost no difference.  READ MORE »

Financial Inclusion

Microcredit—providing small loans to underserved entrepreneurs—has been both celebrated and vilified as a development tool. Seven randomized evaluations found that while microcredit has some benefits, it is not a viable poverty alleviation tool.  READ MORE »

Tobacco farmers in Malawi cultivated 7 percent more land and increased the value of their agricultural input use by 13 percent, agricultural output by 15 percent, and household spending by 11 percent when they were given access to formal savings accounts into which their crop harvest proceeds were directly deposited.  READ MORE »

Households that gained access to microcredit in Mexico through joint liability loans increased revenue and expenses of their businesses by 27 percent and 36 percent, respectively. However, there was no evidence of an increase in the number of new businesses.  READ MORE »

Micro-entrepreneurs in the Dominican Republic were 6 – 12 percentage points more likely to keep accounting records, and maintain separate books for business and personal expenses when they were offered financial education training based on simple rules-of-thumb.  READ MORE »

Self-employed microentrepreneurs in Kenya increased average daily bank savings by 9 Kenyan Shillings, business investment by 46 percent, and daily private expenditures by 38 percent when they were offered access to an account at the local village bank with the opening fees fully subsidized and without any minimum balance requirement. READ MORE »

Members of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations in Kenya increased their spending on preventative health products by 66 percent when they were given individual savings boxes labeled for health expenses and 128 percent when they contributed to a separate, health-oriented group savings pot. READ MORE »

Existing bank clients who set amount- or time-based savings goals in the Philippines, Peru, and Bolivia increased their savings by 6 percent when they received monthly savings reminders. In Peru, savings increased by 13 percent when clients were reminded of the interest rate incentive and their specific savings goals.  READ MORE »

Low-income married couples in Kenya experienced differential effects when offered ATM cards that reduced transaction costs.  Joint accounts and accounts held by men, together, showed an increase in the number of deposits by 51-58 percent and withdrawals by over 100 percent. However, ATM cards had no effect on accounts held by women, potentially due to differences in intra-household bargaining power.  READ MORE »

Married women with low bargaining power in the Philippines increased expenditure on female-oriented durable goods (sewing machines, kitchen appliances, etc.) by 1457 Ph Pesos when they were offered an individually owned commitment savings account, which restricted withdrawal of funds until a specified goal date or amount was reached.  READ MORE »


Vote-buying and vote-selling obstruct the democratic process, yet they remain pervasive in many developing democracies. In the Philippines, researchers found that simply asking voters to promise not to sell their vote can help reduce vote-selling in elections, but the promises only worked in smaller-stakes elections.  READ MORE »

Workers participating in a national workfare program in India spent 19 percent less time collecting each payment and collected payments 10 days sooner when they received their wages through a biometric smartcard. Household incomes increased significantly from lower leakage of transferred funds. READ MORE »

In Sierra Leone, watching debates substantially increased political knowledge, policy alignment, and vote shares for higher-quality candidates. The debates also encouraged politicians to invest more in their constituencies, both during the campaign and one year later.  READ MORE »


Mass school-based deworming in Western Kenya increased school attendance in the short term, improves productivity in the long term, and even benefits untreated neighbors and siblings. READ MORE »

Studies across a range of health products show that charging small fees dramatically reduces access to important products for the poor.  READ MORE »

In Bangladesh, a community-motivation model that has been used in over 60 countries to increase use of hygienic latrines had no effect, yet latrine coverage expanded substantially when that model was combined with subsidies for hygienic latrines targeted to the poor.  READ MORE »

Safe sexual behavior starting from adolescence is critical to combating HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, researchers found that a program informing adolescents that older “sugar daddies” are much more likely to have HIV than their adolescent peers reduced teen pregnancy by 28 percent--a proxy for unprotected sex. The girls also reported having fewer sexual relationships with older men. The official abstinence only curriculum had no effect on teen pregnancy, however.  READ MORE »

