Field Projects

Current Fieldworks
  • WHEELS OF CHANGE: IMPACT OF CYCLES ON FEMALE EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT IN ZAMBIA (2016 -- 2021)
    • Pilot starts in November 2016
    • Baseline in July-August 2017

The aim of this randomized control trial (RCT) is to estimate the impact of World Bicycle Relief’s BEEP program in Zambia, which provides access to cycles to students who live far from schools in their communities. The study proposes to rigorously test the impact of cycle distribution on education outcomes as well as outcomes pertaining to girls’ empowerment and their bargaining position in the households.

According to Basu (2006), patriarchal social norms may lead to a girl's share of household resources being more likely to be directed towards other saving (such as marriage) rather than towards investments that may dynamically improve female bargaining power over time in the community. Thus, the direct provision of a bicycle to girls may help empower adolescent girls by leapfrogging entrenched patriarchal social norms, because it is likely that households in this setting would not have chosen to buy a bicycle for girls on their own even if they were somehow constrained to spend the entire value of the cash transfer on the 'targeted' girl.

In addition, scholars of the history of women's suffrage and empowerment in the United States have noted the important role played by the bicycle in this process, with the opening quote from Susan Anthony highlighting the transformative role played by bicycles in enhancing the mobility, freedom, and independence of women in the 19th century. This historical perspective suggests that the Cycle program may be especially well designed for empowering young women by increasing their mobility and independence in a deeply patriarchal society such as rural Zambia. Also, a direct provision of cycle to girls may help empower adolescent girls and improve female bargaining power over time in the community.

This study will build on the previous study by Muralidharan and Prakash (2016) by testing if increased school access through cycles could create an enabling environment for girls to negotiate better health outcomes in addition to education outcomes. The study seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the impact of providing cycles to adolescent girls on education outcomes such as attendance, drop outs and examination scores?
  2. What is the impact of providing cycles to adolescent girls on pregnancy, marriage, fertility, mobility, bargaining power, and empowerment?
  • ZANZIBAR IMPROVING STUDENTS PROSPECTS PROJECT (2015 -- 2017)
    • Analysis underway

This is a field experiment in Zanzibar where we aim to improve learning outcomes of children in middle and secondary school.

In this randomized control trial we are studying the role of goal setting and non-financial rewards on student test scores (Mathematics and English). We also aim to answer several behavioral questions:

  1. What is the impact of goal setting and non-financial rewards on test scores?
  2. Does setting of goals increases student motivation?
  3. Does setting of goals increases student effort?
  4. Does setting of goals increases student aspiration?
  5. Does setting of goals lead to discouragement effect?
  • UNDERSTANDING CAREER CHOICE IN A DEVELOPING COUNTRY: READING THE MIND OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN CITIES IN INDIA
    • Survey completed in July 2017

This project aims to answer a very important question in the field of development economics that is so far under-studied (we are not aware of any study in a developing country setting). In particular, we aim to understand why school going children study what they study?

One objective of this project is to understand the process in which students choose their streams and career path. In particular, what are the factors that play a role in the decision-making process? Are students actively thinking about how their future career will impact future expected earnings or close sectoral supply-demand gaps? Or are non-market factors, such as peer effects, stigma, or prestige, playing a larger role in the choice process? In an attempt to understand these big picture questions, this project takes a more narrow focus of examining the decision to choose courses (or a major) in tertiary education. It looks specifically at students in secondary or higher secondary schools in smaller cities in India because this group is more likely to be subject information asymmetries pertaining to the labor market. A selected group of students in grades 10, 11, and 12 will participate in a survey examining both wage and non-wage drivers of career choice. Non-wage factors include risk aversion, stigma and prestige, lack of information, personal aspirations, and household expectations.

In developing counties, sustainable growth is closely linked to a skilled, productive labor force. Most of the recommendations to foster a skilled labor force have focused on the supply side, for example providing training programs or quality education. This project, on the other hand, takes a demand side approach, by focusing its efforts to understand how students make the transition into careers and the underlying factors that influence this decision. This is especially important in the developing world because students have limited opportunities to be retrained. It is important to understand (or at least attempt to understand) the demand side story to be able to successfully implement supply side interventions. 

Completed Fieldworks

  • POLITICAL CHANGE AND CRIME REDUCTION IN BIHAR (2014 -- 2016)
    • Data collection completed

This project aims to understand how Bihar has improved its law and order situation after 2005. We aim to collect police station level data on crime outcomes to shed light on the mechanisms that explain Bihar’s remarkable drop in violent crime, which is credited with laying the foundation for the state’s remarkable economic growth.

