Development Research Group
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Poverty and inequality, Social Protection, Gender, Maternal and Child Health
Development Research Group
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Last updated August 22, 2023
Berk Özler is a lead economist in the Development Research Group, Poverty Cluster. He received his B.Sc. in Mathematics from Bosphorous University in 1991, and his Ph.D in Economics from Cornell University in 2001. After working on poverty and inequality measurement, poverty mapping, and the 2006 World Development Report on Equity and Development earlier, he decided to combine his interests in cash transfer programs and HIV risks facing young women in Africa by designing a field experiment in Malawi. He has since been involved in a number of cluster-randomized field experiments. He is a co-founder of and a regular contributor to the Development Impact blog.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 12
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-02) Elbers, Chris ; Lanjouw, Peter F. ; Mistiaen, Johan ; Özler, Berk ; Simler, KenImportant differences exist between communities with respect to their needs, capacities, and circumstances. As central governments are not able to discern these differences fully, they seek to achieve their policy objectives by relying on decentralized mechanisms that use local information. However, household and individual characteristics within communities can also vary substantially. A growing theoretical literature suggests that inequality within communities can influence policy outcomes, and that this influence could be harmful or helpful, depending on the circumstances. Empirical investigations into the impact of inequality have, to date, largely been held back by a lack of systematic evidence on community-level inequality. The authors use household survey and population census data to estimate per capita consumption inequality within communities in three developing countries: Ecuador, Madagascar, and Mozambique. Communities are found to vary markedly from one another in terms of the degree of inequality they exhibit. The authors also show that there should be no presumption that inequality is less severe in poor communities. They argue that the kind of community-level inequality estimates generated in this paper can be used in designing and evaluating decentralized antipoverty programs.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-10) Elbers, Chris ; Fujii, Tomoki ; Lanjouw, Peter ; Özler, Berk ; Yin, WesleyUsing recently completed "poverty maps" for Cambodia, Ecuador, and Madagascar, the authors simulate the impact on poverty of transferring an exogenously given budget to geographically defined subgroups of the population according to their relative poverty status. They find large gains from targeting smaller administrative units, such as districts or villages. But these gains are still far from the poverty reduction that would be possible had the planners had access to information on household level income or consumption. The results suggest that a useful way forward might be to combine fine geographic targeting using a poverty map with within-community targeting mechanisms.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-03) Baird, Sarah ; Bohren, Aislinn ; McIntosh, Craig ; Özler, BerkThis paper formalizes the design of experiments intended specifically to study spillover effects. By first randomizing the intensity of treatment within clusters and then randomly assigning individual treatment conditional on this cluster-level intensity, a novel set of treatment effects can be identified. The paper develops a formal framework for consistent estimation of these effects, provides explicit expressions for power calculations, and shows that the power to detect average treatment effects declines precisely with the quantity that identifies the novel treatment effects. A demonstration of the technique is provided using a cash transfer program in Malawi.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-03) Baird, Sarah ; Gong, Erick ; McIntosh, Craig ; Özler, BerkAn extensive multi-disciplinary literature examines the effects of learning one's HIV status on subsequent risky sexual behaviors. However, many of these studies rely on non-experimental designs; use self-reported outcome measures, or both. This study investigates the effects of a randomly assigned home based HIV testing and counseling (HTC) intervention on risky sexual behaviors and schooling investments among school-age females in Malawi. The study finds no overall effects on HIV, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-2), or achievement test scores at follow-up. However, among the small group of individuals who tested positive for HIV, a large increase in the probability of contracting HSV-2 is found, with this effect stronger among those surprised by their test results. Similarly, those surprised by HIV-negative test results see a significant improvement in achievement test scores, consistent with increased returns to investments in human capital. The finding of increased HSV-2 prevalence among HIV-positive individuals suggests that the conventional wisdom that those who learn they are HIV-positive will adopt safer sexual practices should be treated with caution.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-11-25) Ozler, BerkGender gaps in education have closed in almost all countries, especially at the primary level. In fact, these gaps have reversed in many countries in secondary education, especially in Latin America, the Caribbean, and East Asia, where it is now boys and young men who are disadvantaged. Despite the overall progress, however, primary and secondary school enrollments for girls remain much lower than for boys for disadvantaged populations in many Sub-Saharan countries and some parts of South Asia (World Bank 2012). One of the key messages of the World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development is that much of the progress was possible when the removal of a single barrier was sufficient to make significant gains. Three main areas where this has been possible are: (i) increasing returns to education for women; (ii) removing institutional constraints; and (iii) increasing household incomes. In this policy brief, we summarize the extant evidence in these three areas and draw some policy conclusions.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-11) Demombynes, Gabriel ; Ozler, BerkThe authors examine the effects of local inequality on property and violent crime in South Africa. Their findings are consistent with economic theories relating inequality to property crime, and also with sociological theories that imply that inequality leads to crime in general. Burglary rates are 20-30 percent higher in police station jurisdictions that are the wealthiest among their neighbors, suggesting that criminals travel to neighborhoods where the expected returns from burglary are highest. The authors do not find evidence that inequality between racial groups fosters interpersonal conflict at the local level.
