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Stunting, or being too short for one’s age, is a warning signal that a child is at risk of failing to reach their full physical and developmental potential. Stunting is caused by poor nutrition during pregnancy, inadequate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, and repeated infections. Stunting has been associated with impaired brain development, poor school achievement and progress, reduced earnings in adulthood, and a higher probability of living in poverty. Stunted children are also at an increased risk of morbidity and childhood mortality from infectious diseases. In this brief, Innovations for Poverty Action’s Path-to-Scale Research team has compiled evidence from interventions to improve child growth and nutritional status in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
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Brief
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November 04, 2021
Can information and communication technologies help citizens monitor their elections? We analyze a large-scale field experiment designed to answer this question in Colombia. We leveraged Facebook advertisements sent to over 4 million potential voters to encourage citizen reporting of irregularities and varied whether candidates were informed about the campaign in a subset of municipalities. Total reports, as well as evidence-backed ones, experienced a large increase. Across a wide array of measures, electoral irregularities decreased. Finally, the reporting campaign reduced the vote share of candidates dependent on irregularities. This light-touch intervention is more cost-effective than monitoring efforts traditionally used by policymakers.
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Working Paper
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October 28, 2021
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Women who become pregnant less than 24 months after giving birth face numerous risks to their own health and the health of their child. As such, postpartum family planning services can help women to better space pregnancies and mitigate health risks. However, little is known about how postpartum family planning impacts women’s contraceptive use, fertility choices and birth spacing.  In a new policy brief, Mahesh Karra, Associate Director of the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) at Boston University's Global Development Policy Center, and four coauthors analyze their results from a randomized controlled trial that provided new and expecting mothers in Lilongwe, Malawi with access to a range of postpartum family planning services between September 2016 and February 2019. The services consisted of a combination of home visits from a family planning counselor, free transportation to a family planning clinic and financial reimbursement for purchasing services from the clinic.  Key Findings: Po...
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Brief
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October 25, 2021
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The area of family planning is unique in that the patient, rather than the provider, is seen as the key decision-maker in determining the best course of treatment. As such, family planning programs strive to afford women and couples the greatest degree of choice over contraceptive methods, and consequently invest significant resources into providing patients with complete and accurate information. Counselors often consult with patients about their options, but little is known about how the information and contraceptive methods that are presented during counseling sessions shape the way women make informed choices about their preferred contraceptive methods.  In a new policy brief, Mahesh Karra, Associate Director of the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) at Boston University's Global Development Policy Center, and Kexin Zhang assess the results of a 2019 study conducted with 785 married women from Lilongwe, Malawi. The study aimed to evaluate how user-centered counseling approaches to fami...
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Brief
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October 25, 2021
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Humanitarian crises affect over 200 million people globally and exact a large toll on population mental health. We assessed the impact of an economic transfer program on the mental health of internally displaced persons and host populations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We conducted a randomised trial among vulnerable households residing in 25 villages in North Kivu Province, DRC, where a large United Nations program responds to population displacement by providing economic transfers in the form of vouchers for essential household items (EHI). Households that were in need of assistance but outside the program’s standard eligibility criteria were randomly assigned (1:1) to a “voucher” or to “no intervention”. Households in the voucher group received US$50-92 worth of vouchers to use at a fair where EHI, such as blankets, clothes, buckets, and pans, were sold. The head woman of each household was interviewed just before the fair, six weeks and one year after the fair. T...
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Working Paper
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October 14, 2021
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Despite the potential of intergroup contact, there is little rigorous evidence about whether it can build lasting real-world behavior change in areas affected by conflict and ethnic violence. Evidence on the extent to which this tolerance can extend outside the intervention, or spillover to others in the community, is likewise sparse. To test whether positive and cooperative contact can improve relations across groups in post-conflict communities, Salma Mousa (Yale) randomly assigned displaced Christians either to play with Muslims, or fellow Christians, through a two-month soccer league in an ISIS-affected area of Iraq.
