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Institute for Policy Research posted long-term RCT results for the Graduation program in Ethiopia, providing very poor households a productive asset (e.g. livestock) & training in its use. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds a sizable 18% gain in household consumption at the 3-year mark, fading somewhat to 9% at 7 years.



  • Per the study report, program participants received a one-off transfer of either sheep & goats, oxen, bees, or inventory for petty trade, plus technical training and coaching, and were given access to local bank accounts. The program's cost was approximately $4011/household in US$.


Study Design:

  • The study sample comprised 925 households, randomly assigned via lottery to treatment (T) vs control (C). Based on careful review, this was a high-quality RCT (e.g., good baseline balance, negligible sample attrition).



  • 18% gain in per-capita consumption in year 3 after study entry, fading somewhat to a 9% gain in year 7 (both impacts were statistically significant). The impact on food security ("enough food every day?") was 72% T vs 64% C at 3 years, fading to 85% T vs 83% C (& no longer statistically significant) at 7 years.

  • These impacts are meaningful (as evidenced by the 3y gain in food security), but the T & C groups remained very poor - e.g., at the 3y mark, annual per-capita consumption was just $666 T vs $563 C in US dollars. It's unknown whether total program benefits will exceed costs over time (it depends on how long the impacts endure).



  • Various RCTs of the Graduation program have found large impacts in some places (e.g., West Bengal, India; Afghanistan), modest in others (e.g., Ethiopia, described above), & null in Andhra Pradesh, India.

  • Overall, I think Graduation is a very promising program model, but more research is needed to identify the conditions/settings where it's most effective. 

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