Getting Going to Fight Poverty

Imagine that you are managing a health clinic and need to recruit health workers who not just know their stuff, but are genuinely interested in helping the community.  Would you include in your ad the statement, “Job provides great opportunity to advance your career!”

Researchers Nava Ashraf and Scott Lee from the Harvard Business School and Oriana Bandiera from the London School of Economics and Political Science tested this with a randomized experiment in a community in some rural communities in Zambia, Africa.    Communities were randomly assigned to receive job advertisements that either included the statement about career advancement or not.  It turned out that those recruited with this plea for career “go-getters” became much more involved in their communities (conducting more home visits and attending more community health meetings) than those who were recruited without this statement.

Are you surprised by the results?

  1. Should randomized evaluations be used to test the impact of social programs before they receive long-term funding? What if “everyone” knows what the results would be?
  2. Imagine that impoverished students are given money each week and told they can place it in a lockbox where it will be saved until the start of the next semester.  Do you think they would save more for school expenses if they are told they will receive their money back in the form of a voucher for school supplies at the start of the next semester, or if they are told they will receive their money back in cash that they can spend as they wish? Check your answer with the results reported in the article.  Are you surprised by the results?  Does it change your answers to Q1?


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