Research Topics

EPAR Technical Report #333
Publication Date: 03/29/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

In this report, we analyze the evidence that improved and expanded access to financial services can be a pathway out of poverty in Bangladesh and Tanzania. A brief background review of finance and poverty reduction evidence at the country, household, and individual level emphasizes the importance of a functioning financial system and the need to remove individual and household barriers to capital accumulation. We follow with an in-depth literature review on studies that link poverty reduction in Bangladesh or Tanzania with one or more of five financial intervention categories: remittances; government subsidies; conditional and unconditional cash transfers; credit; and combination programs. The resulting empirical evidence from these sources reveal a high share (61%) of positive reported associations between a financial intervention and outcome measure related to our five chosen financial interventions. The remaining studies found insignificant or mixed associations, but very few (3 out of 56) indicate that access to a financial mechanism was associated with worsened poverty. The heterogeneity of study types and interventions makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the efficacy of one intervention over another, and more research is needed on whether such approaches constitute a durable, long-term exit from poverty.

EPAR Research Brief #332
Publication Date: 02/26/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Household survey data are a key source of information for policy-makers at all levels. In developing countries, household data are commonly used to target interventions and evaluate progress towards development goals. The World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) are a particularly rich source of nationally-representative panel data for six Sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. To help understand how these data are used, EPAR reviewed the existing literature referencing the LSMS-ISA and identified 415 publications, working papers, reports, and presentations with primary research based on LSMS-ISA data. We find that use of the LSMS-ISA has been increasing each year since the first survey waves were made available in 2009, with several universities, multilateral organizations, government offices, and research groups across the globe using the data to answer questions on agricultural productivity, farm management, poverty and welfare, nutrition, and several other topics.

EPAR Research Brief #320
Publication Date: 01/29/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

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.

EPAR Research Brief #316
Publication Date: 12/13/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

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.

EPAR Technical Report #307
Publication Date: 09/30/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report reviews and summarizes the existing evidence on the impact of access to financial services/products on measures of production, income and wealth, consumption and food security, and resilience for smallholder farmers  and other rural customers and their households in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study covers four main types of financial products/services: 1) credit; 2) savings; 3) insurance; 4) transactional products. We also review the very limited evidence on the effectiveness of bundling these products/services together and of combining them with other offerings such as trainings or support for access to markets, and of providing them via digital channels. We note when financial products/services have been specifically designed to serve the needs of rural customers or smallholder farmers, since the needs of these groups are often very different from those of other stakeholders.

EPAR Technical Report #300
Publication Date: 08/21/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

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. 

EPAR Technical Report #311
Publication Date: 08/06/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report provides a summary of findings from six Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) data analysis reports conducted by various agencies for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). These reports investigate barriers to financial inclusion and use of digital financial services (DFS) in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. We compile comparable gender-specific statistics, summarize the authors’ findings to determine commonalities and differences across countries, and highlight gender-specific conclusions and recommendations provided in the studies. 

EPAR Technical Report #299
Publication Date: 04/22/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

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. 

EPAR Technical Report #294
Publication Date: 03/30/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

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.

EPAR Technical Report #283
Publication Date: 12/11/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

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.