All Publications


  • Toward a science of delivering aid with dignity: Experimental evidence and local forecasts from Kenya. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Thomas, C. C., Otis, N. G., Abraham, J. R., Markus, H. R., Walton, G. M. 2020

    Abstract

    How can governments and nonprofits design aid programs that afford dignity and facilitate beneficial outcomes for recipients? We conceptualize dignity as a state that manifests when the stigma associated with receiving aid is countered and recipients are empowered, both in culturally resonant ways. Yet materials from the largest cash transfer programs in Africa predominantly characterize recipients as needy and vulnerable. Three studies examined the causal effects of alternative aid narratives on cash transfer recipients and donors. In study 1, residents of low-income settlements in Nairobi, Kenya (N = 565) received cash-based aid accompanied by a randomly assigned narrative: the default deficit-focused "Poverty Alleviation" narrative, an "Individual Empowerment" narrative, or a "Community Empowerment" narrative. They then chose whether to spend time building business skills or watching leisure videos. Both empowerment narratives improved self-efficacy and anticipated social mobility, but only the "Community Empowerment" narrative significantly motivated recipients' choice to build skills and reduced stigma. Given the diverse settings in which aid is delivered, how can organizations quickly identify effective narratives in a context? We asked recipients to predict which narrative would best motivate skill-building in their community. In study 2, this "local forecasting" methodology outperformed participant evaluations and experimental pilots in accurately ranking treatments. Finally, study 3 confirmed that the narrative most effective for recipients did not undermine donors' willingness to contribute to the program. Together these studies show that responding to recipients' psychological and sociocultural realities in the design of aid can afford recipients dignity and help realize aid's potential.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1917046117

    View details for PubMedID 32581121

  • Measuring self-efficacy, executive function, and temporal discounting in Kenya BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH AND THERAPY Esopo, K., Mellow, D., Thomas, C., Uckat, H., Abraham, J., Jain, P., Jang, C., Otis, N., Riis-Vestergaard, M., Starcev, A., Orkin, K., Haushofer, J. 2018; 101: 30–45

    Abstract

    Developing countries have low adherence to medical regimens like water chlorination or antenatal and postnatal care, contributing to high infant and child mortality rates. We hypothesize that high levels of stress affect adherence through temporal discounting, self-efficacy, and executive control. Measurement of these constructs in developing countries requires adaptation of existing measures. In the current study, we adapt psychological scales and behavioral tasks, measuring each of these three constructs, for use among adults in Kenya. We translated and back-translated each measure to Kiswahili and conducted cognitive interviewing to establish cultural acceptability, refined existing behavioral tasks, and developed new ones. Then, in a laboratory session lasting 3 h, participants (N=511) completed the adapted psychological inventories and behavioral tasks. We report the psychometric properties of these measures. We find relatively low reliability and poor correlational evidence between psychological scales and behavioral tasks measuring the same construct, highlighting the challenges of adapting measures across cultures, and suggesting that assays within the same domain may tap distinct underlying processes.

    View details for PubMedID 29249452