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Reducing Crime and Violence: Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia

Published 04/20/2015 by Global Communities

Reducing Crime and Violence: Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia

Global Communities partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the National Ex-combatants Peacebuilding Initiative (NEPI) to better understand the conditions and needs of urban youth in Monrovia. This experimental program and evaluation tested the existence of economic and psychological poverty traps, as well as interventions aimed at alleviating them: an economic component of unconditional cash transfers for business investments with basic business training, and a psychological component of ‘behavior transformation’ akin to cognitive behavior therapy. 

Study Authors: 
Christopher Blattman: Columbia University – School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA); Columbia University – Department of Political Science; Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD); Center for Global Development; Innovations for Poverty Action; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
Julian Jamison: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Research Department
Margaret Sheridan: Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital

The researchers show that noncognitive skills and identity are malleable in adulthood, and that investments therein can reduce costly antisocial behaviors. They recruited 999 Liberian men engaged in crime and violence, and randomized half to eight weeks of group cognitive behavioral therapy to decrease antisocial behavior and to foster a noncriminal self-image. We also randomized a $200 grant. Cash improved outcomes in the short-run but not long-run. Therapy increased self control and noncriminal values and led to large, sustained falls in crime and violence. Therapy’s impacts were greatest when followed by cash, likely because it reinforced behavioral changes via prolonged practice.
Read the full report here.