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When does rigorous impact evaluation make a difference? The case of the Millennium Villages

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  • Michael A. Clemens
  • Gabriel Demombynes

Abstract

When is the rigorous impact evaluation of development projects a luxury, and when a necessity? The authors study one high-profile case: the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an experimental and intensive package intervention to spark sustained local economic development in rural Africa. They illustrate the benefits of rigorous impact evaluation in this setting by showing that estimates of the project's effects depend heavily on the evaluation method. Comparing trends at the MVP intervention sites in Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria with trends in the surrounding areas yields much more modest estimates of the project's effects than the before-versus-after comparisons published thus far by the MVP. Neither approach constitutes a rigorous impact evaluation of the MVP, which is impossible to perform due to weaknesses in the evaluation design of the project's initial phase. These weaknesses include the subjective choice of intervention sites, the subjective choice of comparison sites, the lack of baseline data on comparison sites, the small sample size, and the short time horizon. The authors describe one of many ways that the next wave of the intervention could be designed to allow proper evaluation of the MVP's impact at little additional cost.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/19439342.2011.587017
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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Development Effectiveness.

Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 305-339

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevef:v:3:y:2011:i:3:p:305-339

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  1. Michael Woolcock, 2009. "Towards a Plurality of Methods in Project Evaluation: A Contextualised Approach to Understanding Impact Trajectories and Efficacy," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 7309, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  2. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2009. "In Pursuit of Balance: Randomization in Practice in Development Field Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 200-232, October.
  3. Kibaara, Betty & Ariga, Joshua & Olwande, John & Jayne, Thomas S., 2008. "Trends in Kenyan Agricultural Productivity: 1997-2007," Food Security Collaborative Working Papers 56117, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
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  1. Chapter II : Is Jeffrey Sachs in a highway to hell?
    by Dany Jaimovich - Bakary Baludin in Development Therapy on 2012-05-11 08:40:00
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Cited by:
  1. Kamiya, Yusuke & Yoshimura, Yukie & Islam, Mohammad Tajul, 2013. "An impact evaluation of the Safe Motherhood Promotion Project in Bangladesh: Evidence from Japanese aid-funded technical cooperation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 34-41.
  2. Maria Lo Bue & Stephan Klasen, 2013. "Identifying Synergies and Complementarities Between MDGs: Results from Cluster Analysis," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 113(2), pages 647-670, September.
  3. Michael Clemens, Gabriel Demombynes, 2013. "The New Transparency in Development Economics: Lessons from the Millennium Villages Controversy," Working Papers 342, Center for Global Development.

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