Development Research Group
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Poverty and inequality, Social Protection, Gender, Maternal and Child Health
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Last updated October 24, 2023
Berk Özler is Lead Economist and Research Manager of the Poverty and Inequality Research Progam in the Development Research Group. 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 30
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2018-04) Baird, Sarah ; McKenzie, David ; Ozler, BerkThe basic economic model of labor supply has a very clear prediction of what should be expected when an adult receives an unexpected cash windfall: they should work less and earn less. This intuition underlies concerns that many types of cash transfers, ranging from government benefits to migrant remittances, will undermine work ethics and make recipients lazy. This paper discusses a range of additional channels to this simple labor-leisure trade-off that can make this intuition misleading in low- and middle-income countries, including missing markets, price effects from conditions attached to transfers, and dynamic and general equilibrium effects. The paper uses this as a lens through which to examine the evidence on the adult labor market impacts of a wide range of cash transfer programs: government transfers, charitable giving and humanitarian transfers, remittances, cash assistance for job search, cash transfers for business start-up, and bundled interventions. Overall, cash transfers that are made without an explicit employment focus (such as conditional and unconditional cash transfers and remittances) tend to result in little to no change in adult labor. The main exceptions are transfers to the elderly and some refugees, who reduce work. In contrast, transfers made for job search assistance or business start-up tend to increase adult labor supply and earnings, with the likely main channels being the alleviation of liquidity and risk constraints.
Shared Decision-Making: Can Improved Counseling Increase Willingness to Pay for Modern Contraceptives?(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-09) Athey, Susan ; Bergstrom, Katy ; Hadad, Vitor ; Jamison, Julian C. ; Ozler, Berk ; Parisotto, Luca ; Sama, Julius DohbitLong-acting reversible contraceptives are highly effective in preventing unintended pregnancies, but take-up remains low. This paper analyzes a randomized controlled trial of interventions addressing two barriers to long-acting reversible contraceptive adoption, credit, and informational constraints. The study offered discounts to the clients of a women’s hospital in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and cross-randomized a counseling strategy that encourages shared decision-making using a tablet-based app that ranks modern methods. Discounts increased uptake by 50 percent, with larger effects for adolescents. Shared decision-making tripled the share of clients adopting a long-acting reversible contraceptive at full price, from 11 to 35 percent, and discounts had no incremental impact in this group.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-11) Bergstrom, Katy ; Ozler, BerkThis paper conducts a large, narrative literature review of interventions that seek to (1) increase educational attainment, (2) delay childbearing, and/or (3) delay marriage for adolescent girls in developing countries. Using 104 interventions from 70 studies, predominantly in developing countries, the paper summarizes the performance of 16 categories of interventions in improving each of the three outcomes of interest. It then provides high-level policy strategies to improve each outcome, informed by this review. Finally, the paper discusses several promising future research avenues to help close knowledge gaps and, thus, improve policy guidance for enhancing the well-being of adolescent girls in developing settings.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DCW, 2020-11) Ozler, Berk ; Celik, Cigdem ; Cunningham, Scott ; Cuevas, P. Facundo ; Parisotto, LucaThis paper evaluates the impact of the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) in Turkey, the largest cash transfer program for international refugees in the world. The paper provides prima facie evidence that the program quickly caused substantial changes in household size and composition, with a net movement of primarily school-age children from larger ineligible households to smaller eligible ones. A sharp decline in inequality is observed in the entire study population: the Gini index declined by four percentage points (or 15 percent) within six months of program rollout, and the poverty headcount at the $3.20/day international poverty line declined by more than 50 percent after one year. ESSN caused a moderate increase in the diversity and frequency of food consumption among eligible households, and although there was no statistically significant effect on overall school enrollment, there were meaningful gains among the most vulnerable beneficiary households. To strike the right balance between transfer size and coverage, key parameters in the design of any cash transfer program, policy makers should consider the possibility that refugee populations may respond to their eligibility status by altering their household structure and living arrangements.
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, 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( 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.
No Thumbnail AvailablePublication( 2008) Elbers, Chris ; Lanjouw, Peter ; Mistiaen, Johan A. ; Ozler, BerkWe evaluate observed inequality between population groups against a benchmark of the maximum between-group inequality attainable given the number and relative sizes of those groups under examination. Because our measure is normalized by these parameters, drawing comparisons across different settings is less problematic than with conventional inequality decompositions. Moreover, our measure can decline with finer sub-partitioning of population groups. Consequently, the exact manner in which one groups the population acquires greater significance. Survey data from various countries suggest that our approach can provide a complementary perspective on the question of whether (and how much) a particular population breakdown is salient to an assessment of inequality in a country.
Publication( 2010-03-01) Baird, Sarah ; McIntosh, Craig ; Ozler, BerkConditional Cash Transfer programs are "...the world's favorite new anti-poverty device," (The Economist, July 29 2010) yet little is known about the specific role of the conditions in driving their success. In this paper, we evaluate a unique cash transfer experiment targeted at adolescent girls in Malawi that featured both a conditional (CCT) and an unconditional (UCT) treatment arm. We find that while there was a modest improvement in school enrollment in the UCT arm in comparison to the control group, this increase is only 43 percent as large as the CCT arm. The CCT arm also outperformed the UCT arm in tests of English reading comprehension. The schooling condition, however, proved costly for important non-schooling outcomes: teenage pregnancy and marriage rates were substantially higher in the CCT than the UCT arm. Our findings suggest that a CCT program for early adolescents that transitions into a UCT for older teenagers would minimize this trade-off by improving schooling outcomes while avoiding the adverse impacts of conditionality on teenage pregnancy and marriage.
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The Short-Term Impacts of a Schooling Conditional Cash Transfer Program on the Sexual Behavior of Young Women( 2010) Baird, Sarah ; Chirwa, Ephraim ; McIntosh, Craig ; Ozler, BerkRecent evidence suggests that conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs for schooling are effective in raising school enrolment 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 CCT 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 and 30%, respectively. In addition, the incidence of the onset of sexual activity was 38% lower among all program beneficiaries than the control group. Overall, these results suggest that CCT programs not only serve as useful tools for improving school attendance but may also reduce sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and early marriage.