Ideas to Action:

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Cover of Working Paper 461
August 18, 2017

Evaluating Evaluations: Assessing the Quality of Aid Agency Evaluations in Global Health - Working Paper 461

We assessed the methodological quality of global health program evaluations from five major funders between 2009 and 2014. We found that most evaluations did not meet social science methodological standards in terms of relevance, validity, and reliability. Nevertheless, good quality evaluations made it possible to identify ten recommendations for improving evaluations, including a robust finding that early planning is associated with better quality.

Julia Goldberg Raifman , Felix Lam , Janeen Madan Keller , Alexander Radunsky and William Savedoff
Searching for the Devil in the Details: Learning about Development Program Design
August 4, 2016

Searching for the Devil in the Details: Learning about Development Program Design - Working Paper 434

Motivated by our experience in designing a particular social program, skill set signaling for new entrants to the labor market in Peru, we articulate the need for, and explore the empirical consequences of, alternative learning approaches to the design of development projects. We suggest that project, program, and policy design must depend on more robust learning strategies than the attempt to directly apply results from ”systematic reviews” or move prematurely to an RCT.

Sara Nadel and Lant Pritchett
December 2, 2013

Is Anyone Listening? Does US Foreign Assistance Target People’s Top Priorities? - Working Paper 348

The United States government has made repeated declarations over the last decade to align its assistance programs behind developing countries’ priorities. By utilizing public attitude surveys for 42 African and Latin American countries, this paper examines how well the US has implemented this guiding principle. Building upon the Quality of Official Development Assistance Assessment (QuODA) approach, I identify what people cite most frequently as the ‘most pressing problems’ facing their nations and then measure the percentage of US assistance commitments that are directed towards addressing them. 

October 2, 2013

Can Results-Based Payments Reduce Corruption? - Working Paper 345

A common objection to results-based programs is that they are somehow more vulnerable to corruption. This paper explains why results-based approaches to foreign aid may be less vulnerable to corruption than traditional approaches which track inputs and activities. The paper highlights corruption costs associated with failing to generate benefits and outlines the conditions under which one approach or another might be preferable. It concludes that results-based programs may be less vulnerable to corruption costs associated with failure because they limit the capacity of dishonest agents to divert funds unless those agents first improve efficiency and outputs.

August 7, 2013

Context Matters for Size: Why External Validity Claims and Development Practice Don't Mix - Working Paper 336

In this paper we examine how policymakers and practitioners should interpret the impact evaluation literature when presented with conflicting experimental and non-experimental estimates of the same intervention across varying contexts. We show three things. First, as is well known, non-experimental estimates of a treatment effect comprise a causal treatment effect and a bias term due to endogenous selection into treatment. When non-experimental estimates vary across contexts any claim for external validity of an experimental result must make the assumption that (a) treatment effects are constant across contexts, while (b) selection processes vary across contexts. This assumption is rarely stated or defended in systematic reviews of evidence. Second, as an illustration of these issues, we examine two thoroughly researched literatures in the economics of education—class size effects and gains from private schooling—which provide experimental and non-experimental estimates of causal effects from the same context and across multiple contexts.

June 4, 2013

The Future of Global Poverty in a Multi-Speed World: New Estimates of Scale and Location, 2010–2030 - Working Paper 327

In this working paper, Peter Edward and Andy Sumner introduce new model of growth, inequality, and poverty that comparison of a wide range of input assumptions. They find that it is plausible that $1.25 and $2 global poverty will reduce substantially by 2030 and the former – $1.25 poverty – could be very low by that time. However, this depends a lot on economic growth and inequality trends—up to almost an extra billion $2 poor people in one scenario.

Peter Edward and Andy Sumner
April 8, 2013

It’s All About MeE: Using Structured Experiential Learning (“e”) to Crawl the Design Space - Working Paper 322

Here we extend the basic idea of rigorous impact evaluation—the use of a valid counterfactual to make judgments about causality—to emphasize that the techniques of impact evaluation can be directly useful to implementing organizations (as opposed to impact evaluation being seen by implementing organizations as only an external threat to their funding).

Lant Pritchett , Salimah Samji and Jeffrey Hammer
March 26, 2013

Cash or Coupons? Testing the Impacts of Cash versus Vouchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo - Working Paper 320

Despite the increased use of conditional and unconditional cash-transfer programs worldwide, a majority of social protection programs in both developed and developing countries use in-kind transfers and vouchers. This paper reports the results of a randomized evaluation of an unconditional cash transfer and voucher program in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has been plagued by intense civil war for much of the past two decades.

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