Since 2005, Bihar has experienced a “remarkable recovery” (BBC, 2010). Bihar’s GDP growth, which was below the national average for decades, soared to 11% per year between 2005 and 2012, one of the fastest growth rates among Indian states. Strikingly, Bihar’s turnaround was marked by a dramatic and fast improvement in law and order: road robbery decreased by 15% between 2004 and 2008, murders dropped by 6% and kidnapping went down by 37% over the same period. Bihar’s unexpected recovery was extensively discussed in the international media. The international press and domestic policy makers alike have cited the return of law and order as a major cause of Bihar’s recently improved economic fortunes.

Our project aims to understand the mechanisms through which Bihar was able to leave its history of poor law an order behind, and to achieve high level of economic growth. While the reduction in violent crime after 2005 is clearly marked in the State level crime statistics, there has been no in-depth academic study of the mechanisms through which Bihar’s political change enabled this swift improvement. Interestingly, the drop in crime that Bihar experienced after 2005 was not evenly spread across Bihar (State Crime Records Bureau, 2012). This project aims to collect a unique data set of police station level crime data, to uncover sub-district level variation in crime outcomes. This will allow us to identify which policy changes can account for local differences in crime reduction. Finally, local variation in crime trends will also allow us to test whether starker drops in crime translated into better economic outcomes. The effect of crime on the local economy will be measured using the 2012 economic census and data on land prices, depending on availability.

Our study of Bihar’s improvement of law and order adds to a growing economic literature on the effectiveness of crime reduction strategies. We aim to explore channels that have remained understudied but could be very powerful. These channels relate to the efficiency of the judicial process, the management of the police force, the political pressures on police, and employment generation on public works. Our work on Bihar holds the promise of identifying mechanisms that are relevant for the many countries and territories that suffer from the double curse of low economic growth and poor law and order.

Over the past year, ILRI in collaboration with various partners has pursued a comprehensive research agenda aimed at designing, developing and implementing market mediated index-based insurance products to protect livestock keepers from drought related asset losses they face, particularly those in the drought prone Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL). For pastoralists whose livelihoods rely solely or partly on livestock, the resulting high livestock mortality rate has devastating effects on asset levels, rendering them amongst vulnerable populations in Kenya.

Index-based insurance products represent a promising and exciting innovation that could allow the benefits of insurance to protect the climate-related risks that vulnerable rural smallholder farmers and livestock keepers face. Because index insurance is based on the realization of an outcome that cannot be influenced by insurers or policy holders (such as the amount and distribution of rainfall over a season), it has relatively simple and transparent structure. This makes such products easier to administer and consequently to more cost-effective to develop, and trade. Indeed the success of several pilot programs conducted in India, and various countries in Africa and Latin America, have proven the feasibility and affordability of such products.

Much of the initial phase of the project, which included an extensive program of fieldwork and stakeholder consultation, is now complete. The research has generated useful insights that have been used in the design of index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) products that is better targeted to the various needs of the expected clientele. Currently, an IBLI contract has been modeled, priced, tested among the target clientele and is now ready for implementation. ILRI in collaboration with partners from the public, private and non-profit sectors now plans to pilot IBLI contracts for the long rain/long dry season scanning March 2010 to September 2010 in Marsabit district.

  • CYCLING TO SCHOOL: INCREASING SECONDARY SCHOOL ENROLLMENT FOR GIRLS IN INDIA
The "Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna" (Chief Minister's Bicycle Program for secondary school girls) has been one of the flagship programs of the Govt. of Bihar in the past 5 years to improve secondary school enrollment among girls. The objective of this research work is to estimate the impact of this policy experiment on girl's educational outcomes.

Improving female education directly contributes to inclusive growth through both (a) the direct channel of improved human capital of female participants in the labour force, and (b) the indirect channel of improved human capital of the next generation (several studies have shown high-levels of inter-generational transmission of human capital from mothers to children). It would also contribute to "inclusive" growth by allowing traditionally disadvantaged groups (women) to participate more directly in the growth of the Indian economy through increased employment opportunities, by improving their intra-household bargaining position, and by providing them the 'capabilities' (in Amartya Sen's terminology) to live more meaningful lives in an increasingly complex world where the returns to education appear to be increasing.

Hence, a fundamental policy question in most developing countries (including India) is to identify cost-effective and scalable policies that improve school attainment of girls (an objective that addresses multiple Millennium Development Goals). While hundreds of schemes are launched as pilots and then discarded when the concerned officer (or government) changes, the bicycle program is one that has caught the imagination of voters as well as political leaders and its high visibility has led to heightened interest in replicating the policy across India.

So far the Government of Bihar has already spent Rs. 174.36 crores on this program in the past 3 years, but there is no reliable estimate of the impact of the program on key outcome variables or any attempt to estimate a social rate of return on this investment. A careful impact evaluation of the bicycle program is therefore a piece of analytical work that can directly feed into the policy discussions in Bihar and across India on whether programs like the "bicycle program" should be scaled up. Specifically, in this project we will measure the impact of the program on enrollment, drop-out, attendance, and school progression of adolescent girls.