Nava Ashraf

Associate Professor, MBA Class of 1966 Faculty Research Fellow

Unit: Negotiation, Organizations & Markets

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Nava Ashraf is an Associate Professor in the Negotiations, Organizations, and Markets Unit at Harvard Business School. Professor Ashraf’s research combines psychology and economics, using both lab and field experiments to test insights from behavioral economics in the context of global development in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. She also conducts research on questions of intra-household decision making in the areas of finance and fertility. Her research is published in leading journals including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Her recent field experiments have been carried out jointly with the Ministries of Health and Education in Zambia in the areas of health services delivery and educational investment. 

Professor Ashraf designed and teaches a second year MBA course called Managing Global Health: Applying Behavioral Economics to Create Impact. She also teaches a University-wide Ph.D. course in Field Experiments. She has also taught in the first year MBA sequence on Negotiation, and is part of the Executive Education program of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, where she teaches Impact Evaluation and Performance Measurement for Nonprofit Management.  

She is a Faculty Affiliate of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT, dedicated to the use of randomized trials as a tool for learning what works in international development, and a Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Prior to joining HBS, she worked at the World Bank on trade negotiations between Morocco and the European Union, as a consultant for several nonprofit organizations in developing countries, and as founder of a business skills training institute for women in west Africa.

Professor Ashraf received her Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 2005, and her BA in Economics and International Relations from Stanford University. She has been awarded a Queen's Jubilee Medal for service by the Government of Canada, and is the youngest person ever to receive the Order of British Columbia.

Learn more about Professor Ashraf's research in a Harvard magazine cover article.

Featured Work

Publications

Journal Articles

  1. No Margin, No Mission? A Field Experiment on Incentives for Public Services Delivery

    A substantial body of research investigates the effect of pay for performance in firms, yet less is known about the effect of non-financial rewards, especially in organizations that hire individuals to perform tasks with positive social spillovers. We conduct a field experiment in which agents recruited by a public health organization to sell condoms are randomly allocated to four groups. Agents in the control group are hired as volunteers, whereas agents in the three treatment groups receive, respectively, a small monetary margin on each pack sold, a large margin, and a non-financial reward. The analysis yields three main findings. First, non-financial rewards are more effective at eliciting effort than either financial rewards or the volunteer contract and are also the most cost-effective of the four schemes. Second, non-financial rewards leverage intrinsic motivation and, contrary to existing laboratory evidence, financial incentives do not appear to crowd it out. Third, the responses to both types of incentives are stronger when their relative value is higher. Indeed, financial rewards are effective at motivating the poorest agents, and non-financial rewards are more effective when the peer group is larger. Overall, the findings demonstrate the power of non-financial rewards to motivate agents in settings where there are limits to the use of financial incentives.

    Keywords: incentives; non-monetary rewards; intrinsic motivation; Motivation and Incentives; Employees; Service Industry; Health Industry;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Oriana Bandiera, and Kelsey Jack. "No Margin, No Mission? A Field Experiment on Incentives for Public Services Delivery." Journal of Public Economics (forthcoming). View Details
  2. Savings in Transnational Households: A Field Experiment Among Migrants from El Salvador

    While remittance flows to developing countries are very large, it is unknown whether migrants desire more control over how remittances are used. This research uses a randomized field experiment to investigate the importance of migrant control over the use of remittances. In partnership with a Salvadoran bank, we offered US-based migrants from El Salvador bank accounts in their home country into which they could send remittances. We randomly varied migrant control over El Salvador-based savings by offering different types of accounts across treatment groups. Migrants offered the greatest degree of control over savings accumulated the most savings at the partner bank, compared to others offered less or no control over savings. Effects of this treatment on savings are concentrated among migrants who expressed demand for control over remittances in the baseline survey. We also find positive spillovers of our savings intervention in the form of increased savings at other banks (specifically, banks in the U.S.). We interpret the effects we find as arising from the joint effect of the bank account offers and the marketing pitch made to study participants by our project staff.

    Keywords: migration; remittances; intrahousehold allocation; savings; Saving; Residency Characteristics; Banks and Banking; Banking Industry; El Salvador; United States;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Diego Aycinena, Claudia Martinez A., and Dean Yang. "Savings in Transnational Households: A Field Experiment Among Migrants from El Salvador." Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming). View Details
  3. Household Bargaining and Excess Fertility: An Experimental Study in Zambia

    We posit that household decision-making over fertility is characterized by moral hazard due to the fact that most contraception can only be perfectly observed by the woman. Using an experiment in Zambia that varied whether women were given access to contraceptives alone or with their husbands, we find that women given access with their husbands were 19% less likely to seek family planning services, 25% less likely to use concealable contraception, and 27% percent more likely to give birth. However, women given access to contraception alone report a lower subjective well-being, suggesting a psychosocial cost of making contraceptives more concealable.
    Click here to access the online appendix.

