Call for Proposals: Behavioral Economics in the Caribbean
The Behavioral Economics Group at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is seeking rigorous research proposals that advance our knowledge of the impact of behavioral economics on development in the six Caribbean countries of The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The main areas of interest are i) the effectiveness of COVID-related containment and vaccination activities and ii) the efficiency and effectiveness of public policies to spur long-term economic growth. The final product should have the quality to become an IDB Working Paper, be published by the research team in a peer-reviewed journal and be part of the research repository of the Behavioral Economics Group and the Caribbean Country Department.
Submit your proposal by March 20, 2022.
What are the goals of this call?
The Behavioral Economics Group and the Caribbean Country Department will fund innovative research that advances our evidence of the impact of behavioral economics tools on development in the six Caribbean countries of The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. This call for research proposals seeks to fund research studies that rigorously research nudge interventions in one or more of the six countries in CCB through an experimental economics methodology.
Which topics will be prioritized?
Productivity and growth have been lagging in CCB countries, and the pandemic has created additional challenges to growth. Thus, these funds will support behavioral interventions that improve:
(a) the effectiveness of COVID-related containment and vaccination activities
Background: The economic recovery in the Caribbean is highly dependent upon the evolution of the pandemic itself. Effective implementation of containment measures, combined with a broad-based vaccination program, is key for tourism and other sectors to return to more normal levels of activity. As vaccine supply improves, a constraining factor for these countries is vaccine hesitancy. Compliance fatigue with containment measures is another concern. Behavioral economics provides important insights into how to overcome these constraints. Work led by the IDB has shown the role of social norms in compliance (Martínez et al., 2021a), the importance of framing and issue salience for take-up of diagnostic and distance measures (Martínez et al., 2021b), and the role of trust in vaccination (González et al., 2021). Importantly, the IDB has pioneered the use of interactive quizzes for combating the pandemic. Preliminary results show their efficacy in changing perceptions and beliefs (Martínez et al., 2021c). These funds will finance the development of Caribbean-targeted tools to help governments leave the pandemic behind.
(b) the efficiency and effectiveness of public policies to spur long-term economic growth.
Background: Productivity and growth have been lagging in CCB countries. Creative policy design incorporating behavioral techniques can improve multiple areas of public sector performance, enhancing human capital outcomes and creating the foundations for inclusive and sustainable growth (Rapoport, Rojas Méndez and Scartascini, 2020). Previous work has shown that behavioral insights can have an effect on changing the behavior of civil servants to make them more responsive to citizens’ needs and to comply with their tasks as determined by laws and regulations (e.g., Scartascini and Zamora, 2021). That work has also proven that it can help to guide better teachers’ location decisions to reduce sorting (Ajzenman et al., 2020) and health workers’ performance (Bernal and Martínez, 2020).
Behavioral insights have proven highly effective in improving human capital beyond the incentives of teachers and health-care workers. Behavioral insights have shown that they can increase the incentives for parents to send their children to pre-school (Mateo Díaz et al., 2020) and keep track of children’s achievements and attendance (Berlinski et al., 2016). They can also increase youth attendance of higher education (Prada et al., 2020). Strengthening human capital requires a healthy population. Behavioral insights have additionally been successful for increasing prenatal care (Beuermann et al., 2020), increasing compliance with micronutrient treatments (Bernal et al., 2020), and reducing the prescription of unnecessary medicines (Torrente et al., 2020).
Behavioral interventions can increase productivity; for example, heuristic-based business training is more effective than traditional training tools (Arraíz et al., 2019). Behavioral interventions can also help to improve public finances in the region by increasing voluntary tax compliance, while at the same time achieving more equitable outcomes. There is plenty of evidence that messages work (Mogollón et al., 2015), that methods of communication matter (Ortega and Scartascini, 2015), that rewards can help but only if designed appropriately (Carrillo et al., 2021), and that making it easier to comply matters (Castro and Scartascini, 2019).
Who can present research proposals?
