Report Series: Policy Research Working Papers

The Policy Research Working Paper Series disseminates findings of work in progress to encourage the exchange of ideas about development issues. Titles are submitted from units around the World Bank for internal review and inclusion in this series which is managed by the Development Economics Research Support unit. These are pre-print drafts prior to review and publication in formal journals.

Published titles

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 8300
  • Publication
    Know Thy Foe: Information Provision and Air Pollution in Tbilisi
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-18) Baquié, Sandra; Behrer, A. Patrick; Du, Xinming; Fuchs, Alan; Nozaki, Natsuko K.
    Middle-income countries host the majority of the world’s population exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution, and the majority of this population lives in urban environments. This study investigates the impact of information provision on household behavior in connection with indoor and outdoor air pollution in a middle-income country’s major urban center — Tbilisi, Georgia. The study implemented a randomized controlled trial to assess whether providing households with different levels of pollution information changes their knowledge of air pollution and avoidance behavior with respect to air pollution, and improves their health outcomes. The study evaluates three treatments: a pamphlet with general information on pollution, the pamphlet combined with daily text messages about local outdoor pollution, and the pamphlet with messages about both indoor and outdoor pollution levels, supplemented with an indoor air pollution monitor. The findings show that while the pamphlet alone did not lead to behavioral change, daily text messages significantly enhanced knowledge about pollution, led to increased avoidance behaviors, and improved health outcomes. The study also examined infiltration rates throughout the city and document three facts: indoor air pollution levels are generally higher than outdoor ones, infiltration rates are high on average, and their variation is driven primarily by behaviors.
  • Publication
    A Comparative Analysis of Financial Sector Reforms and Policies in Countries Exiting Fragility
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-18) Calice, Pietro; Demekas, Dimitri G.
    Financial sector reforms are part of the strategies that countries follow to exit from fragility, but the content and focus of these reforms and the priority they are given relative to other policies vary from country to country. Based on an archival search of publicly available World Bank and the International Monetary Fund country documents, this paper investigates and compares the experiences of seven countries (Armenia, Benin, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Rwanda, Senegal, and Viet Nam) that successfully and sustainably exited fragility during the 1980s and 1990s, focusing on the financial sector reforms that were implemented around the time of the exit. The review suggests a few broad patterns. Regardless of the original causes of fragility, successful exit strategies always included financial sector reforms, which invariably focused on short-term goals: stopping bank losses, establishing monetary control, and re-starting the engine of financial intermediation and the flow of credit to the economy. Longer-term financial development goals, such as financial deepening, were recognized as important, but the requisite policy interventions came later, after the financial sector had been restored to health and was able to discharge its basic functions. Crucially, substantial, hands-on, long-term technical assistance and capacity building were in all cases necessary to ensure the long-term success of these reforms.
  • Publication
    Does Effective School Leadership Improve Student Progression and Test Scores? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Malawi
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) Asim, Salman; Gera, Ravinder Casley; Harris, Donna; Dercon, Stefan
    Evidence from high-income countries suggests that the quality of school leadership has measurable impacts on teacher behaviors and student learning achievement. However, there is a lack of rigorous evidence in low-income contexts, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study tests the impact on student progression and test scores of a two-year, multi-phase intervention to strengthen leadership skills for head teachers, deputy head teachers, and sub-district education officials. The intervention consists of two phases of classroom training along with follow-up visits, implemented over two years. It focuses on skills related to making more efficient use of resources; motivating and incentivizing teachers to improve performance; and curating a culture in which students and teachers are all motivated to strengthen learning. A randomized controlled trial was conducted in 1,198 schools in all districts of Malawi, providing evidence of the impact of the intervention at scale. The findings show that the intervention improved student test scores by 0.1 standard deviations, equivalent to around eight weeks of additional learning, as well as improving progression rates. The outcomes were achieved primarily as a result of improvements in the provision of remedial classes.
  • Publication
    Connectivity, Road Quality, and Jobs: Evidence from Armenia
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) Pkhikidze, Nino
    Good road infrastructure decreases travel time and improves accessibility to urban areas. Improved rural-urban linkages could also affect rural employment through decreased time and travel costs. To study this link, the paper analyzes the impact of good quality roads on agricultural and non-agricultural jobs in Armenia, using different sets of data and different methodological approaches. To address endogeneity and reverse causality issues of road quality, the paper uses a historical instrumental variable obtained by digitizing historical roads which were mainly used for military purposes - from a military-topographic map of the Caucasus from 1903. The results show that a shorter distance to a good quality road has a statistically significant positive impact on overall non-agricultural employment for men and women, increasing the likelihood of cash-earning jobs for rural women and skilled manual and non-seasonal employment for rural men. People are more likely to work outside their villages and work for more hours if they have access to good quality roads. The results are robust from the analysis of Demographic and Health Survey as well as the Integrated Living Conditions Survey of Armenia.
  • Publication
    Therapy, Mental Health, and Human Capital Accumulation among Adolescents in Uganda
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) Baird, Sarah; Ozler, Berk; Dell'Aira, Chiara; Parisotto, Luca; Us-Salam, Danish
