We study the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals selected from the general population of poor households in rural Ghana. Results from 2-3 months after a randomized intervention show strong impacts on mental and physical health, cognitive and socioemotional skills, and downstream economic outcomes. We find no evidence of heterogeneity by baseline mental distress; we argue that this is because CBT can improve human capital for a general population of poor individuals through two pathways. First, CBT reduces vulnerability to deteriorating mental health; and second, CBT directly improves bandwidth, increasing cognitive and socioemotional skills and hence economic outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated many low- and middle-income countries, causing widespread food insecurity and a sharp decline in living standards. In response to this crisis, governments and humanitarian organizations worldwide have distributed social assistance to more than 1.5 billion people. Targeting is a central challenge in administering these programmes: it remains a difficult task to rapidly identify those with the greatest need given available data. Here we show that data from mobile phone networks can improve the targeting of humanitarian assistance. Our approach uses traditional survey data to train machine-learning algorithms to recognize patterns of poverty in mobile phone data; the trained algorithms can then prioritize aid to the poorest mobile subscribers. We evaluate this approach by studying a flagship emergency cash transfer program in Togo, which used these algorithms to disburse millions of US dollars worth of COVID-19 relief aid. Our analysis compares outcomes—including exclusion errors, total social welfare, and measures of fairness—under different targeting regimes. Relative to the geographic targeting options considered by the Government of Togo, the machine-learning approach reduces errors of exclusion by 4–21%. Relative to methods requiring a comprehensive social registry (a hypothetical exercise; no such registry exists in Togo), the machine-learning approach increases exclusion errors by 9–35%. These results highlight the potential for new data sources to complement traditional methods for targeting humanitarian assistance, particularly in crisis settings in which traditional data are missing or out of date.
Almost half of all deaths of children under five years of age are attributable to malnutrition, and despite the decline in numbers, progress continues to be very slow. Malnutrition and under-nutrition, in particular, affect mainly households living in poverty. Recent research has shown that holistic livelihood programs can have a wide range of benefits for these poor families, from increasing household consumption and income to improving food security and mental health. This evaluation measured the impact of a multifaceted program on nutritional status, productive assets, and income. The program adapts the graduation approach, which combines a comprehensive set of interventions to enable ultra-poor households to develop sustainable livelihoods and resilience. It features a cash unconditional transfer, a productive investment (livestock or seeds), and a nutrition component (distribution of fortified flour), and nutrition education.
A multi-faceted program comprising a grant of productive assets, training, unconditional cash transfers, coaching, and savings has been found to build sustainable income for those in extreme poverty. We focus on two important questions: whether a mere grant of productive assets would generate similar impacts (it does not), and whether access to a savings account with a deposit collection service would generate similar impacts (it does, but they are short-lived).
In mid-2020, IPA partnered with researchers from Yale University, Stanford University, and other organizations like Green Voice in Bangladesh to research different strategies to increase mask-wearing and measure its impact on COVID-19. They found that the now called NORM model, consisting of No-cost free masks distribution, offering information on mask-wearing, Reinforcement in-person and in public, and Modeling and endorsement by trusted leaders tripled mask-wearing, increased physical distancing and reduced COVID-19. IPA partnered with Shakti Foundation to tweak this rural model into an urban context for Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and replicate the NORM program for an urban population. Overall, the intervention seemed to increase mask-wearing among middle-aged (30 to 50 years old) and men more. It has also been learning to understand the implementation impacts and challenges of the NORM module in urban areas, which has been designed in the rural setting.
In Rwanda, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work covered in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Rwandan poor.
A lo largo de la última década, cerca de 5.1 millones de venezolanos han abandonado su país. Colombia ha sido el mayor receptor de estos migrantes: a junio del 2020 el Gobierno Colombiano identificó cerca de 1.74 millones de venezolanos al interior de sus fronteras, de los cuales aproximadamente 986 mil son personas indocumentadas. La composición de esta población tiene características socioeconómicas diversas, aunque destaca que el grueso de los migrantes son personas en condición de trabajar, que buscan conseguir ingresos para ellos y sus familias.
La crisis social desatada por la pandemia del COVID-19 ha agravado la condición de vulnerabilidad de los migrantes venezolanos. ¿Qué mecanismos favorecen el bienestar de esta población? Este resumen de política pública destaca que las redes de migrantes y la posibilidad de acceder a un permiso de permanencia (PEP-RAMV) facilitan el proceso migratorio en Colombia, permitiendo una mayor integración social y económica de la población migrante en la sociedad colombiana y generando efectos positivos en su bienestar.
Para explorar el impacto potencial de estos mecanismos, este documento proporciona una descripción general de (i) la importancia de las redes de migrantes y el PEP-RAMV durante los procesos migratorios, (ii) las diferencias entre estos dos mecanismos, y (iii) cómo ambos mecanismos han mitigado los impactos negativos en los hogares generados por el COVID-19.
In April 2020, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation (MENTD) of Togo launched the Novissi cash transfer scheme. An unconditional cash transfer (UCT) to assist informal workers whose livelihoods have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, Novissi is a fully digital social assistance program. As of March 2021, Novissi has reached 819, 972 beneficiaries and disbursed approximately US$23.9 million (13,308,224,040 FCFA). This case study details the design process for the program, and its implementation during the coronavirus pandemic, which can interest leaders of social assistance programs in other contexts. It also highlights lessons learned on the use of mobile money to support fully digital social assistance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to steep drops in employment, income, and access to markets, pushing tens of millions of people in low- and middle-income countries into poverty. Social protection programming has emerged as a critical response to the social and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these programs are social assistance measures, which provide benefits to individuals even if they have not previously paid contributions into the program. Before the pandemic, cash-based social assistance has been shown to successfully reduce poverty and enhance wellbeing along a number of dimensions, across many different countries. But what is known about the extent to which cash transfers have mitigated the worst social, economic, and health impacts of the pandemic? And who has benefitted the most from such assistance?