Any research institution (or individual consultant) including think tanks may present research proposals. Studies should focus on one or more of six countries in CCB. The call for research proposals aims to advance the state of the knowledge of the impact of behavioral economics tools and foster cooperation in the creation and exchange of results and best practices, with a view to creating a support network and promoting integration across LAC. Research teams or individual consultants are therefore encouraged to reach out and exchange ideas with governments in the region and other policymakers before submitting their proposals.
Once a proposal obtains funding, the research team should be open to feedback and lessons learned in neighboring settings through workshops organized by the BE Group and CCB to exchange the knowledge generated by the research proposals. In terms of dissemination, the BE Group and CCB expect the research team to share their results in seminars organized by the BE Group and CCB with governments, academia, and the private sector in the region. It is expected that the final study become an IDB Working Paper (in addition to being published by the research team in a peer-reviewed journal) and be part of the BE Group and CCB research repository.
What are the evaluation criteria?
A scientific committee composed of IDB specialists from different sectors will evaluate the research proposals according to the following criteria:
I) Relevance and innovation. Does the research proposal address a knowledge gap? How does the study contribute to closing this knowledge gap? What innovation does the study propose to address the problem?
II) Data and methodology. Does the proposal present a clear experimental research design and methodology? The call for proposals would consider alternative empirical methods (quasi-experimental techniques), but the proposal must include a strong quantitative approach.
III) Implementation capacity. Does the researcher or team have the skills, capacity, and experience to deliver the proposed research project? Are the budget and research project plan realistic, and do they show a clear understanding of the topic to be addressed?
IV) Scalability and replicability: Are the ideas and potential results applicable to other contexts? Do they address scaling opportunities and suggestions to overcome obstacles to scaling the project?
What pieces should the proposal contain?
a) Objective and research question: The proposal should specify the country or countries and the specific topic on which the research will focus, as well as the main research question(s).
b) Policy relevance and innovation: The proposal should specify the knowledge gaps that it aims to address, how the study contributes to closing the knowledge gaps, and what innovation the study proposes to address the problem (e.g., research question, methodology proposed, data, etc.)
c) Scalability and replicability: The proposal should describe how appropriate the proposed study is for wider implementation and scalability, acknowledging if there are barriers to scaling the study or if the ideas and potential results might be applicable to other contexts.
d) Data source(s): A detailed description of the data that will be used, including whether the datasets are publicly available or restricted. For the latter, the team should show that access to the data is possible and specify whether they can share the data with the IDB after the draft is completed.
e) Methodology: A detailed description of the research design and estimation strategy. In the case of studies that rely on quasi-experimental or experimental methods, the proposal should include a discussion of the identification strategy that will allow estimating causal effects. Proposals should include identification strategy validation tests (e.g., balance tests, tests of common trend, placebo tests, etc.). The proposal should include implementation and fieldwork activities, as well as a timeline and description of those activities.
f) Research team: The names of the researchers and their ability to meet the objectives of the project, including relevant prior experience. Each researcher’s curriculum vitae (maximum 3 pages per researcher) should be included in a separate annex.
g) Execution period: A timeline indicating the activities that will be conducted within the context of the research work plan. The study should be completed in a maximum of 15 months.
h) Budget: A budget indicating the resources that will be used within the context of the research work plan. The budget should distinguish between amounts assigned to professional honoraria, data collection, implementation activities, overhead, and other major categories of research expenditures. Please describe other sources of funding, if any.
How are research proposals submitted?
Proposals are due March 20, 2022 and should be submitted using the Web Submission Form that is provided in the Call for Proposals announcement. Proposals must be submitted in English and should not exceed 5 pages in length.
Coordination and Schedule
This research project will be administered by the Research Department (IDB/RES) and will be coordinated by Carlos Scartascini (IDB/RES), David Rosenblatt (IDB/CCB), and Diether Beuermann (IDB/CCB).
The tentative schedule of activities is as follows (exact dates subject to changes):
How much is the funding?
The IDB will contribute up to US$50,000 (or its equivalent in local currency) – depending on the scope and complexity of the proposal – as a contribution to the total budget of each study. Research teams can apply for these funds to complement existing funding; to cover existing research activities; or implement and evaluate a pilot intervention if by the end of the term they are able to deliver a working paper.