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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...
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Brief
Date:
July 29, 2021
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In a collective effort bringing together 15 studies, researchers from over 30 institutions surveyed over 20,000 individuals between June 2020 and January 2021 on questions regarding respondents’ vaccine acceptance and hesitancy and their most trusted sources for vaccination advice. During some surveys, results from COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials had yet to be announced, and during later surveys, governments had started approving vaccines for use. The fast-moving nature of COVID-19 information may change people’s perceptions about vaccines by the time they are widely available in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Over the past six months, the body of evidence demonstrating the safety and efficacy of available COVID-19 vaccines, which have been given to millions of people, has become clearer. At the same time, severe, but rare, side effects may have undermined public confidence.
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Brief
Date:
July 19, 2021
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Widespread acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines is crucial for achieving sufficient immunization coverage to end the global pandemic, yet few studies have investigated COVID-19 vaccination attitudes in lower-income countries, where large-scale vaccination is just beginning. We analyze COVID-19 vaccine acceptance across 15 survey samples covering 10 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in Asia, Africa and South America, Russia (an upper-middle-income country) and the United States, including a total of 44,260 individuals. We find considerably higher willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine in our LMIC samples (mean 80.3%; median 78%; range 30.1 percentage points) compared with the United States (mean 64.6%) and Russia (mean 30.4%). Vaccine acceptance in LMICs is primarily explained by an interest in personal protection against COVID-19, while concern about side effects is the most common reason for hesitancy. Health workers are the most trusted sources of guidance about COVID-19 vaccines....
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Published Paper
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July 16, 2021
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Over the last five years, there has been increasing interest from global stakeholders in the relationship between cash transfers and gender-based violence, and in particular, intimate partner violence (IPV). Interest has grown both within the development and humanitarian spaces, although empirical research is mainly concentrated in the former. A mixed-method review paper published in 2018 found that, across 22 quantitative or qualitative studies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the majority (73%) showed that cash decreased IPV; however, two studies showed mixed effects, and several others showed heterogeneous impacts (Buller et al. 2018). A more recent meta-analysis of 14 experimental and quasiexperimental cash transfer studies found average decreases in physical/sexual IPV (4 percentage points (pp)), emotional IPV (2 pp), and controlling behaviors (4 pp) (Baranov et al. 2021). A feature of this literature is the high representation of evaluations from Latin America, primar...
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Report
Date:
July 07, 2021
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We study a simple savings scheme that allows workers to defer receipt of part of their wages for three months at zero interest. The scheme significantly increases savings during the deferral period, leading to higher post-disbursement spending on lumpy expenditures. Two years later, after two additional rounds of the savings scheme, we find that treated workers have made permanent improvements to their homes. The popularity of the scheme suggests a lack of good alternative savings options, and analysis of a follow-up experiment shows that demand for the scheme is also due to the scheme’s ability to address self-control issues.
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Working Paper
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July 01, 2021
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Mass media reaches a large and growing share of the population in developing countries, but can it be used to tackle poverty and change behaviors, such as the adoption of modern contraception? Given the low marginal costs of mass media campaigns, even small effects could be highly cost-effective. IPA partnered with researchers and Development Media International to evaluate the impact and cost-effectiveness of an intensive, 2.5-year mass media radio campaign in Burkina Faso that promoted family planning and aimed to dispel myths and misinformation about modern contraception.
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Brief
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June 30, 2021
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We examine optimal time of day and day of week for conducting random digit dial (RDD) surveys in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Different types of survey respondents have competing time demands that influence when they are likely to be able and willing to answer the phone and complete an interview. In this brief, we consider whether there is a best time of day or day of week for improving survey response rates and sample representativeness based on RDD surveys in nine countries. We restrict our analysis to first attempt calls, which function like a randomized experiment. We find that midday calls produce a slightly higher survey completion rate on average than morning calls across the set of nine countries we studied. Evening calls have the lowest survey completion rate. For days of week, there is no evidence of a statistically significant difference in completion rates. We find some evidence that calls earlier in the week have higher contact rates than those made later in t...