    Keywords: Partners and Partnerships; Health; Household Characteristics; Gender Characteristics; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Erica Field, and Jean Lee. "Household Bargaining and Excess Fertility: An Experimental Study in Zambia." American Economic Review 104, no. 7 (July 2014). (Online Appendix.) View Details
  4. Awards Unbundled: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

    Organizations often use non-monetary awards to incentivize performance. Awards may affect behavior through several mechanisms: by conferring employer recognition, by enhancing social visibility, and by facilitating social comparison. In a nationwide health worker training program in Zambia, we design a field experiment to unbundle these mechanisms. We find that employer recognition and social visibility increase performance while social comparison reduces it, especially for low-ability trainees. These effects appear when treatments are announced and persist through training. The findings are consistent with a model of optimal expectations in which low-ability individuals exert low effort in order to avoid information about their relative ability.

    Keywords: social comparison; awards; optimal expectactions; Motivation and Incentives; Status and Position; Zambia; Status and Position; Performance Expectations; Motivation and Incentives; Health Care and Treatment; Health Industry; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Oriana Bandiera, and Scott S. Lee. "Awards Unbundled: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 100 (April 2014): 44–63. View Details
  5. Rx: Human Nature: How Behavioral Economics Is Promoting Better Health Around the World

    Why doesn't a woman who continues to have unwanted pregnancies avail herself of the free contraception at a nearby clinic? What keeps people from using free chlorine tablets to purify their drinking water? Behavioral economics has shown us that we don't always act in our own best interests. This is as true of health decisions as it is of economic ones. An array of biases, limits on cognition, and motivations leads people all over the world to make suboptimal health choices. The good news is that human nature can also be a source of solutions. Through her studies in Zambia exploring the reasons for unwanted pregnancies and the incentives that would motivate hairdressers to sell condoms to their clients, the author has found that designing effective health programs requires more than providing accessible, affordable care; it requires understanding what makes both end users and providers tick. By understanding the cognitive processes underlying our choices and applying the tools of behavioral economics—such as commitment devices, material incentives, defaults, and tools that tap our desire to help others—it's possible to design simple, inexpensive programs that encourage good health decisions and long-term behavior change.

    Keywords: Behavior; Economics; Motivation and Incentives; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava. "Rx: Human Nature: How Behavioral Economics Is Promoting Better Health Around the World." Harvard Business Review 91, no. 4 (April 2013): 119–125. View Details
  6. Information and Subsidies: Complements or Substitutes?

    Does providing information about a product affect the impact of price subsidies on purchases of new or unfamiliar products? This question is particularly relevant for the introduction of health products in developing countries where consumers may be uncertain about product quality and price subsidies are common policy instruments. Through a field experiment selling an unfamiliar health product in Zambia, we find that providing precise information about product specifications significantly increases the impact of the price subsidy on take-up. Taken alone, the information manipulation has no significant impact on demand while the price subsidy substantially increases demand. However, evaluation of either intervention in isolation fails to capture the significant complementarity between the two.

    Keywords: subsidies; information; health; Information; Consumer Behavior; Health; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, B. Kelsey Jack, and Emir Kamenica. "Information and Subsidies: Complements or Substitutes?" Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 88 (April 2013): 133–139. View Details
  7. Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia

    The controversy over how much to charge for health products in the developing world rests, in part, on whether higher prices can increase use, either by targeting distribution to high-use households (a screening effect), or by stimulating use psychologically through a sunk-cost effect. We develop a methodology for separating these two effects. We implement the methodology in a field experiment in Zambia using door-to-door marketing of a home water purification solution. We find evidence of economically important screening effects. By contrast, we find no consistent evidence of sunk-cost effects.

    Keywords: Price; Product; Information; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, James Berry, and Jesse M. Shapiro. "Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia." American Economic Review 100, no. 5 (December 2010): 2383–2413. (Online Appendix.) View Details
  8. Female Empowerment: Further Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines

    Female "empowerment" has increasingly become a policy goal, both as an end to itself and as a means to achieving other development goals. Microfinance in particular has often been argued, but not without controversy, to be a tool for empowering women. Here, using a randomized controlled trial, we examine whether access to and marketing of an individually held commitment savings product lead to an increase in female decision-making power within the household. We find positive impacts, particularly for women who have below median decision-making power in the baseline, and we find this leads to a shift toward female-oriented durable goods purchased in the household.

