Overcoming behavioral obstacles to escaping poverty

by Christopher J. Bryan, Nina Mazar, Julian Jamison, Jeanine Braithwaite, Nadine Dechausay, Alissa Fishbane, Elizabeth Fox, Varun Gauri, Rachel Glennerster, Johannes Haushofer, Dean Karlan, Renos Vakis
August 15, 2017

Author Affiliation

The authors were members of the BSPA Working
Group on International Development.
Bryan: University of Chicago, Booth School of
Business. Mazar: World Bank and University of
Toronto. Jamison: World Bank and Innovations
for Poverty Action. Braithwaite: University of
Virginia. Dechausay: MDRC. Fishbane: ideas42.
Fox: United States Agency for International
Development. Gauri: World Bank. Glennerster:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Haushofer:
Princeton University, National Bureau of
Economic Research, and Busara Center for
Economics. Karlan: Yale University and Innovations
for Poverty Action. Vakis: World Bank.
Corresponding author’s e-mail: Christopher
[email protected].


1. Kast, F., Meier, S., & Pomeranz, D. (2012).
Under-savers anonymous: Evidence on
self-help groups and peer pressure as
a savings commitment device (NBER
Working Paper No. 18417). Retrieved
from National Bureau of Economic
Research website: http://www.nber.org/
2. O’Donoghue, T., & Rabin, M. (1999).
Doing it now or later. The American
Economic Review, 89, 103–124.
Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/
3. Frederick, S., Loewenstein, G.,
& O’Donoghue, T. (2002). Time
discounting and time preference:
A critical review. Journal of
Economic Literature, 40, 351–401.
Retrieved from http://dx.doi.
4. Banerjee, A. V., & Mullainathan, S.
(2008). Limited attention and income
distribution. The American Economic
Review, 98, 489–493. http://dx.doi.
5. Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013).
Scarcity: Why having too little means so
much. New York, NY: Macmillan.
6. Dupas, P., & Miguel, E. (2017). Impacts
and determinants of health levels
in low-income countries. In A. V.
Banerjee & E. Duflo (Eds.), Handbook of
economic field experiments (Vol. 2, pp.
3–94). Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
7. Bhatt, S., Weiss, D. J. W., Cameron, E.,
Bizansio, D., Mappin, B., Dalrymple, U.,
. . . Gething, P. W. (2015, October 8). The
effect of malaria control on Plasmodium
falciparum in Africa between 2000 and
2015. Nature, 526, 207–211. http://dx.doi.
8. Evans, D., Kremer, M., & Ngatia, M.
(2009). The impact of distributing
school uniforms on children’s education
in Kenya. Retrieved from World Bank
website: http://siteresources.worldbank.
9. Devoto, F., Duflo, E., Dupas, P., Parienté,
W., & Pons, V. (2012). Happiness on tap:
Piped water adoption in urban Morocco.
American Economic Journal: Economic
Policy, 4(4), 68–99. http://dx.doi.
10. Bettinger, E. P., Long, B. T., Oreopoulos,
P., & Sanbonmatsu, L. (2012). The role of
application assistance and information in
college decisions: Results from the H&R
Block FAFSA experiment. The Quarterly
Journal of Economics, 127, 1205–1242.
11. Thornton, R. L. (2008). The demand
for, and impact of, learning HIV status.
American Economic Review, 98,
1829–1863. https://dx.doi.org/10.1257/
12. Kremer, M., Leino, J., Miguel, E., &
Zwane, A. P. (2011). Spring cleaning:
Rural water impacts, valuation, and
property rights institutions. The
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126,
145–205. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/qje/
13. Guariso, A., Nyqvist, M., Svensson,
J., & Yanagizawa-Dott, D. (2016). An
entrepreneurial model of community
health delivery in Uganda [Working
paper]. Cambridge, MA: Abdul Latif
Jameel Poverty Action Lab.
14. Banerjee, A. V., Duflo, E., Glennerster,
R., & Kothari, D. (2010). Improving
immunisation coverage in rural India:
Clustered randomised controlled
evaluation of immunisation campaigns
with and without incentives. BMJ, 340,
Article c2220. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/
15. Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Shafir, E.,
& Zhao, J. (2013, August 30). Poverty
impedes cognitive function. Science,
341, 976–980. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/
16. Evans, D. K., Hausladen, S., Kosec, K.,
& Reese, N. (2014). Community-based
conditional cash transfers in Tanzania:
