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 - 9 of 9
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, 2006-08) Araujo, M. Caridad ; Ferreira, Francisco H.G. ; Lanjouw, Peter ; Özler, BerkThis paper provides evidence consistent with elite capture of Social Fund investment projects in Ecuador. Exploiting a unique combination of data-sets on village-level income distributions, Social Fund project administration, and province level electoral results, the authors test a simple model of project choice when local political power is unequally distributed. In accordance with the predictions of the model, poorer villages are more likely to receive projects that provide excludable (private) goods to the poor, such as latrines. Controlling for poverty, more unequal communities are less likely to receive such projects. Consistent with the hypothesis of elite capture, these results are sensitive to the specific measure of inequality used in the empirical analysis, and are strongest for expenditure shares at the top of the distribution.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2005-08) Elbers, Chris ; Lanjouw, Peter ; Mistiaen, Johan A. ; Özler, BerkThe authors propose a modification to the conventional approach of decomposing income inequality by population sub-groups. Specifically, they propose a measure that evaluates observed between-group inequality against a benchmark of maximum between-group inequality that can be attained when the number and relative sizes of groups under examination are fixed. The authors argue that such a modification can provide a complementary perspective on the question of whether a particular population breakdown is salient to an assessment of inequality in a country. As their measure normalizes between-group inequality by the number and relative sizes of groups, it is also less subject to problems of comparability across different settings. The authors show that for a large set of countries their assessment of the importance of group differences typically increases substantially on the basis of this approach. The ranking of countries (or different population groups) can also differ from that obtained using traditional decomposition methods. Finally, they observe an interesting pattern of higher levels of overall inequality in countries where their measure finds higher between-group contributions.
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.
Designing Cost-Effective Cash Transfer Programs to Boost Schooling among Young Women in Sub-Saharan Africa( 2009-10-01) Baird, Sarah ; McIntosh, Craig ; Ozler, BerkAs of 2007, 29 developing countries had some type of conditional cash transfer program in place, with many others planning or piloting one. However, the evidence base needed by a government to decide how to design a new conditional cash transfer program is severely limited in a number of critical dimensions. This paper presents one-year schooling impacts from a conditional cash transfer experiment among teenage girls and young women in Malawi, which was designed to address these shortcomings: conditionality status, size of separate transfers to the schoolgirl and the parent, and village-level saturation of treatment were all independently randomized. The authors find that the program had large impacts on school attendance: the re-enrollment rate among those who had already dropped out of school before the start of the program increased by two and a half times and the dropout rate among those in school at baseline decreased from 11 to 6 percent. These impacts were, on average, similar in the conditional and the unconditional treatment arms. Although most schooling outcomes examined here were unresponsive to variation in the size of the transfer to the parents, higher transfers given directly to the schoolgirls were associated with significantly improved school attendance and progress - but only if the transfers were conditional on school attendance. There were no spillover effects within treatment communities after the first year of program implementation. Policymakers looking to design cost-effective cash transfer programs targeted toward young women should note the relative insensitivity of these short-term program impacts with respect to conditionality and total transfer size.
Publication( 2011-04-01) Baird, Sarah ; de Hoop, Jacobus ; Ozler, BerkIn this paper, the authors investigate the effect of positive income shocks on the mental health of adolescent girls using experimental evidence from a cash transfer program in Malawi. They find that the provision of monthly cash transfers had a strong beneficial impact on the mental health of school-age girls during the two-year intervention. Among baseline schoolgirls who were offered unconditional cash transfers, the likelihood of suffering from psychological distress was 38 percent lower than the control group, while the same figure was 17 percent if the cash transfers offers were made conditional on regular school attendance. The authors find no impact on the mental health of girls who had already dropped out of school at baseline. The beneficial effects of cash transfers were limited to the intervention period and dissipated quickly after the program ended.