Types of Research
This four-part analysis describes the current suite of food security measures, then analyzes the respective relationships between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields using findings from in-depth literature reviews. Food security measures are criticized for inaccurately characterizing food security at individual, household, and national scales, yet guidelines exist to prescribe a food security measure for a given situation. Some authors see the potential of a combination of indicators that apply at different scales rather than a single, universal food security measure. Limited literature exists on the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, or crop yields. The relationship between food security and poverty is particularly challenging because neither term has a consistent definition, and the limited literature suggests a lack of consensus among experts. Little empirical research exists on the relationship between food security and GDP, though studies generally note an association between the two Studies that evaluate food security and crop yields provide limited evidence that the two are associated, though many studies use measures of crop yield as food security indicators and vice versa. More research is needed to establish whether there are preferred food security measurement tools for specific scales and situations, and to further explore the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields.
This brief provides a summary of background research for future aid-related EPAR projects. We first review prominent measures of aid, examining the definition and scope of Official Development Assistance (ODA) as well as common criticisms and alternatives to this measurement. We also provide a summary of current research on bilateral and multilateral aid allocation trends. The aid allocation literature broadly concludes that donor countries target aid based on both the needs of recipients and on strategic interests, but that aid allocation criteria differ by donor and by type of aid. Finally, we summarize current aid effectiveness literature and key challenges in exploring the impact of aid. A number of challenges in determining the effectiveness of aid were common in the literature, including the micro-macro paradox, difficulties in identifying causal mechanisms and direction of causality, and data limitations.
The literature on poverty’s causes and cures in developing countries posits a variety of contributing factors. Most researchers acknowledge that a sustained exit from poverty is complex and no single causal pathway from poverty to non-poverty exists. In this review, we present a summary framework for categorizing the various theorized pathways out of poverty, and evaluate the empirical evidence for which interventions and resulting outcomes are most frequently and most strongly associated with poverty alleviation. We conducted a literature review on pathways out of poverty for low-income households in developing countries and identified and categorized general strategies and outcomes demonstrated to be empirically associated with poverty alleviation. We organized the general strategies into four asset groups that could be targeted to alleviate poverty: human, natural, built / financial, and social / political. Much of the literature presents positive results on poverty alleviation, but it is difficult to compare across studies because many of the studies were conducted in different countries and at different scales, and use a variety of outcome measures.
This report reviews approaches to results measurement used by multilateral and bilateral donor organizations and highlights trends and gaps in how donors measure and report on their performance. Our review consists of assessing donor organizations in terms of their institutional design and levels of evaluation for results measurement, their organizational processes for measuring types of results including coordination and alignment with recipients, outputs and implementation, outcomes and impacts, and costs and effectiveness, and their processes for reporting and using results information. We collect evidence on 12 bilateral organizations and 10 multilateral organizations. The evidence review includes multi-country reviews of aid effectiveness, peer reviews by other donor organizations, donor evaluation plans and frameworks, and donor results and reporting documents. The report is based on an accompanying spreadsheet that contains the coded information from the 22 donor organizations. We find that donors report several types of results, but that there are challenges to measuring certain results at the aggregate donor level, due to challenges with funding and coordination for results measurement at the project, country, portfolio, and donor levels. Approaches to results measurement vary across donor organizations. We identify some trends and differences among groups of donors, notably between bilateral and multilateral donors, but overall there are no clear delineations in how donors approach results measurement.
Aid results information is often not comparable, since monitoring and evaluation frameworks, information gathering processes, and definitions of “results” differ across donors and governments. This report reviews approaches to results monitoring and evaluation used by governments in developing countries, and highlights trends and gaps in national monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. We collect evidence on 42 separate government M&E systems in 23 developing countries, including 17 general national M&E systems and 25 sector-specific national M&E systems, with 14 focused on HIV/AIDS, 8 on health, and 3 on agriculture. The evidence review includes external case studies and evaluations of M&E systems, government M&E assessments, M&E plans, strategic plans with an M&E component, and multi-country reviews of M&E, accountability, and aid effectiveness. We evaluate harmonization of government and development partner M&E systems, coordination and institutionalization of government M&E, challenges in data collection and monitoring, and analysis and use of results information. We also report on key characteristics of M&E systems in different sectors.
This report reviews the current body of peer-reviewed scholarship exploring the impacts of morbidity on economic growth. This overview seeks to provide a concise introduction to the major theories and empirical evidence linking morbidity – and the myriad different measures of morbidity – to economic growth, which is defined primarily in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and related metrics (wages, productivity, etc.). Through a systematic review of published manuscripts in the fields of health economics and economic development we further identify the most commonly-used pathways linking morbidity to economic growth. We also highlight the apparent gaps in the empirical literature (i.e., theorized pathways from morbidity to growth that remain relatively untested in the published empirical literature to date).
Aid donors are interested in the arguments for allocating aid via bilateral versus multilateral channels, and specifically in understanding which channel is more “effective” at supporting positive development and social outcomes. We contribute to the literature on this subject by summarizing recent OECD data on aid flows and reviewing the theoretical arguments from the aid literature on the different characteristics supporting effectiveness of bilateral versus multilateral aid. We then review the empirical literature, analyzing 40 papers that study the effectiveness of different aid channels on various outcomes. Many studies do not directly compare the effectiveness of aid channels, and the studies vary in how aid channels are defined, measured, and evaluated. Further, these studies do not directly test the hypothesized advantages of one channel of aid versus another; rather they test bilateral versus multilateral aid flows associations with development outcomes, assuming some causal mechanism is at work to explain differences in impact. We evaluate studies reporting the impacts of aid on GDP growth, governance, government investment spending, health, the HDI, poverty, and private investment, and find no consistent evidence that either bilateral or multilateral aid is more effective. The lack of conclusive evidence supporting either aid channel is likely related to differences in the methodologies of the studies included in this review, but may also be due to differences in how the theoretical arguments for the effectiveness of either channel apply in different circumstances.
Donors and governments are increasingly seeking to implement development projects through self-help groups (SHGs) in the belief that such institutional arrangements will enhance development outcomes, encourage sustainability, and foster capacity in local civil society – all at lower cost to coffers. But little is known about the effectiveness of such institutional arrangements or the potential harm that might be caused by using SHGs as ‘vehicles’ for the delivery of development aid. This report synthesizes available evidence on the effectiveness of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in promoting health, finance, agriculture, and empowerment objectives in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings are intended to inform strategic decisions about how to best use scarce resources to leverage existing SHG interventions in various geographies and to better understand how local institutions such as SHGs can serve as platforms to enhance investments.
This report draws on past and present peer-reviewed articles and published reports by institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and others to provide a scoping summary of the household-level spillovers and broader impacts of a select group of health initiatives. Rather than focusing on estimates of the direct health impacts of investments (e.g., reductions in mortality from vaccine delivery), we focus on estimates of the less-often reported spillover effects of specific health investments on household welfare or the broader economy. The brief is designed to give a concise overview of major theories linking health improvements to broader social and economic outcomes, followed by more in-depth summaries of available local- and country-level estimates of broader impacts, defined as project spillovers offering local, regional and national social and economic benefits not typically reported in project evaluations.
This report summarizes current trends in the application of Development Finance Institution (DFI)-based returnable capital finance in developing countries, with an emphasis on “pro-poor” development initiatives. We begin by reviewing the financial instruments used by DFIs. We then review the major DFI providers of returnable-capital based finance, drawing on past and present peer-reviewed articles and published reports exploring trends in the uses of different returnable capital instruments over time. Finally, we conclude by further examining recent efforts to use returnable capital to finance development initiatives explicitly targeting the poor.