Charging even small prices to pregnant women in Kenya for insecticide-treated bednets significantly reduced coverage of this proven way to prevent malaria. This research is part of a body of evidence on the importance of price in extending the reach of health products to the poor.  READ MORE »

When recruiting community health workers in Zambia, emphasizing career incentives rather than social incentives attracted workers who were more qualified and performed better on the job. These workers conducted 29 percent more household visits and organized twice as many community meetings, while also seeing the same number of patients. READ MORE »

Text message reminders in Ghana increased adherence to malaria treatment by five percentage points. Further research is needed to develop the most effective text message content and frequency, and to shed light on why people fail to complete their medication.  READ MORE »

Offering families small, non-financial incentives in addition to reliable services and education in India was a cost-effective method of increasing uptake of vaccinations.  READ MORE »

Peace & Recovery

A program that gave cash grants and basic business skills training to the poorest and most excluded women in post-war northern Uganda led to dramatic increases in business and reductions in poverty. However, there was little change in social integration, physical or mental health, or empowerment. READ MORE »

In Liberia, communities that received alternative dispute resolution (ADR) trainings were more likely to resolve land disputes, experienced less violence, and had higher levels of satisfaction with the dispute resolution process— especially for long-standing disputes. READ MORE »

Behavioral therapy with cash grants led to significant fall in crime, drug use, and violence among high-risk urban men in Liberia.  READ MORE »

In Sierra Leone, a community-based reconciliation program led to greater forgiveness of perpetrators and strengthened social capital, but it also worsened psychological health. The findings suggest that reconciliation processes should be restructured in ways that reduce their negative psychological costs, while retaining their positive societal benefits. READ MORE »

Small & Medium Enterprises

SME borrowers who are regularly called either by a single assigned relationship manager, or by one manager randomly selected from a small team of managers, show much better repayment behavior and greater satisfaction with the bank services than borrowers who either receive no follow up or only receive follow up calls from the bank when they are delinquent.  READ MORE »

Credit scores improved the productivity of credit committees, reduced managerial involvement in the loan approval process, and increased the profitability of lending to SMEs. Credit committee members' effort and output also increase when they anticipate the score becoming available, indicating that scores improve incentives to use existing information. READ MORE »

Researchers conducted a business plan competition to determine whether survey instruments or panel judges were able to predict which participating firms would grow fastest. They found that a measure of ability correlated quite strongly with future growth, but that the panel scores add to predictive power. READ MORE »

Access to management consulting led to better firm performance: one-year results showed positive effects on return-on-assets and total factor productivity, as well as a large increase in the number of employees and total wage bill several years after the program. Owners also had large increases in “entrepreneurial spirit” (an entrepreneurs’ managerial confidence index).   READ MORE »

Egyptian carpet makers who were offered the opportunity to export reported profits that were 15-25 percent higher than firms not offered export contracts. Exporting firms also displayed gradual improvements in output quality, indicating that through exporting firms, small business owners can learn new skills and techniques and become more productive.  READ MORE »

Micro-entrepreneurs in the Dominican Republic were on average 11 percentage points more likely than the comparison group to keep accounting records and separate books for business and personal expenses after receiving financial training based on simple rules-of-thumb. This group also displayed higher sales during bad weeks.  READ MORE »


Social Protection

A six-pronged holistic approach to helping the ultra poor, the approximately one billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day, was tested in six countries and showed benefits that lasted. Even a year after the program ended, participants earned more, consumed more, had more assets, skipped fewer meals, and had more savings.  READ MORE »

Giving farmers in Bangladesh $11, enough to pay for travel costs, nearly doubled the percentage of farmers who migrated to cities for work during the agricultural off season, and improved food security for the migrants' entire family. Even though the farmers received the incentive only once, they continued to migrate for three more years without the extra nudge.  READ MORE »

A study on the impact of GiveDirectly’s unconditional cash transfer program in Kenya demonstrated that the program had significant welfare-improving impacts, both economically and psychologically, for transfer recipients.  READ MORE »

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