Mental disorders account for 13% of diseases in middle and low-income countries and often appear together with poverty. The proposed research project (Escaping Poverty Project (EP)) will study the link between mental health and efforts to improve economic productivity for those in extreme poverty through a 7,330 household multi-arm field experimental methods. It also seeks to study the barriers to escaping poverty through and anti-poverty asset transfer and training program. EP examines the link between mental disorders and poverty from two perspectives. First, it investigates the interaction between improvements in mental health and the ability of households to take advantage of new opportunities; and second, it measures the effect of sustained coaching on the return to the asset grant. The results of this research project have the potential to influence social protection policies for those in extreme poverty. The results of this study will offer guidance on the importance of mental health for the success of a strictly "economic" intervention. The results will provide important inputs into the US's efforts to reduce poverty of its citizens and around the world. The results will also help improve the effectiveness of US's aid policies.

The EP Project's end-line survey funded through this grant will measure consumption, income, wealth, depression, and reported mental wellbeing 24 months after asset transfer and training. The main arms in the study are as follows: a 12-week cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program; the same CBT program followed by a multi-faceted anti-poverty asset transfer and training program; the multi-faceted program without CBT; a one-time cash transfer equivalent to the cost of the asset and training in the multi-faceted treatment arms; and a control group. Analysis will focus on average impacts of each treatment arm, as well as focus on heterogeneous impacts on specific subgroups such as those with preexisting depression and quantiles in the distribution of key outcomes. In addition to the benefits to practitioners, the study will offer knowledge about psychological barriers to investment that could perpetuate poverty traps. The results of this research project will also provide important inputs into US's aid policies around the world.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong
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Innovations for Poverty Action
Washington DC
United States
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