Today I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a new initiative that the Africa Region and the Research Group at the World Bank are launching today. The idea here is that we don't know enough about how to effectively address the underlying causes of gender inequality. Let me start by explaining what I mean by underlying causes. Take the case of female farmers. There is a lot of literature out there which shows that women have lower agricultural yields than men. And some of it shows that this is because women have lower input use than men (you name it -- credit, fertilizer, labor, access to extension). But from a policy point of view, this literature doesn't get us the final mile -- why do they have lower use of these inputs (controlling for land, etc)? If you take the case of female entrepreneurs, you get a similar story -- although here the different sectors in which men and women operate clearly plays a role.
If we can get a handle on the why (which requires more inferential research (and even qualitative work) than impact evaluations), maybe we can come up with a bunch of policies that target the causes, rather than the symptoms (e.g. maybe deal with time and mobility constraints to provide women with more agricultural extension, rather than putting in place female extension agents; maybe come up with loan screening mechanisms that deal effectively with women's more limited collateral base). And the rigorous impact evaluations of these kind of interventions give us two things. First, they tell us what works and what does not to address these fundamental constraints (and whether this moves some metric of gender equality). Second, they tell us what the payoffs are (if any) to these kinds of investments.
We have a bunch of these projects under way - and I've blogged about some of them, particularly in my notes from the field and also how one of them has changed my mind . Most of the work focuses on the economic realm. Together with a wide range of collaborators, we are looking at the impact of land titling interventions in Rwanda, Benin, and Ghana. We are also looking at agriculture -- tackling things like agricultural extension in Ethiopia. And in the realm of firms looking at things like business registration, trying new types of business training and support services, and trying to build a market between small and large firms. Today we will launch a new phase (thanks to generous support from DFID and other donors). This phase will include more support for the design of innovative interventions that really go after what we think these underlying causes might be, trying to more effectively mix qualitative and quantitative work, and focusing more on getting whatever results we (and others) come up with used by policymakers.
Part of this new phase will include a call for projects that want to work with us on an impact evaluation -- if you, or someone you know is interested in this, please keep an eye on the Friday links where a link will be posted. And, if you'd like to see some of the launch event -- feel free to join in today online  at 10am EST.