    Keywords: Goals and Objectives; Product; Microfinance; Decision Making; Product; Policy; Welfare or Wellbeing; Gender Characteristics; Power and Influence; Philippines;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Dean Karlan, and Wesley Yin. "Female Empowerment: Further Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." World Development 38, no. 3 (March 2010): 333–344. View Details
  9. Finding Missing Markets (and a Disturbing Epilogue): Evidence from an Export Crop Adoption and Marketing Intervention in Kenya

    Farmers may grow crops for local consumption despite more profitable export options. DrumNet, a Kenyan NGO that helps small farmers adopt and market export crops, conducted a randomized trial to evaluate its impact. DrumNet services increased production of export crops and lowered marketing costs, leading to a 32% income gain for new adopters. The services collapsed one year later when the exporter stopped buying from DrumNet because farmers could not meet new EU production requirements. Farmers sold to other middlemen and defaulted on their loans from DrumNet. Such experiences may explain why farmers are less likely to adopt export crops.

    Keywords: export crop; field experiment; food safety standards; Plant-Based Agribusiness; Trade; Profit; Marketing; Standards; Failure; Non-Governmental Organizations; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Kenya; European Union;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Xavier Gine, and Dean Karlan. "Finding Missing Markets (and a Disturbing Epilogue): Evidence from an Export Crop Adoption and Marketing Intervention in Kenya." American Journal of Agricultural Economics 91, no. 4 (November 2009): 973–990. View Details
  10. Spousal Control and Intra-Household Decision Making: An Experimental Study in the Philippines

    Using an experimental design I elicit causal effects of spousal observability and communication on financial choices of married individuals in the Philippines. Making choices public moves men from putting money into their own account to consumption; communication with their spouse drives men to put income in their wives' account. The strong effect on men but not women of information and communication appears to be driven not as much by gender as by control: men whose wives control household savings are much more likely to exhibit this treatment effect, and women whose husbands control savings exhibit the same pattern as men. These results suggest that existing household models and policies are incomplete without taking into account the bargaining process and, in particular, the way in which this process interacts with underlying control structures in the household.

    Keywords: intra-household; bargaining; experiments; economic development; Saving; Governance Controls; Decision Choices and Conditions; Personal Finance; Family and Family Relationships; Household Characteristics; Gender Characteristics;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava. "Spousal Control and Intra-Household Decision Making: An Experimental Study in the Philippines." American Economic Review 99, no. 4 (September 2009): 1245–1277. (Online Appendix.) View Details
  11. Decomposing Trust and Trustworthiness

    What motivates people to trust and be trustworthy? Is trust solely "calculative," based on the expectation of trustworthiness, and trustworthiness only reciprocity? Employing a within-subject design, we run investment and dictator game experiments in Russia, South Africa and the United States. Additionally, we measured risk preferences and expectations of return. Expectations of return account for most of the variance in trust, but unconditional kindness also matters. Variance in trustworthiness is mainly accounted for by unconditional kindness, while reciprocity plays a comparatively small role. There exists some heterogeneity in motivation but people behave surprisingly similarly in the three countries studied.

    Keywords: Trust; Change;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Iris Bohnet, and Nikita Piankov. "Decomposing Trust and Trustworthiness." Experimental Economics 9, no. 3 (September 2006): 193–208. View Details
  12. Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines

    We designed a commitment savings product for a Philippine bank and implemented it using a randomized control methodology. The savings product was intended for individuals who want to commit now to restrict access to their savings, and who were sophisticated enough to engage in such a mechanism. We conducted a baseline survey on 1777 existing or former clients of a bank. One month later, we offered the commitment product to a randomly chosen subset of 710 clients; 202 (28.4 percent) accepted the offer and opened the account. In the baseline survey, we asked hypothetical time discounting questions. Women who exhibited a lower discount rate for future relative to current trade-offs, and hence potentially have a preference for commitment, were indeed significantly more likely to open the commitment savings account. After twelve months, average savings balances increased by 81 percentage points for those clients assigned to the treatment group relative to those assigned to the control group. We conclude that the savings response represents a lasting change in savings, and not merely a short-term response to a new product.

