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Guatemala

Think behaviorally to boost impact

Carolina Sánchez-Páramo's picture
In Guatemala, Program Leader Marco Hernandez and his team tested behaviorally informed messages in letters to non-compliant taxpayers. © World Bank
In Guatemala, Program Leader Marco Hernandez and his team tested behaviorally informed messages in letters to non-compliant taxpayers. © World Bank
Behavioral science can provide creative solutions to difficult challenges, often at low cost. Behaviorally informed policy emphasizes the importance of context for decision making and behavior, paying attention to the social, psychological, and economic factors that affect what people think and do.

Since the 2015 World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior, behavioral science approaches have been spreading across the World Bank Group’s work. Several staffers recently gave “lightning talks” about how they’re applying behavioral science to seemingly intractable problems that matter to all of us. Here are a few takeaways from the speakers who offered important lessons on incorporating human behavior into program design:

The ongoing impact of ‘nudging’ people to pay their taxes

Oscar Calvo-González's picture
© Maria Fleischmann/World Bank
© Maria Fleischmann/World Bank

Sustainability is the holy grail of development. There are many interventions that yield positive results in the short term but somehow fail to be sustained over time. This is why the experience in Guatemala that we are about to describe is worth paying attention to. In short, it shows that behavioral insights can lead to lasting change.

It all began in 2012 in the United Kingdom, with simple changes in the reminder letters sent to taxpayers that were late in their income tax payment. The changes were very successful, inducing payments of 4.9 million pounds (around $6.5 million) in a sample of almost 120,000 delinquent taxpayers, which would not have been raised without the intervention. The then-nascent institution called the "Behavioral Insights Team" (BIT) became known around the world with this effective and very low-cost intervention that was based on modifying the messages of the letters sent to delinquent taxpayers. The message that was most effective said: "Nine out of ten people in the U.K. pay their taxes on time. You are currently in the very small minority of people who have not paid us yet." Behavioral science experts have been able to show that telling people what most people do, especially when it comes to positive behavior, is a good technique to change behavior.

Resilient housing joins the machine learning revolution

Sarah Elizabeth Antos's picture
Also available in: Español | Français  | 中文 

 World Bank

Machine learning algorithms are excellent at answering “yes” or “no” questions. For example, they can scan huge datasets and correctly tell us: Does this credit card transaction look fraudulent? Is there a cat in this photo?

But it’s not only the simple questions – they can also tackle nuanced and complex questions.

Today, machine learning algorithms can detect over 100 types of cancerous tumors more reliably than a trained human eye. Given this impressive accuracy, we started to wonder: what could machine learning tell us about where people live? In cities that are expanding at breathtaking rates and are at risk from natural disasters, could it warn us that a family’s wall might collapse during an earthquake or rooftop blow away during a hurricane?

Student assessment: Supporting the development of human capital

Julia Liberman's picture



At the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund in Bali, Indonesia, the World Bank highlighted the importance of human capital for economic development.
 
Central to the World Bank’s motivation for the Human Capital Project is evidence that investments in education and health produce better-educated and healthier individuals, as well as faster economic growth and a range of benefits to society more broadly. As part of this effort to accelerate more and better investments in people, the new Human Capital Index provides information on productivity-related human capital outcomes, seeking to answer how much human capital a child born today will acquire by the end of secondary school, given the risks to poor health and education that prevail in the country where she or he was born.

What does it take to achieve universal and equitable access to water and sanitation in Guatemala?

Marco Antonio Aguero's picture
See the full infographic on key findings of the Guatemala Water Supply, Sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic.

Water and sanitation data figures in Guatemala show a challenging reality. Nationally, 91 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water, an increase of 14 percent points since the establishment of the MDGs.
 
Despite the improvement in coverage in relative terms, in absolute terms there are still a significant number of Guatemalan households using water from precarious or unimproved sources such as unprotected wells, rivers, or lakes. In addition, water quality is a concern -- from the monitoring of 20% of the water systems in the country, 54% reported to be at high and imminent risk for human health.

Why are energy subsidy reforms so unpopular?

Guillermo Beylis's picture

It is well established in the economic literature that it’s the rich who benefit from the lion’s share of energy subsidies. Yet, it is often the poor and vulnerable who protest loudly against these reforms. Why does this happen? What are we missing?

Customs Union between Guatemala and Honduras, from 10 hours to 15 minutes!

Mayra Alfaro de Morán's picture

Trading across borders in Central America has been a severe problem for many years. In 2017, cargo trucks used to spend 10 hours to travel less than one kilometer across the borders between Guatemala and Honduras. Such delays at border crossings made trade throughout the region slow and expensive.
 

How to guarantee water access to reduce inequality in Central America

Seynabou Sakho's picture

Four years ago, Juan Angel Sandoval, a resident of Barrio Buenos Aires in the Honduran municipality of Siguatepeque, received water at home only three times a week. His was not an isolated reality. Most of his neighbors, were in the same situation. "It was annoying because the water was not enough," says Juan Angel.

How can electricity subsidies help combat poverty in Central America?

Liliana Sousa's picture


By Liliana D. Sousa


It might be surprising, but the majority of Central American households receive electricity subsidies, benefiting up to 8 out of 10 households in some cases. Without a doubt, this provides many poor and low-income families with access to affordable electricity.

Central America, optimizing the cost of energy through renewables

Mariano González Serrano's picture


Some months ago, during a visit to one of the Central American countries, while we were on a call with the head of the electricity dispatch center, we noticed by the tone of his voice, that he was becoming nervous. Shortly after, background voices could be heard on the line. They were experiencing a crisis and he quickly asked to continue our conversation at another time.


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