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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The CEGA Working Paper Series showcases ongoing and completed research by CEGA staff, affiliates, visiting fellows, and CEGA-supported project publications authors. CEGA Working Papers employ rigorous evaluation techniques to measure the impact of large-scale social and economic development programs, among other research designs, and are intended to encourage discussion and feedback from the global development community.

Cover page of The Fine Line between Nudging and Nagging: Increasing Take-up Rates through Social Media Platforms

The Fine Line between Nudging and Nagging: Increasing Take-up Rates through Social Media Platforms


This study assesses if nudges in the form of informational videos sent via WhatsAppare effective in boosting take-up rates among vulnerable populations, specifically in the context of a regularization program for Venezuelan forced migrants in Colombia. The study randomly assigned 1,375 eligible migrants to receive one of three informational videos or be in a control group. The videos aimed at solving issues related to awareness, trust, and bottlenecks in the step-by-step registration. The main results indicate that program take-up rates for individuals who received any video, were eight percentage points lower compared to the control group. The effects are mostly driven by the treated individuals who received the links but did not watch the videos, who are older, busier, and with less internet access relative to other treated individuals. Additionally, the study evaluates the effectiveness of iterative WhatsApp surveys in collecting data from hard-to-reach populations. It finds that iterative WhatsApp surveys had low retention rates, and iterative contacts do not helped to reduce attrition.

Cover page of Discrimination and Access to Capital: Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia

Discrimination and Access to Capital: Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia


Access to capital is critical to business growth and productivity, yet female business owners are less likely to receive formal financing. Using a large-scale field experiment in Ethiopia, we show that gender discrimination by financial providers is unlikely to be a key contributor to this gap, and that there is no meaningful trade-off between gender equity and allocating capital to high-performing businesses. We study whether finan- cial providers discriminated against female owners in a high-stakes capital allocation decision affecting real businesses in a national business plan competition. In a sample of 3,696 evaluations, we find no evidence that randomly assigned business-owner gender affected capital allocation decisions, neither for the competition prizes nor for consid- eration for a loan. Our confidence intervals are tight enough to exclude any meaningful gender discrimination in these decisions. Consistent with the lack of discrimination, an incentivized belief elicitation revealed that randomly assigned business-owner gender did not affect financial providers’ beliefs about future business performance. Using a machine learning algorithm to predict actual business performance 18 months after the competition, we find that considering gender indeed does not improve targeting of capi- tal towards high-performing businesses. The results provide support for the theoretical prediction that discrimination will not persist when it is not profit maximizing.

Cover page of Unintended Consequences of Youth Entrepreneurship Programs: Experimental Evidence from Rwanda 

Unintended Consequences of Youth Entrepreneurship Programs: Experimental Evidence from Rwanda 


The persistently high employment share of the informal sector makes entrepreneurship a necessity for youth in many developing countries. We exploit exogenous variation in the implementation of Rwanda’s entrepreneurship education reform in secondary schools to evaluate its effect on student economic outcomes up to three years after graduation. Using a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated a three-year intensive training for entrepreneurship teachers, finding pedagogical changes as intended and increased entrepreneurial activity among students. In this paper, we tracked students following graduation and found that increased entrepreneurship persisted one year later, in 2019. Students from treated schools were six percentage points more likely to be entrepreneurs, an increase of 19 percent over the control mean. However, gains in entrepreneurship faded after three years, in 2021. Employment was six percentage points lower in the treatment group. By some measures, income and profits were lower in the treatment group, with no robust differences in these outcomes overall. Lower incomes and profits were concentrated among marginal students induced into entrepreneurship by the program. Youth entrepreneurship programs may therefore steer some participants away from their comparative advantage. Nonetheless, the program increased university enrollment, suggesting the potential for higher long run returns.

Cover page of Preparing for an Aging Africa: Data- Driven Priorities for Economic Research and Policy

Preparing for an Aging Africa: Data- Driven Priorities for Economic Research and Policy


The over-60 population in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades, tripling between 2020 and 2050. Despite this explosive projected growth, few countries in the region have implemented policies designed to support older populations. Further, little research in economics has specifically examined aging in Sub-Saharan Africa, though many opportunities exist for economists to generate research evidence to inform the design of effective policies in this area. This paper combines insights from a cross-disciplinary review with original data analysis to characterize the challenges and opportunities facing older Sub-Saharan Africans in domains such as health and financial security. Informed by these findings, the paper identifies directions for future economic research and discusses policy recommendations, including the need to reform health care systems and expand pension and other public support programs to prepare for an aging Africa.

Cover page of More than particulate matters: Pollution and productivity in Indian call centers

More than particulate matters: Pollution and productivity in Indian call centers


We measure the impact of air pollution on daily labor productivity in call centers in five Indian cities. A one standard deviation increase in PM2.5, a pollutant that has been widely studied in the literature, decreases intensive margin productivity by 0.15σ. The equivalent impacts for carbon monoxide and ozone, however, are 0.14σ and .09σ, respectively. Furthermore, carbon monoxide is responsible for more than half of the total productivity lost from pollution in our sample. We consider the potential productivity impacts of a national policy in India that targets PM2.5 alongside a counterfactual policy that targets a broader range of pollutants.