    Keywords: Information; Product; Philippines;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Dean Karlan, and Wesley Yin. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." Quarterly Journal of Economics 121, no. 2 (May 2006): 635–672. (Winner of TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award Certificate of Excellence For an outstanding research publication containing ideas that the public and private sectors can use to maintain and improve America's lifelong financial well being presented by TIAA-CREF Institute.) View Details
  13. Deposit Collectors

    Informal lending and savings institutions exist around the world, and often include regular door-to-door deposit collection of cash. Some banks have adopted similar services in order to expand access to banking services in areas that lack physical branches. Using a randomized control trial, we investigate determinants of participation in a deposit collection service and evaluate the impact of offering the service for micro-savers of a rural bank in the Philippines. Of 137 individuals offered the service in the treatment group, 38 agreed to sign-up, and 20 regularly used the service. Take-up is predicted by distance to the bank (a measure of transaction costs of depositing without the service) as well as being married (a suggestion that household bargaining issues are important). Those offered the service saved 188 pesos more (which equates to about a 25% increase in savings stock) and were slightly less likely to borrow from the bank.

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Dean Karlan, and Wesley Yin. "Deposit Collectors." Art. 5. Special Issue on Field Experiments. Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy 6, no. 2 (2006). View Details
  14. Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist

    Adam Smith's psychological perspective in The Theory of Moral Sentiments is remarkably similar to "dual-process" frameworks advanced by psychologists, neuroscientists, and more recently by behavioral economists, based on behavioral data and detailed observations of brain functioning. It also anticipates a wide range of insights regarding phenomena such as loss aversion, willpower, and fairness that have been the focus of modern behavioral economics. This essay draws attention to some of these connections.

    Keywords: Behavior; Economics;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Colin Camerer, and George Loewenstein. "Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist." Journal of Economic Perspectives 19, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 131–145. (Read an interview about this article in HBS Working Knowledge.) View Details

Working Papers

  1. Contraceptive Access and Fertility: The Impact of Supply-Side Interventions

    Declining fertility in both the developed and developing world has led to large and potentially welfare-enhancing changes in women's labor supply, education and investment in children in recent decades. However, it has been widely noted that the pace of this decline has stalled even while access to contraception has continued to expand, raising the question of whether increasing access to contraception is sufficient to lead to declining fertility. This paper provides evidence about the relationship between contraceptive access and fertility from a randomized controlled trial in Lusaka, Zambia, in which women of child-bearing age were provided with a voucher for free and immediate access to long-acting forms of contraception; this voucher was provided either to the woman individually, or the woman jointly with her spouse. Results show that there is a significant increase in contraceptive use, and a particularly large increase in experimentation with new contraceptive methods, but no decline in births in the short- or long-term compared to a control group who did not receive increased access to contraceptives.

    Keywords: fertility; contraceptive access; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Erica Field, and Jessica Leight. "Contraceptive Access and Fertility: The Impact of Supply-Side Interventions." Working Paper, September 2014. (Under review.) View Details
  2. The Psycho-Social Benefits of Access to Contraception: Experimental Evidence from Zambia

    In a field experiment in Lusaka, Zambia, married couples in the catchment area of a family planning clinic were randomly assigned to either a treatment group (N=503) or a control group (N=768). Those in the treatment group received vouchers guaranteeing free and immediate access to two long-term modern contraceptive methods with low failure rates (injectable contraceptives and contraceptive implants), which they could redeem at the family planning clinic over the course of a year. Women in the control group had access to the standard menu of contraceptive methods available in the clinic, and were subject to lengthy waiting times and frequent stock-outs. Follow-up data on contraceptive utilization and mental health outcomes were collected two years after the intervention. Women in the treatment group were significantly more likely to utilize modern contraceptive methods at endline, (95% CI [-0.001, 0.079]; p=0.059). They also exhibit significantly improved mental health relative to the control sample, scoring 0.070 points higher on the mental health index (95% CI [0.006, 0.133]; p=0.031). These effects were observed in the absence of any significant effect on fertility or birth spacing.

