The PIs conducted a randomized evaluation of BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra-Poor program (TUP), a one-off transfer of skills and assets to ultra-poor women in Bangladesh intended to facilitate occupational change. The evaluation was conducted from 2007 to 2014 and covered 1,309 villages from the thirteen poorest districts of Bangladesh.
First, a census was held of all households in the sample villages. BRAC officials then held a participatory rural assessment (PRA), in which village members classified every household into one of four wealth rankings: the ultra-poor, near-poor, middle class, and upper class. Only ultra-poor households with an able adult woman were eligible to receive the TUP program. The baseline survey was conducted in 2007. All ultra-poor and near-poor households were surveyed, while 10% of middle and upper class households were surveyed. Women from eligible ultra-poor households were given a choice of income-generating ass bundles consisting of livestock, tree nurseries, and vegetable gardening supplies. Each asset bundle was valued at $560 in 2007 purchasing power parity adjusted dollars. Eligible women also received a training package valued at $560 in 2007 dollars, consisting of classroom instruction one month before transfer of the asset bundle and follow-up monthly or bimonthly visits at home by an instructor. In addition, eligible women received a subsistence allowance for forty weeks after the asset transfer to help smooth short-run earnings fluctuation during work activity adjustment. Lastly, the participants were encouraged to increase savings of new income.
The results of the study indicate that the intervention was successful in allowing ultra-poor women to substitute into higher paying labor activities, which led to a large increase in income and assets. This increase was sustained four and seven years post-intervention, suggesting that assets and skill transfer programs can set recipients on a sustainable path out of poverty. In addition, the program was highly cost effective, with an average internal rate of return of 22%.