Publication( 2011-11-01) Baird, Sarah ; McIntosh, Craig ; Ozler, BerkDespite their explicit focus on reaching the poor, many community driven development (CDD) projects have been found to be only mildly pro-poor in their funding allocations. This paper presents evidence of an explanation that has been overlooked in the CDD literature to date: the requirement that beneficiaries must apply for projects in order to receive support. The authors first examine data on the universe of project applications and funding under Tanzania's flagship CDD program, Tanzania's Social Action Fund, and then use a census of 100 program villages to examine the determinants of both program awareness and program participation at the household level. The data paint a consistent picture at both levels: wealth, access to information, and political capital are important correlates of the ability to navigate the application process successfully. The centrally dictated features of this decentralized program appear to be the most effective mechanisms in directing funds to the poor. The results suggest that unless demand-driven projects can develop ways of soliciting engagement from a broader cross-section of the population, they are unlikely to achieve truly progressive targeting.
The Short-Term Impacts of a Schooling Conditional Cash Transfer Program on the Sexual Behavior of Young Women( 2009-10-01) Baird, Sarah ; Chirwa, Ephraim ; McIntosh, Craig ; Ozler, BerkRecent evidence suggests that conditional cash transfer programs for schooling are effective in raising school enrollment and attendance. However, there is also reason to believe that such programs can affect other outcomes, such as the sexual behavior of their young beneficiaries. Zomba Cash Transfer Program is a randomized, ongoing conditional cash transfer intervention targeting young women in Malawi that provides incentives (in the form of school fees and cash transfers) to current schoolgirls and recent dropouts to stay in or return to school. An average offer of US$10/month conditional on satisfactory school attendance plus direct payment of secondary school fees led to significant declines in early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and self-reported sexual activity among program beneficiaries after just one year of program implementation. For program beneficiaries who were out of school at baseline, the probability of getting married and becoming pregnant declined by more than 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively. In addition, the incidence of the onset of sexual activity was 38 percent lower among all program beneficiaries than the control group. Overall, these results suggest that conditional cash transfer programs not only serve as useful tools for improving school attendance, but may also reduce sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and early marriage.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-06-17) Özler, BerkGender gaps in education have closed in almost all countries, especially at the primary level. In fact, these gaps have reversed in many countries in secondary education, especially in Latin America, the Caribbean, and East Asia, where it is now boys and young men who are disadvantaged. Despite the overall progress, however, primary and secondary school enrollments for girls remain much lower than for boys for disadvantaged populations in many Sub-Saharan countries and some parts of South Asia (World Bank 2012). One of the key messages of the World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development is that much of the progress was possible when the removal of a single barrier was sufficient to make significant gains. Three main areas where this has been possible are: (i) increasing returns to education for women; (ii) removing institutional constraints; and (iii) increasing household incomes. In this policy brief, we summarize the extant evidence in these three areas and draw some policy conclusions.
Combining Preschool Teacher Training with Parenting Education: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-09) Ozler, Berk ; Fernald, Lia C. H. ; Kariger, Patricia ; McConnell, Christin ; Neuman, Michelle ; Fraga, EduardoThis paper evaluates a government program in Malawi, which aimed to improve quality at community-based childcare centers and complemented these efforts with a group-based parenting support program. Children in the integrated intervention arm (teacher training and parenting) had significantly higher scores in measures of language and socio-emotional development than children in centers receiving teacher training alone at the 18-month follow-up. However, the study finds no effects on child assessments at the 36-month follow-up. Significant improvements at the centers relating to classroom organization and teacher behavior in the teacher-training only arm did not translate into improvements in child outcomes at either follow-up. The findings suggest that, in resource-poor settings with informal preschools, programs that integrate parenting support within preschools may be more effective than programs that simply improve classroom quality.