Monthly Research Highlights

August 15, 2017

Research Highlights on Financial Education: August 2017 (Download)
Poor households will not achieve the full benefits of greater financial access without the tools to make good financial decisions.
  • Redesigning financial education to engage and entertain audiences is delivering results

Traditional Programs

  • A free financial literacy class in Mexico City attracted few attendees
  • Incentives rather than knowledge created demand for formal financial services
  • Financial education programs work better when supported by complementary programs
  • Financial products are often too complex for low-income clients to evaluate

New Approaches

  • Students save more after a high school financial education program in Brazil
  • Migrant households save more when payers and receivers receive financial training together
  • A soap opera in South Africa helped people in debt learn to budget
Research Highlights on Measuring and Monitoring Global Poverty: June-July 2017 (Download)
Progress in the fight against extreme poverty is prompting new thinking about poverty measures that can supplement the current extreme poverty line of $1.90/day.
  • New research points to the future of global poverty monitoring
  • A better foundation for assessing basic needs
  • Updating the international extreme poverty line to $1.90/per person per day
  • Societal poverty—a supplement to the headcount of extreme poverty
  • Collecting data in 78 IDA countries to better monitor poverty
  • Measuring inequality at the global level faces formidable data constraints
  • In data-poor environments prediction estimators may provide a valuable option
Research Highlights on Early Childhood Development: May 2017 (Download)
Investments in young children to limit exposure to disease, ensure adequate nutrients, and provide stimulation can pay big dividends both for children and society as a whole. These research highlights explain a set of interventions and how they work or could work better.
  • Well-designed early childhood development programs can pay major dividends
  • Policies targeted to poor households miss many other hungry women and children
  • Development gaps emerge early for poor children and become larger in school
  • Mass deworming remains a sound development investment
  • A conditional cash transfer program led to fewer sick days for young children
  • School readiness programs are more effective when teachers and parents are trained together
  • Giving cash to mothers does not always lead to significantly better child health or education outcomes
  • Evidence on small-scale health interventions are poor predictors of service delivery at scale
  • Deworming in early childhood can benefit younger siblings and the community
Research Highlights on Gender Inequality: April 2017 (Download)
Gender inequalities can emerge or be closed through a surprising variety of policies, including some that aren’t explicitly designed with gender in mind.

  • Highlights on gender from the research department
  • Poverty is falling faster for female-headed households in Africa
  • Policies targeted to poor households miss many nutritionally deprived women and children
  • For young entrepreneurs, cash grants are just as effective as a training-and-startup capital program
  • Tenure insecurity in Africa costs millions in lost productivity by female farmers
  • Access to the UN Mission in Liberia’s Radio programming increased female political participation
  • A baseline report revealed high levels of sexual violence among 13-14 year-old females in Liberia
  • Gender discrimination lowers the diffusion of agricultural technologies
Research Highlights on Labor Market Policies: March 2017 (Download
Active labor market programs in developing countries have often had much smaller impacts than policymakers and participants expected.
  • Expectations and reality collide in active labor market policies
  • Labor market frictions not the reason self-employed entrepreneurs rarely hire paid workers
  • The cost of a vocational training program for the unemployed exceeded the benefits
  • Big data from an online job portal in India yields useful information about job skills and labor markets
  • Policy interventions to reduce child labor can also have unintended consequences
  • The 1998 child-labor ban in Brazil mostly affected boys with lower earning potential
  • In the short term, India’s workfare program contributed to increased agricultural productivity 
  • Wage subsidies may be particularly effective during an economic crisis: Evidence from Mexico
Research Highlights on Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa: February 2017 (Download)
Why traditional approaches to increasing agricultural productivity have failed to support a rural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • New evidence overturns traditional approaches to agriculture investment
  • Absent an increase in productivity, agriculture cannot support a rural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Direct training of farmers in Mozambique increased diffusion of new agricultural technology
  • Placing women in extension roles helped other women adopt new agricultural techniques in Mozambique
  • Improved land tenure security increased investment on parcels in Benin
  • Why plots farmed by women in Uganda may be less productive 
  • The inverse farm-size productivity relationship in Rwanda driven by labor market imperfections 
Research Highlights on Economic Geography: January 2017 (Download)
Building high-density cities and investing in transport can transform economies. 
  • High-density cities hold the key to transforming economic geography
  • Declining transport costs can boost sustainable growth but success depends on a variety of factors
  • Digital technologies can address some but not all of the barriers faced by farmers in poorer countries
  • The spatial impacts of Hukou and highways in China are very different
  • African cities with industry may provide an escape from declining farm conditions
  • Improved market access from road investments in Sub-Saharan Africa increased cropland
  • Will gold-mining lead to self-sustaining towns in Ghana?
  • Rural transport infrastructure investments in India facilitate reallocation of labor out of agriculture
Research Highlights on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Growth: December 2016 (Download)
SMEs employ about half of the workforce in developing countries. Boosting their growth could translate into higher incomes for poor households.
  • New evidence shows way forward for SME growth and job creation 
  • SMEs employ around 50 percent of workers in developing countries

