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Monday, September 3, 2012

Personal Poverty Coaches For the Poor

At least this is what the newest poverty reduction experiment being run in Haiti is all about. It sounds a bit silly, to be honest, but I like the attitude of trying new things out, and testing whether it works or not.
Half of the commune’s 10,000 households are being assigned a “household development agent” — a neighbour who will work as a health educator, vaccinator, epidemiologist, financial analyst, social worker, scheduler and advocate all at the same time. With the agent’s help, a family will assess its needs and come up with a plan to make things better. 
“The idea is to forge a relationship from the get-go,” said Maryanne Sharp, an official at the World Bank, which is overseeing the $4 million project. “We want the family to say, ‘Yes, we own the plan and we will work on these objectives on this timetable.’  
“The other 5,000 households will function as a control group, continuing as they have, scrounging out a living in one of Haiti’s poorest and most isolated places. 
In two years, the families will be resurveyed and their children and houses re-examined. If those with agents are doing better, then the strategy of coaching people out of poverty may be expanded to the whole country.
On the other hand, I am quite skeptical. Of course they will find statistically significant effects of the program. But in order to convince me that this will be a viable program, they need to show that such it  is 1. viable (come on, how much would a personal assistant cost, their training, etc.?) and 2. are the effects, aside from being statistically significant, economically significant? There is a difference.

HT to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution

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