Cover page of The spread of (mis)information: A social media experiment in Pakistan

The spread of (mis)information: A social media experiment in Pakistan


This study examines the dissemination of (mis)information on a social media platform in Pakistan. It combines an intervention to disseminate official information about the COVID-19 pandemic across the platform with a randomized experiment that measures the impact of fully controlling access to pandemic-related misinformation.  The two treatments rely on a higher-intensity, ex-ante approach to moderating misinformation on the platform relative to the control, which relies on a more standard ex-post approach to moderation. In one treatment, no misinformation was allowed on the platform, while in the other, it was allowed with an official rebuttal. Controlling misinformation, as in the treatments, reduces platform usage by 41%, indicating a distaste for moderation. Furthermore, the treatments reduce exposure to official information by 29% more than they reduce exposure to misinformation. A conceptual framework posits that these findings can be explained by the fact that, in this setting, official information is more trusted, and thus is more widely disseminated, relative to misinformation. We find evidence for two potential mechanisms for the observed distaste for moderation.

Cover page of Big Data Privacy in Emerging Market Fintech and Financial Services: A Research Agenda

Big Data Privacy in Emerging Market Fintech and Financial Services: A Research Agenda


The data revolution in low- and middle-income countries is quickly transforming how companies approach emerging markets. As mobile phones and mobile money proliferate, they generate new streams of data that enable innovation in consumer finance, credit, and insurance. Already, this new generation of products are being used by hundreds of millions of consumers, often to use financial services for the first time. However, the collection, analysis, and use of these data, particularly from economically disadvantaged populations, raises serious privacy concerns. This white paper describes a research agenda to advance our understanding of the problem and solution space of data privacy in emerging market fintech and financial services. We highlight five priority areas for research: conducting comprehensive landscape analyses; understanding local definitions of “data privacy”; doc-umenting key sources of risk, and potential technical solutions (such as differential privacy and homomorphic encryption); improving non-technical approaches to data privacy (such as policies and practices); and understanding the tradeoffs involved in deploying privacy-enhancing solutions. Taken together, we hope this research agenda will focus attention on the multi-faceted nature of privacy in emerging markets, and catalyze efforts to develop responsible and consumer-oriented approaches to data-intensive applications.

Cover page of The Electoral Consequences of Mass Religious Events: India’s Kumbh Mela

The Electoral Consequences of Mass Religious Events: India’s Kumbh Mela


Mass ritualized gatherings like pilgrimages are central to religious practice globally. Do they generate votes for religious parties? The events may heighten religiosity, enlarging support for parties seen as owning religious policy issues. Such parties might also co-opt the events to organize and campaign. We evaluate the electoral impact of India’s Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival considered the world’s biggest human assembly, leveraging its astrologically determined timing combined with districts’ proximity by rail to the festival sites. The Kumbh Mela boostsHindu nationalists’ vote share. Mechanisms tests suggest it does so by increasing religious orthodoxy—seen in the adoption of Brahminical dietary practices—and by strengthening Hindu nationalist party infrastructure. Communal violence is unaffected, but the events are electorally polarizing; they cause India’s main secular-leaning party to perform better in regions with denser concentrations of religious minorities. Our study offers a new account of how confessional parties make inroads in multiethnic democracies.

Cover page of Pathways to Choice: A Bundled Intervention against Child Marriage

Pathways to Choice: A Bundled Intervention against Child Marriage


We undertake a randomized evaluation of “Pathways to Choice”, which provides mentored girls’ clubs, life skills, and vocational training to empower adolescent girls to delay marriage and pursue education in Northern Nigeria. Two years post-intervention, adolescent girls in treated communities are 65 percentage points less likely to be married, estimates an order of magnitude larger than comparable interventions. An important channel is the program’s effects on educational uptake, which increases by 69 percentage points among the treated. However, the effects on education are themselves insufficient to fully explain the effects on child marriage, suggesting the bundled nature of the program is essential to its success. We argue that the whole community focus of the program reduces the likelihood of social backlash, allowing Pathways to produce large effects on entrenched, normative behavior.

Cover page of Poverty and Prejudice Before Genocide

Poverty and Prejudice Before Genocide


Genocides rank among the darkest episodes in our history. What drives prejudice against targeted outgroups in the lead-up to mass killings? We theorize the role played by democratization, ethnoreligious threat perceptions, and economic discontent in generating antiminority hatred. We assess these factors’ predictive strength using a new 22,000-person survey of Islamophobia in Myanmar, fielded shortly before the 2017 ethnic cleansing of the country’s Muslim Rohingya population. Integrating survey responses with administrative data, events data, and geodata, we document a robust association between poverty and anti-Muslim attitudes among members of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. The relationship holds ecologically and by individual. Further tests point to scapegoating rather than resource competition as the most likely mechanism. Other commonly cited drivers of intolerance receive little empirical support. By leveraging a critical contemporary case, our paper sheds light on the material foundations of polarized social preferences in settings at high risk of intergroup violence