Results from a randomized trial.
Washington, DC: World Bank.
17. Barrera-Osorio, F., Bertrand, M.,
Linden, L. L., & Perez-Calle, F. (2011).
Improving the design of conditional
transfer programs: Evidence from a
randomized education experiment in
Colombia. American Economic Journal:
Applied Economics, 3(2), 167–195.
Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/
18. Bryan, G., Karlan, D., & Nelson, S.
(2010). Commitment devices. Annual
Review of Economics, 2, 671–698.
19. Duflo, E., Kremer, M., & Robinson, J.
(2011). Nudging farmers to use fertilizer:
Theory and experimental evidence from
Kenya. The American Economic Review,
101, 2350–2390. Retrieved from http://
20. Fishbach, A., & Trope, Y. (2007). Implicit
and explicit counteractive self-control. In
J. Shah & W. Gardner (Eds.), Handbook
of motivation science (pp. 281–294).
New York, NY: Guilford Press.
21. Schwartz, J., Mochon, D.,
Wyper, L., Maroba, J., Patel, D.,
& Ariely, D. (2014). Healthier by
precommitment. Psychological
Science, 25, 538–546. http://dx.doi.
22. Ashraf, N., Karlan, D., & Yin, W. (2006).
Tying Odysseus to the mast: Evidence
from a commitment savings product in
the Philippines. The Quarterly Journal
of Economics, 121, 635–672. https://doi.
23. Ashraf, N. (2010). Female
empowerment: Impact of a
commitment savings product in the
Philippines. World Development, 38,
333–344. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.
24. Thaler, R. H. (1999). Mental
accounting matters. Journal of
Behavioral Decision Making, 12,
183–206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/
25. Karlan, D., & Linden, L. L. (2014). Loose
knots: Strong versus weak commitments
to save for education in Uganda (NBER
Working Paper No. 19863). Retrieved
from National Bureau of Economic
Research website: http://www.nber.org/
26. Hanna, R., Mullainathan, S., &
Schwartzstein, J. (2014). Learning
through noticing: Theory and evidence
from a field experiment. The Quarterly
Journal of Economics, 129, 1311–1353.
27. Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999).
Gorillas in our midst: Sustained
inattentional blindness for dynamic
events. Perception, 28, 1059–1074.
28. Pop-Eleches, C., Thirumurthy,
H., Habyarimana, J. P., Zivin, J. G.,
Goldstein, M. P., de Walque, D., . . .
Bangsberg, D. R. (2011). Mobile phone
technologies improve adherence to
antiretroviral treatment in a resourcelimited
setting: A randomized controlled
trial of text message reminders. AIDS,
25, 825–834. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/
29. Karlan, D., McConnell, M., Mullainathan,
S., & Zinman, J. (2016). Getting to the
top of mind: How reminders increase
saving. Management Science, 62,
3393–3411. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/
30. Cadena, X., & Schoar, A. (2011).
Remembering to pay? Reminders vs.
financial incentives for loan payments
(NBER Working Paper 17020). Retrieved
a publication of the behavioral science & policy association 91
from National Bureau of Economic
Research website: http://www.nber.org/
31. Baird, P., Reardon, L., Cullinan, D.,
McDermott, D., & Landers, P. (2015).
Reminders to pay: Using behavioral
economics to increase child support
payments (OPRE Report 2015-20).
Retrieved from Administration for
Children and Families website: http://
32. Busso, M., Cristia, J., & Humpage,
S. (2015). Did you get your shots?
Experimental evidence on the role
of reminders. Journal of Health
Economics, 44, 226–237. http://dx.doi.
33. Ahuja, A., Kremer, M., & Zwane, A. P.
(2010). Providing safe water: Evidence
from randomized evaluations. Annual
Review of Resource Economics, 2,
237–256. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/
34. Luoto, J., Levine, D., & Albert, J. (2009).
Information and persuasion: Achieving
safe water behavior in Kenya [Working
paper]. Retrieved from University of
California, Berkeley, website: http://
35. Haynes, L. C., Green, D. P., Gallagher,
R., John, P., & Torgerson, D. J. (2013).
Collection of delinquent fines: An
adaptive randomized trial to assess
the effectiveness of alternative text
messages. Journal of Policy Analysis and
Management, 32, 718–730. http://dx.doi.
36. World Bank. (2014). World development
report 2015: Mind, society, and behavior.
Washington, DC: Author.