    Using a cluster-randomized trial, this paper evaluates the impact of group-based interpersonal therapy on mental health and human capital accumulation among adolescent girls in Uganda who were at risk of moderate or severe depression at baseline. The study was designed to test whether lay provider–led group-based interpersonal therapy for adolescents could be effectively scaled up using modest resources in a low-income country. It also tested whether a lump-sum cash transfer offered at the end of therapy provided any additional benefit. The findings show that group-based interpersonal therapy increased the share of adolescents with minimal depression by 20-30 percent 12 months after therapy, but these effects dissipated by the 24-month follow-up. Small short-term effects on human capital accumulation were also not sustained at 24 months. Surprisingly, the marginal effect of providing cash transfers to group-based interpersonal therapy beneficiaries on mental health was large and negative, persisting two years after baseline. The paper provides suggestive evidence that the adolescents were frustrated by their inability to use the cash toward their own goals because of the need to divert funds toward the essential needs of their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Publication
    Are Short-Term Gains in Learning Outcomes Possible? Evidence from the Malawi Education Sector Improvement Project
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) Asim, Salman; Gera, Ravinder Casley
    This paper presents evidence of the impact of a five-year package of interconnected interventions intended to improve learning environments in eight disadvantaged districts in Malawi. The intervention, which was implemented over five years, provided additional finance to schools to support the hiring of additional teachers and construction of learning shelters to improve class sizes in lower primary, along with constructing classrooms and providing results-based finance to reward improvements in staffing. The interventions were targeted to eight districts with longstanding disadvantages in staffing, learning environments, and learning outcomes, particularly for girls. Employing administrative data and data from a nationally representative independent sample of public primary schools, the analysis finds that these investments closed the gap in learning outcomes between the targeted districts and the rest of Malawi. There is also suggestive evidence that the program reduced learning gaps between girls and boys. The findings suggest that even in a low-income environment with significant constraints, targeted efforts to reduce class sizes can close district-level gaps in learning.
  • Publication
    The Fertility Impacts of Development Programs
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) Donald, Aletheia; Goldstein, Markuz; Koroknay-Palicz, Tricia; Sage, Mathilde
    This paper examines how women’s fertility responds to increases in their earnings and household wealth, using six experiments conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa. Contrary to predictions that an increase in female earnings raises the opportunity cost of childbearing and that this will lower fertility, the findings show that an increase in the profits of female business-owners in Ethiopia and Togo results in them having more children. The findings also show a positive fertility response to increases in the value of household assets induced by land formalization programs in Benin and Ghana. These results are driven by women who are in most need of sons for support in old age or in the event of widowhood. The findings suggest that women’s lack of long-term economic security is an important driver of fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Publication
    When Does Decision-Making Reflect Agency? Evidence from the Rural Philippines
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) Arugay, Aries; Donald, Aletheia; Jarvis, Forest; Johnson, Hillary C.; Valenciano, Aletheia
    Decision-making is often used as a proxy for agency—the ability to set goals and act on them—although there are several theoretical critiques of this approach. Using unique data from the rural Philippines, this paper empirically tests the extent to which different aspects of decision-making are correlated with the Relative Autonomy Index, a measure of agency that has been validated for use in lower-income countries. Being a decision-maker (as asked in common survey questions) is only weakly related to the Relative Autonomy Index for women, and not at all for men. Having input into decisions and, to a greater extent, the ability to make personal decisions if desired are strongly associated with the RAI for both genders. The quantitative and qualitative data indicate that these concepts better capture the ability to make choices in line with one’s personal goals, while being a decision-maker instead reflects being responsible for the outcome or managing the execution of a task, often in the face of limited options. The findings caution against focusing on being a decision-maker as a sole indicator of agency and have practical implications for both conceptualizing and measuring agency.
  • Publication
    Financial Development and Fragility: A Clustering Analysis
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-17) João, Igor Custodio; Calice, Pietro; Lucas, Andre; Schaumburg, Julia
    This paper explores the potential correlations between financial development and state fragility, using a sample of 137 countries observed over the period from 1998–2019. The countries are grouped into clusters that capture the different joint states of financial development and fragility. The paper introduces a new switching methodology to further allow for a qualification of the evolution of countries in terms. of fragility scores with and without controlling for other variables. Irrespective of the precise methodology and state fragility measure as used in this paper, the findings indicate a negative correlation between financial development and state fragility, after controlling for several forms of observed and unobserved heterogeneity.
  • Publication
    A Metric of Global Maritime Supply Chain Disruptions: The Global Supply Chain Stress Index (GSCSI)
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2024-07-16) Arvis, Jean-François; Rastogi, Cordula; Rodrigue, Jean-Paul; Ulybina, Daria
    Global supply chains recently faced widespread disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in 2021 and 2022, while in late 2023, geopolitical incidents in the Red Sea and water shortages in the Panama Canal disrupted global shipping routes. Regardless of the cause, delays, or rerouting mean that disruption diffuses at a global scale. To quantify and assess the magnitude of disruptions globally or locally, in 2021, the World Bank developed a proposed metric, the Global Supply Chain Stress Index. The index derives from Automatic Identification System tracking data. It calculates the equivalent stalled ship capacity measured in twenty-foot equivalent units), providing data at the port, country, regional, and global levels. This granular information can inform targeted interventions and contingency planning, improving the resilience of maritime infrastructure and networks. The index explains the observed surges in shipping rates during disruptions, assuming shippers’ willingness to pay for scarcer shipping slots. An increase of 1 million twenty-foot equivalent units in global stress pushes the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index up by US$2,300 per twenty-foot equivalent unit.