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Report
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October 05, 2021
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Mobile financial services have become the main channel of financial inclusion, especially in low-income countries. However, consumer protection failures in the sector remain common. In Uganda, researchers partnered with the Uganda Communications Commission to conduct a phone-based survey among 1,000 users of mobile financial services to inquire about their experiences. In addition, they are leveraging access to mobile network operators’ customer care logs to test and implement new tools for analyzing complaints and resolving disputes. This final report summarizes the key findings and recommendations from IPA's work with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) analyzing consumer complaints records. A report summarizing the findings from the consumer survey can be found here.
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Report
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September 29, 2021
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Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women-led businesses have suffered disproportionately from the slowing pace of business activity. A gender-intentional approach to short-term mitigation and long-term recovery could address some of the gender-specific dimensions of COVID-related shocks and protect gains made on gender equality in recent years. In this brief, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) has compiled key policy-relevant findings for the short- and long-term recovery from the COVID-19 crisis of women-led businesses in low- and middle-income countries. These insights may help inform the design of programs and policies to support women-led businesses in the context of the current pandemic and beyond.
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Brief
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September 27, 2021
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A central challenge to telephone surveys is low response rates. This is particularly true for random digit dial (RDD) surveys, which have especially low response rates. For researchers designing RDD survey protocols, there is a clear tradeoff between effort and composition, where surveys can achieve a higher response rate by calling fewer numbers repeatedly or by calling more numbers less intensively. This brief explores this tradeoff by measuring the effects of (i) repeated attempts per case, and (ii) rescheduling a call, on completion rates and sample composition. Using data from nine low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), we find that repeated and rescheduled attempts result in lower completion rates than new attempts, on average. However, the respondents who complete the survey in later attempts or after rescheduling have statistically significant differences in observable characteristics. This suggests that more call attempts may be needed to adequately represent the respondent...
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Phone Survey Methods Resource
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September 27, 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic forced educators and students worldwide to rapidly shift to distance learning. As a result, governments, school systems, and educators worked to provide continuity in learning and services accessed through schools—such as school feeding programs—while trying to reconcile persistent equity gaps in access to technology and material and social resources. To date, global educational research has largely focused on how existing disparities and the social and economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 have undermined children’s learning. Much less data exist on how teachers fared during distance learning and the return to in-person schooling. This brief leverages an ongoing longitudinal study on children, parents, and teachers in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Researchers conducted two rounds of phone surveys with 514 primary-school teachers from public and private schools to measure the pandemic’s repercussions on both children’s education and teacher well-being. Da...
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Brief
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September 23, 2021
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The expansion of digital credit in recent years creates an urgent need to monitor the digital credit market to develop policies to improve product suitability and responsible lending. In Kenya, this expansion over the past five years has increased access to credit but also led to new consumer risks. The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) and IPA audited loan data from Kenya’s leading digital credit providers to inform the development of consumer protection policy strategies for the tens of millions of Kenyans who use digital credit products.
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Report
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September 23, 2021
Español
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...
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Brief
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September 21, 2021
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Overview IPA’s Human Trafficking Research Initiative (HTRI) has launched its first Call for Expressions of Interest for full randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the impact of countertrafficking programs. Proposals are due by 11:59 pm US Eastern time on October 15, 2021. HTRI welcomes proposals to assess counter-trafficking interventions across the “4 Ps” of trafficking (prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership). Applicants should review HTRI’s Learning and Research Agenda, which outlines key learning questions and priority areas of research. Research should be designed to directly measure impact within specific sectors of counter-trafficking and respond to one or more of HTRI’s learning questions. Applicants can request full funding for RCTs, partial funding for RCTs, or funding for new arms of existing RCTs, as described below: Full rigorous studies to assess the impact of a counter-trafficking program. These grants are for research projects with a clear research...
