Development that Works
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    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.
  • How much do impact evaluations (really) help policymaking?



    by Eva Vivalt.

    Increasingly rigorous studies have been done on the effects of development programs with the hope that these studies’ results will inform policy decisions. 

    However, the same program often has different effects in different contexts. There are many different variables that can affect what will happen.

    The key question is then: to what extent can we generalize from a research study’s conclusions? 

    impact evaluations

    Image: iStock


    If a policymaker were to decide to implement a program based on the results from impact evaluations, how different could they expect their own project’s results to be?

    Recently, I answered this question using data from over 600 studies in international development. The data focused on 20 different types of development programs, from conditional cash transfers to microfinance. Read more…

    How Do We Know if We Are Improving Lives? Multidimensional Poverty and Subjective Well-Being



    The mission of the IDB is to work with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to improve the lives of their citizens. However, this process is not an exact science, so it is not always easy to ascertain whether that objective is being achieved. How can we know for certain that Bank-supported projects are helping people live more prosperously?

    Subjective Well-Being

    Image: iStok

    Responding to this question is not easy, above all because measuring improvements in people’s lives can involve different factors. How can such a measurement be undertaken? By carrying out a cost-benefit analysis or an impact evaluation with experimental methodologies for a specific project? By calculating reductions in poverty rates? By measuring levels of satisfaction and happiness of citizens before and after implementation of a public policy?

    Read more…

    Indigenous and mestizo women: do they receive different treatment in family planning centers in Peru?



    Ten women prepare themselves: hair, makeup, clothes, and posture. They practice proper cadence for scripted answers to questions they will soon be asked. Each of them will say she arrived in Lima from an Andean town seeking a brighter future for her two children.

    Her partner is returning after being away for six months for work, and they do not want to have any more children at the moment.

    No, she does not have any health issues. Yes, her childbirths were normal.

    She does not trust natural family planning methods and lacks experience using modern contraceptives. Today, they will be indigenous. Tomorrow, their stories will change, and they will be mestizos.

    indigenous family planning

    Image: IDB

    For two weeks, these women trained to act as simulated patients in public family planning services in Lima and Callao, Peru. They are exploring whether quality of care varies if they present certain ethnic attributes of either mestizos or indigenous. Read more…

    Habitat program: closing gaps in Mexico’s formal neighborhoods



    Imagine living in a neighborhood where some families have water and others don’t. Where half the streets are paved, and only some have sidewalks. Where street lighting exists only in certain areas, making it dangerous to return home at night or go out before dawn. Or where you have to walk very far to find a park, a football field, a health clinic, or a day-care center.

    Felipe Ángeles community center after the intervention. Image: IDB

    Felipe Ángeles community center after the intervention. Image: IDB

    That is the reality of many Mexican neighborhoods. Although the national average for coverage of basic infrastructure services is above 90 percent, the statistic hides real levels of inequality within municipalities.

    Today there are around 3,200 neighborhoods, also called polígonos in Spanish, with deficient access to certain basic urban and social services. Specifically, 17 percent of these areas are deficient in their coverage of piped water, drainage, and electricity. Read more…

    The Juana Azurduy Voucher Program: health services for mothers and their children



    “I didn’t go to the health center because it took a long time, and on top of that they treated me badly,” recounted a Quechua woman in the town of Oruro, Bolivia. “We have our own customs for childbirth”.

    Source: IDB

    Source: IDB

    She is not alone in those views. According to a recent national survey, the main reason why women avoid prenatal care is distrust of health personnel (26 percent). Other reasons include the distance they must travel to reach the health facility (21 percent), lack of time because they are busy with children or work (12 percent), and opposition from their spouse or family (6 percent). Read more…

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