Types of Research
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.
Common aid allocation formulas incorporate measures of income per capita but not measures of poverty, likely based on the assumption that rising average incomes are associated with reduced poverty. If declining poverty is the outcome of interest, however, the case of Nigeria illustrates that such aid allocation formulas could lead to poorly targeted or inefficient aid disbursements. Using data from the World Bank and the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, we find that while the relationship between economic growth and poverty in Nigeria varies depending on the time period studied, overall from 1992-2009 Nigeria’s poverty rate has only declined by 6% despite a 70% increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP). A review of the literature indicates that income inequality, the prominence of the oil sector, unemployment, corruption, and poor education and health in Nigeria may help to explain the pattern of high ongoing poverty rates in the country even in the presence of economic growth. Our analysis is limited by substantial gaps in the availability of quality data on measures of poverty and economic growth in Nigeria, an issue also raised in the literature we reviewed, but our findings support arguments that economic growth should not be assumed to lead to poverty reduction and that the relationship between these outcomes likely depends on contextual factors.
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.
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.
This brief summarizes the evidence base for various types of commonly-used time use measurements, lists categories of time use as identified by major organizations and reports, and identifies studies finding significant impacts of interventions designed to reduce specific time constraints. The various approaches to time use measurement method each have different limitations (cost, timing, seasonality, susceptibility to recall bias, etc.), which may have implications for data analysis. The choice of how to measure time use may be particularly important for analyzing women’s time use. For example, limiting respondents to one activity per time slot when measuring daily time allocation may underestimate women's productivity or time allocations, as they are more likely than men to conduct simultaneous activities, such as childcare along with other activities.
This four-part analysis describes the current suite of food security measures, then analyzes the respective relationships between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields using findings from in-depth literature reviews. Food security measures are criticized for inaccurately characterizing food security at individual, household, and national scales, yet guidelines exist to prescribe a food security measure for a given situation. Some authors see the potential of a combination of indicators that apply at different scales rather than a single, universal food security measure. Limited literature exists on the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, or crop yields. The relationship between food security and poverty is particularly challenging because neither term has a consistent definition, and the limited literature suggests a lack of consensus among experts. Little empirical research exists on the relationship between food security and GDP, though studies generally note an association between the two Studies that evaluate food security and crop yields provide limited evidence that the two are associated, though many studies use measures of crop yield as food security indicators and vice versa. More research is needed to establish whether there are preferred food security measurement tools for specific scales and situations, and to further explore the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields.
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.
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.
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.
This report reviews the current body of peer-reviewed scholarship exploring the impacts of morbidity on economic growth. This overview seeks to provide a concise introduction to the major theories and empirical evidence linking morbidity – and the myriad different measures of morbidity – to economic growth, which is defined primarily in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and related metrics (wages, productivity, etc.). Through a systematic review of published manuscripts in the fields of health economics and economic development we further identify the most commonly-used pathways linking morbidity to economic growth. We also highlight the apparent gaps in the empirical literature (i.e., theorized pathways from morbidity to growth that remain relatively untested in the published empirical literature to date).