Development that Works
  • About

    This blog highlights effective ideas in the fight against poverty and exclusion, and analyzes the impact of development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Girls and science: The Peruvian experience



    By Emma Näslund-Hadley

    Why is water wet? Why do I have brown eyes? Why do stars twinkle? A group of third-grade students at the Corazón de Jesús school outside Lima, Peru have been staying after school to grapple with questions like these.

    A girl peers at the camera through a magnifying glass, isolated on white background.

    Photo: Getty images.

    The children are part of a science tutoring project that aims to improve test scores and close learning gaps by getting struggling students excited about science.

    Most children start school with a natural love of science; they are curious to learn how the world around them works. Unfortunately, Latin American and Caribbean schools focus almost exclusively on memorization and drills, which tends to quickly extinguish any budding enthusiasm. Read more…

    Why do girls talk so much more than boys?



    Why do girls talk so much more than boys?


    A year ago, when two-year-old Ana visited her aunt Mary, she started telling her stories as soon as they met. She talked about her recent visit to the market. She talked about school. Then she talked about her little sister.

    Ana’s cousin Angel, also two years old, was visiting Aunt Mary too. However, when Aunt Mary asked him “How are you?” he just said “Fine” and turned around to go play. Aunt Mary wondered why Angel wasn’t as talkative.

    Should Aunt Mary be concerned? Should she talk to him more? Should she encourage him to talk more? She wondered if there was something she should be doing. Maybe Angel was just “born” that way, and was simply not as expressive as Ana.

    This question is at the crux of extensive discussion in the economic literature about sex differences in language acquisition and the development of social skills. Read more…

    LACEA’s Impact Evaluation Network: Call for Papers



    By Oscar Mitnik


    Call for papers

    The Impact Evaluation Network (IEN) of the Latin America and the Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) is calling for papers for its upcoming 10th Annual Meeting. The meeting will take place at the Inter-American Development Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC from Wednesday March 22 until Friday, March 24, 2017.

    Active since 2007, the IEN is an initiative that aims to advance the state of knowledge and expertise regarding impact evaluation of different policies in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. The Network aims to promote impact evaluation methodologies, increase capacity building, and bridge research and policy in the region.

    The IEN is seeking papers that use impact evaluation techniques applied to programs or policies, with priority given to evaluations in countries in the region. Methodological papers advancing the state of knowledge of program evaluation techniques are also welcome. A scientific committee will review submitted papers, and select up to 13 papers for presentation.

    The meeting’s program will include a keynote address by Prof. Miguel Urquiola (Columbia University), the presentation of invited and contributed academic papers, as well as two panel discussions with policymakers, researchers, practitioners and representatives of multilateral organizations about actual policies, the implementations of programs, and their rigorous impact evaluation.

    Interested researchers, practitioners and advanced graduate students are welcome to attend and participate in the meeting even if they are not presenting papers. All participants (including paper presenters and discussants) must register here starting March 1st, 2017.

    Papers (in Word or PDF formats), and any inquiries concerning the meeting, should be sent by e-mail to:, not later than January 20th, 2017. Financial aid covering economy tickets and accommodation will be available for paper presenters only. Further information can be found here.

    About the author:

    Oscar Mitnik is lead specialist in the IDB’s Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness.


    Program in Bolivia improves nutrition practices but increases prevalence of overweight children. Where did it go wrong?



    By Gastón Gertner, Julia Johannsen, and Sebastián Martínez


    Bolivian mother and daughter. Photo: Consejo de salud rural andino

    Stunting and wasting, just like anemia, have been persistent problems in several Latin American and Caribbean countries for decades. Bolivia is no exception. About three out of every 10 Bolivian children under the age of five are affected by malnutrition, the result of which is delayed growth. However, despite advances in recent years, Bolivian children, especially those in rural and poor peri-urban areas are still affected by malnutrition. Read more…

    Leaving cash on the table



    By Mario González Flores


    Photo: Getty images.

    If someone offered you cash payments to keep your kids in school, would you turn these down? The answer seems simple enough.  Most of us would respond with a clear “of course not!”  Yet, the answer might not be so simple for the poorest and most vulnerable families.

    Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs pay cash to poor households on the condition that eligible children enroll and attend school regularly (80% of the time). The justification for these cash transfers is the idea that many poor families cannot afford to pay enrollment fees, buy school supplies and uniforms required for attendance, as well as the fact that the opportunity cost of receiving an education is often higher for poorer households; they might prefer to send their kids to work.  In principle, then, providing cash linked to school outcomes should help overcome both constraints and induce greater school attendance. Yet, the link between the provision of a cash transfer and greater school attendance does not always materialize. Read more…

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