  • Introduction of preferential tax regime in Georgia is a partial success 
  • Registration reform in Mexico attracted informal business owners most like formal business owners

  • Local branches of Banco Azteca improved access to finance for low-income individuals
  • Psychometric screening tool can improve loan repayment behavior

  • Consulting services can improve SME performance
  • Business literacy program not enough to improve firm performance in Bosnia
Research Highlights on Trade and Globalization: November 2016 (Download)
A populist backlash against globalization threatens to undermine growth, shared prosperity, and reduced poverty.
  • Trade, FDI and global value chains
  • Revving the engine of services trade
  • As long as large income gaps exist, people will find a path to specific destinations via transit countries
  • The trade slowdown matters, but perhaps not as much as we fear 
  • A trade facilitation reform in Serbia reduced uncertainty about customs clearance times
  • Domestic value added in exports is rising in China
  • Exporting to high-income nations leads to quality upgrading
Research Highlights on Informality: September 2016 (Download)
Informality and its links to economic growth continue to hinder developing countries.  
  • New study reveals the causes of the informal sector and its links with economic growth
  • Testing incentives to formalize firms in Benin
  • Incentives to formalize firms that worked in Malawi
  • A tax regime aimed at micro businesses increased formal business registration only in the first year in Georgia
  • Mandatory pension contributions encourage informality in Chile
  • Testing the evaluations of programs to formalize firms in Brazil
Research Highlights on Climate Change: August 2016 (Download)
Climate change is challenging our collective stewardship of carbon, trees, and water.  
  • Climate change poses urgent threat to poor of coastal Bangladesh
  • Uncertain groundwater supply may limit adoption of water-saving technology in India
  • Achieving climate change mitigation targets in China using carbon pricing: start low, rise gradually
  • Expansion of mangrove forests is needed to ease the brunt of climate change in coastal areas
  • Improved cookstove use in Ethiopia could reduce forest degradation and carbon emissions
  • Establishing protected areas slows tropical forest clearing 
Research Highlights on Governance: July 2016 (Download)
Government failures need to be solved to improve public service delivery systems. 
  • Making politics work for development: Harnessing transparency and citizen engagement

  • Reducing teacher absence more cost-effective than hiring more teachers in India

  • Politically connected firms in Egypt slow employment growth

  • Tariff evasion in Tunisia continues despite curtailed elite capture

  • Private sector doctors have more incentives to increase effort in India

  • Improving World Bank support for public sector governance reform

  • Why transplanting a “democratic deepening” success from one area of India to another failed

  • Public interest radio increases support for health and education candidates

Research Highlights on Conflict and Fragility: June 2016 (Download)
Failed states have regional and global consequences for trade, biodiversity, and the flow of refugees.
  • Smarter approaches to combating crime and violent extremism

  • Development institutions can take action now to boost peace in Syria

  • New model estimates the size of illicit activity and laundered assets in Colombia

  • Income disparities for marginalized groups fell during the post-apartheid period

  • The heavy psychological burden of reconciliation in Sierra Leone

  • Risk aversion increased sharply in the wake of 2008 post-election conflict in Kenya

  • Improving election quality in post-war Liberia