This review collates the current evidence on cash during the pandemic across a range of outcomes including food security and nutrition, livelihood support, health behaviors, and inequalities. It does so by highlighting rigorous impact evaluations of cash-based programs from countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. These programs include cash transfers (CTs), universal basic income (UBI), and public works programs (PWPs). This review is not exhaustive, but rather examines a variety of cases for which there is rigorous evidence to highlight findings emerging from the use of cash in large-scale crises. The goal of the review is to draw out key policy lessons about the implementation of these programs which can inform policy in the future.
In settings where an individual's labor choices are constrained, the inability to work may generate psychosocial harm. This paper presents a causal estimate of the psychosocial value of employment in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh. We engage 745 individuals in a field experiment with three arms: (1) a control arm, (2) a weekly cash arm, and (3) a gainful employment arm, in which work is o ered and individuals are paid weekly the approximate equivalent of that in the cash arm. We find that employment confers significant psychosocial benefits beyond the impacts of cash alone, with effects concentrated among males. The cash arm does not improve psychosocial wellbeing, despite the provision of cash at a weekly amount that is more than twice the amount held by recipients in savings at baseline. Consistent with these findings, we find that 66% of those in our work treatment are willing to forego cash payments to instead work for free. Our results have implications for social protection policies for the unemployed in low income countries and refugee populations globally.
Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers, practitioners, and funders are faced with competing ideas about the best way to reduce extreme poverty. Innovations for Poverty Action conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impacts of diverse components and variants of the Village Enterprise microenterprise program, an integrated poverty alleviation intervention that provides poor households with a combination of cash transfers, mentorship, business training, and support with the formation of savings groups, over a one-year period.
- Village Enterprise’s microenterprise development program led to increased consumption, assets, and income, as well as improvements in nutrition and subjective well-being.
- Cost-effectiveness appears high: researchers estimate a full cost recovery within three to four years.
- A cost-equivalent cash transfer appeared to have less promising medium-term impacts on poverty reduction and subjective well-being than the microenterprise program, though estimates are more ambiguous.
- Adding a light-touch behavior change component to the cash transfer changed the investment patterns of cash transfer recipients and improved subjective well-being somewhat, but cannot be characterized as a substitute for the much more heavy-touch training and mentorship interventions of the microenterprise program.
- Overall, the results suggest that training and mentorship components of integrated poverty alleviation programs are sensible and cannot simply be removed (or substituted for cash transfers). But as they are complex, more research is needed on the issue of scaling them while maintaining their quality.
La pandemia del COVID-19 ha tenido un impacto económico severo en el mundo. Buscando disminuir la velocidad de propagación del virus, varios gobiernos instauraron medidas de confinamiento desde principios de 2020. Sin embargo, esto ha generado barreras al acceso de alimentos a nivel mundial, sobre todo en los grupos más vulnerables (FAO et al., 2020). La falta de una nutrición adecuada es preocupante pues tiene repercusiones negativas en la salud y el desempeño físico y mental en todas las etapas de la vida, en especial en la primera infancia. En el largo plazo, está asociada incluso con una menor productividad e ingreso de los individuos (World Bank, 2006). Desde el inicio de la pandemia, en la región latinoamericana, en México, Guatemala y Colombia alarma la disminución de los ingresos y el aumento de los precios de los alimentos (RIMISP, 2020).
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge that has affected the health and livelihood of billions worldwide. Citizens of low-income countries have been affected by the pandemic in nearly all areas of life, and the impacts have been particularly challenging for those with limited access to social safety nets. Bangladesh is especially susceptible to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic due to its strong ties to the global economy, and these negative demand shocks are likely to persist throughout and after the pandemic.
Researchers conducted two rounds of phone surveys in July 2020 and December 2020 with 3,125 vulnerable households with children across seven regions of Bangladesh. Across the two rounds of surveys, we find that the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19pandemic have persisted at least six months after the lifting of the general economic lockdown at the end of May 2020. Collectively, these findings point to several areas of need for vulnerable households, particularly in the area of education, mental health, and gender-based violence.
¿Cómo apoyan las transferencias monetarias a las poblaciones vulnerables recientemente designadas y trabajadores informales durante una crisis económica? Para ayudar a responder estas preguntas, los investigadores están estudiando el efecto de Ingreso Solidario, una nueva transferencia monetaria no condicionada en Colombia que se puso en marcha en respuesta a la pandemia del COVID-19. Ingreso Solidario atenderá a hasta 2,6 millones de hogares de renta media baja que no estaban inscritos en otros programas de asistencia social existentes, ampliando así la cobertura de la protección social a las poblaciones de renta media baja. Los investigadores están evaluando los efectos de la transferencia en los ingresos de los beneficiarios, el gasto alimentario y no alimentario, la participación en el mercado laboral y la adopción y uso de productos financieros digitales.
Founded in 2019, IPA Nigeria develops applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into critical issues that affect the lives of the Nigerian poor.