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Phone Survey Methods Resource
Date:
June 30, 2021
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The COVID 19 pandemic and the associated social and economic downturn are undermining children's educational and developmental outcomes, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Leveraging an on-going longitudinal study, researchers in Ghana conducted phone surveys and other research activities to measure the pandemic’s repercussions on children’s education and broader developmental outcomes. On average, private school students and students with high socioeconomic status had higher test scores at the end of the school closure period compared with their public- school counterparts, even when controlling of their previous scores. Additionally, 72 percent of public school children missed daily lunches that are received by the Ghana School Feeding Program and 30 percent of surveyed children claimed they experienced hunger during school closures.
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Brief
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June 29, 2021
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Education in the 21st century has taken a new dimension with emphasis on modernization and technology. Over the last few years, the Government of Ghana has aimed to improve education sector performance through its education reform programmes to strengthen service delivery and ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes and future workforce development. Improving access and quality of education in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has made these efforts more challenging. The Ministry of Education has therefore aimed to identify ways to ensure education targets are achievable and sustainable through innovations and effective quality control systems for better planning, accountability, teaching, and learning. The Evidence Summit, which forms part of the National Education Week (NEW), will bring together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to: a) share rigorous evidence that has been collected about innovative approaches to improving access to...
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Report
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June 26, 2021
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Childhood immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions to date, preventing an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year and severe morbidity for millions more children from devastating diseases such as polio and the hepatitis B virus. Although there have been substantial gains in childhood immunization globally, coverage still lags in many countries, leaving millions vulnerable to disease. A particular challenge is on the demand side—low acceptance and uptake despite availability of vaccine supplies and services. Demand-side interventions target the barriers to acceptance and uptake, such as lack of awareness about the schedule and benefits, low prioritization of immunization, financial obstacles, or distrust in immunization. These interventions will only move the needle in the context of a functioning vaccine supply chain and effective health services. In this brief, Innovations for Poverty Action’s Path-to-Scale Research team has compiled...
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Brief
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June 24, 2021
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Lessons from randomized evaluations on managing and preventing crime, violence, and conflict  What are the most promising strategies for reducing crime, violence, and conflict? The past decade has seen a dramatic expansion in the experimental literature designed to help answer this question. Moving beyond evaluations of individual programs, increasingly, these studies are striving to test broader hypotheses about how programs work (i.e. what are the key program components driving change) and to generate insights into human behavior (i.e. why individuals may be motivated to act in certain ways). This evidence review, prepared by staff at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) ) for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), offers a broad review of the expansion of this literature and seeks to capture some of the emerging insights from across these studies. The review has been prepared as part of J-PAL and IPA’s Governan...
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Report
Date:
June 23, 2021
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Instead of using long questionnaires administered in person, researchers are increasingly turning to phone surveys, which require shorter instruments but can be administered over multiple, shorter interviews. A limitation of high-frequency phone surveys is study attrition, where individuals enrolled in a baseline survey may not be reachable or willing to complete follow-up interviews. This brief shares some evidence on phone survey attrition calculated from existing data collected in the early 2010s in Tanzania and Senegal. In these cases, the researchers distributed devices to respondents, ensuring the best-known conditions for minimizing attrition. In addition to presenting attrition rates calculated over multiple survey waves, the brief explores whether there is differential attrition by respondent type, examining changes to the sample composition. Differential attrition can lead to bias in the parameters that researchers are trying to estimate. The results show that attrition was...
Type:
Phone Survey Methods Resource
Date:
May 21, 2021
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For the public health sector, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines presents new challenges—a rapid timeline, targeting of adults, and, given limited initial supply, prioritization of high-risk populations. Research on these challenges in the context of childhood immunization has shed light on the barriers and enablers to vaccination, as well as effective demand-generation strategies to improve acceptance and uptake. While new information will emerge over time, evidence from decades of global efforts to immunize children offers important lessons to inform COVID-19 vaccination rollouts. In this brief, Innovations for Poverty Action’s Path-to-Scale Research team has compiled evidence from demand-side interventions to increase vaccination in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to help inform COVID-19 vaccination programming.
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Brief
Date:
May 20, 2021
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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 protec...