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Research Resource
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September 13, 2021
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The reintegration of former members of violent extremist groups is a pressing policy challenge. Governments and policymakers often have to change minds among reticent populations and shift perceived community norms in order to pave the way for peaceful reintegration. How can they do so on a mass scale? Previous research shows that messages from trusted authorities can be effective in creating attitude change and shifting perceptions of social norms. In this study, we test whether messages from religious leaders—trusted authorities in many communities worldwide—can change minds and shift norms around an issue related to conflict resolution: the reintegration of former members of violent extremist groups. Our study takes place in Maiduguri, Nigeria, the birthplace of the violent extremist group Boko Haram. Participants were randomly assigned to listen to either a placebo radio message or to a treatment message from a religious leader emphasizing the importance of forgiveness, announcing...
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Published Paper
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September 09, 2021
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Objectives: Disrespectful and poor treatment of newborns such as unnecessary separation from parents or failure to obtain parental consent for medical procedures occurs at health facilities across contexts, but little research has investigated the prevalence, risk factors, or associated outcomes. This study examined these experiences and associations with healthcare satisfaction, use, and breastfeeding. Design: Prospective cohort study Setting: Health facilities in Nairobi and Kiambu counties in Kenya Participants: Data were collected from women who delivered in health facilities between September 2019 and January 2020. The sample included 1,014 women surveyed at baseline and at least one follow-up at 2-4 or 10 weeks postpartum. Primary and secondary outcome measures: 1) Outcomes related to satisfaction with care and care utilization, 2) Continuation of post-discharge newborn care practices such as breastfeeding. Results: 17.6% of women reported being separated from their newborns at t...
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Published Paper
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September 05, 2021
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A randomized-trial of community-level mask promotion in rural Bangladesh during COVID-19 shows that the intervention increased mask-use and reduced symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections.
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Working Paper
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September 01, 2021
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El uso de fuerzas militares para tareas de seguridad pública se ha convertido en un enfoque común para combatir el crimen y la inseguridad. Los promotores de estas políticas de "mano dura" las consideran necesarias para controlar el crimen, mientras que los detractores afirman que podrían violentar los derechos humanos. En Cali, Colombia, los investigadores llevaron a cabo una evaluación aleatoria de un programa de policía militar llamado “Plan Fortaleza” para medir rigurosamente los impactos de la policía militar en las tasas de criminalidad y los derechos humanos. Los resultados revelaron que el programa de policía militar no tuvo ningún impacto en la delincuencia durante la implementación y tuvo efectos negativos después de su finalización.
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Brief
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August 09, 2021
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La evidencia sugiere que las habilidades socioemocionales, como la empatía y la regulación emocional, juegan un papel importante a lo largo de la vida de una persona, pero existe poca evidencia sobre el impacto de enseñar estas habilidades a niños y niñas muy pequeños. En Colombia, las investigadoras están evaluando el impacto de un currículo con enfoque socio emocional para la primera infancia en la empatía, inclusión, compasión, resolución de problemas, pensamiento crítico, colaboración, regulación emocional, generosidad, defensa y cuidado de los demás.
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August 09, 2021
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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.
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Brief
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August 04, 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately threatens vulnerable populations, including women and especially pregnant and post-partum women. Early estimates suggest that maternal and child deaths could increase by 8.7-38.6% and 9.8-44.7%, respectively, across low and middle-income countries (LMIC) due to disruptions in healthcare access and food insecurity. A global systematic review of impacts on maternal health found evidence of disruptions to healthcare services, reduced use of antenatal care, decreased access to family planning, and increased stress, anxiety, and depression related in part to isolation and fear of COVID-19 infection.3 Approximately one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, there continues to be a lack of information on the social, economic, and health impacts of the pandemic on pregnant and post-partum women and their infants, particularly from LMICs. Prior to the pandemic, Kenya, in particular, reported one of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the wo...
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August 02, 2021

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