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Working Paper
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May 19, 2021
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Empirical social sciences rely heavily on surveys to measure human behavior. Previous studies show that such data are prone to random errors and systematic biases caused by social desirability, recall challenges, and the Hawthorne effect. Moreover, collecting high frequency survey data is often impossible, which is important for outcomes that fluctuate. Innovation in sensor technology might address these challenges. In this study, we use sensors to describe solar light adoption in Kenya and analyze the extent to which survey data are limited by systematic and random error. Sensor data reveal that households used lights for about 4 h per day. Frequent surveyor visits for a random sub-sample increased light use in the short term, but had no long-term effects. Despite large measurement errors in survey data, self-reported use does not differ from sensor measurements on average and differences are not correlated with household characteristics. However, mean-reverting measurement error stan...
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Published Paper
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May 18, 2021
It is often argued that people might take on too much high-cost debt because they are present focused and/or overoptimistic about how soon they will repay. We measure borrowers' present focus and overoptimism using an experiment with a large payday lender. Although the most inexperienced quartile of borrowers underestimate their likelihood of future borrowing, the more experienced three quartiles predict correctly on average. This finding contrasts sharply with priors we elicited from 103 payday lending and behavioral economics experts, who believed that the average borrower would be highly overoptimistic about getting out of debt. Borrowers are willing to pay a significant premium for an experimental incentive to avoid future borrowing, which we show implies that they perceive themselves to be time inconsistent. We use borrowers' predicted behavior and valuation of the experimental incentive to estimate a model of present focus and naivete. We then use the model to study common payday...
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Working Paper
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May 17, 2021
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Evidence suggests that face masks can slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, but getting people to consistently and properly wear masks has been a public health challenge. In Bangladesh, researchers partnered with policymakers to design and evaluate strategies to increase mask uptake. Masks were distributed to households and in public places. Mask use was promoted through role-modeling, messages by prominent Bangladeshi leaders and personalities, informational brochures, and in-person reinforcement. The researchers also tested a number of incentives and behavioral nudges, including public commitment devices and text message reminders.
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Brief
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May 13, 2021
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BACKGROUND: Limited evidence exists on how women’s experiences of care, specifically person-centered maternity care during childbirth, influence maternal and newborn health outcomes. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to examine the associations between person-centered maternity care and maternal and newborn health outcomes. STUDY DESIGN: Longitudinal data were collected with 1014 women who completed baseline at a health facility and followed up at 2 weeks and 10 weeks after birth. A validated 30-item person-centered maternity care scale was administered to postpartum women within 48 hours after childbirth. The person-centered maternity care scale has 3 subscales: dignity and respect, communication and autonomy, and supportive care. Bivariate and multivariable log Poisson regressions were used to examine the relationship between person-centered maternity care and reported maternal complications, newborn complications, postpartum depression, postpartum family planning uptake, exclusive breastf...
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Published Paper
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May 06, 2021
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Mass media can spread information and disinformation, but its impact is hard to rigorously measure. Using a two-level randomized evaluation covering 5 million people, we test both exposure to mass media (with 1,500 women receiving radios) and the impact of a high-quality, intensive 2.5 year, family planning mass media campaign in Burkina Faso (8 of 16 local radio stations received the campaign). We find women who received a radio in noncampaign areas reduced contraception use by 5.2 percentage points (p=0.039) and had more conservative gender attitudes. In contrast, modern contraceptive use rose 5.9 percentage points (p=0.046) in campaign areas and 5.8 percentage points (p=0.030) among those given radios in campaign areas. Births fell 10%. The campaign changed beliefs about contraception but not preferences, and encouraged existing users to use more consistently. We estimate the nationwide campaign scale-up led to 225,000 additional women using modern contraception, at a cost of US$7.7...
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Working Paper
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May 05, 2021
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  We use a Randomized Controlled Trial in Pakistan to test whether one-on-one engagement with community religious leaders can encourage them to advise congregants to comply with public health guidelines from state authorities. We test whether religious content in this engagement increases its effectiveness. We find that simple one-on-one engagement significantly improves the advice given by religious leaders to congregants on preventing COVID transmission in the mosque. Engagement was equally effective with or without explicitly religious content. Treatment effects are driven by the subsample who are already convinced of basic information about COVID at baseline, suggesting the treatment does not work by correcting basic knowledge about the disease. Rather, it may work through the effectiveness of one-on-one engagement that reinforces existing knowledge and connects it to actions that respondents can take in their role as community leaders.
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2021

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