    Keywords: contraceptive access; mental health; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Marric Buessing, Erica Field, and Jessica Leight. "The Psycho-Social Benefits of Access to Contraception: Experimental Evidence from Zambia." Working Paper, August 2014. (Under review.) View Details
  3. Do-gooders and Go-getters: Career Incentives, Selection, and Performance in Public Service Delivery

    We study how career and social incentives affect those who self-select into public health jobs and, through selection, their performance while in service. We collaborate with the Government of Zambia to experimentally vary the salience of career benefits ("doctors") vs. social benefits ("do-gooders") across districts when recruiting agents for newly created health worker jobs. We follow the entire first cohort from application to the field and measure impacts at every stage. We find that career incentives attract more qualified applicants, without displacing pro-social motivation, which is high in both treatments, or creating gender imbalances. Selection panels, however, are relatively more likely to choose men when career incentives are made salient. Over the course of one year, health workers in the career incentives treatment are more effective at delivering health services than those in the social incentives treatment, and are equally likely to remain in their posts.

    Keywords: Motivation and Incentives; Health Industry; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Oriana Bandiera, and Scott S. Lee. "Do-gooders and Go-getters: Career Incentives, Selection, and Performance in Public Service Delivery." Working Paper, July 2014. (Under review.) View Details
  4. Nudging Physicians to Pursue Careers in Underserved Areas: A Case for Behavioral Economics

    Currently, more than 60 million Americans live in "Health Professional Shortage Areas." Unless policymakers can encourage more physicians to practice in medically under-resourced areas, an increased number of uninsured individuals newly able to obtain health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act may contribute to even greater physician access problems in these communities. Behavioral economics is a discipline that recognizes the limits of rational decision-making based on the principle that human behavior is influenced by cognitive biases and the social/emotional context in which decisions are made. Behavioral economics-based policy approaches that aim to change the context in which physicians make practice decisions have received little attention thus far. In this paper, we propose a behavioral economics-based policy framework for carefully designing program and policy options to nudge physicians toward practice in medically underserved, under-resourced areas in the U.S.

    Keywords: Access to care; health economics; health reform; minority health; disparities; Health Care and Treatment; Health Industry;

    Citation:

    Lopez, Joseph, Mona Singh, Nava Ashraf, and Joel Weissman. "Nudging Physicians to Pursue Careers in Underserved Areas: A Case for Behavioral Economics." (Working Paper, February 2014. Under review.) View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Setting Price Effectively

    Price is one of the most powerful instruments a manager can use to influence the take-up of her product, especially in a subsidized and noncompetitive market as is common for global health products. However, the question of whether and how to price has been the subject of extensive policy debate: whether to charge users for life-saving health products and services, whether to distribute them for free, or whether to give additional incentives for individuals to use them. This note describes the latest, cutting-edge, research on how pricing influences the end user's decision to purchase and use vitally needed health products, opening a deeper and informed dialogue about pricing. The note concludes with a succinct guide to how to optimally price products based on different organizational goals and product characteristics.

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Kristin Johnson. "Setting Price Effectively." Harvard Business School Background Note 914-037, March 2014. (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  2. Uptake of Rapid Diagnostic Tests: A Development Challenge

    Keywords: Developing Countries and Economies; Health Pandemics; Technology; Health Care and Treatment; Policy; Behavior; Prejudice and Bias; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Andrew Boozary, and Kristin Johnson. "Uptake of Rapid Diagnostic Tests: A Development Challenge." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 914-042, March 2014. View Details
  3. Roll Back Malaria and BCG: The Change Initiative

    Keywords: Health Care and Treatment; Management Practices and Processes; Performance Evaluation; Communication Strategy; Communication Intention and Meaning; Non-Governmental Organizations; Change Management; Multinational Firms and Management; Negotiation; Health Industry;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Natalie Kindred. "Roll Back Malaria and BCG: The Change Initiative." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 914-041, March 2014. View Details
  4. Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (A), (B) and (C)

    Keywords: Saving; Innovation and Invention; Measurement and Metrics; Product Design; Success; Performance Evaluation; Philippines;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Kristin Johnson. "Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (A), (B) and (C)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 914-022, January 2014. View Details
  5. Oral Rehydration Therapy

    This Teaching Note accompanies the case "Oral Rehydration Therapy" (911-035). The case highlights the puzzlingly high rate of diarrhea-related child mortality in developing countries despite the existence of a simple, effective treatment: oral rehydration therapy (ORT). ORT treated extreme dehydration caused by diarrhea, which was a leading cause of death among young children in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Heralded in the 1970s as one of the most important medical advancements of the 20th century, ORT contributed to a reduction in diarrhea-related child deaths from roughly 4.5 million in 1980 to 1.5 million in 2000. Yet for reasons unclear to the global public health community, the mortality rate stalled at around 1.5 million, where it remained in 2010. In presenting the problem of diarrhea-related death, the solution represented by ORT, and the various factors potentially influencing ORT utilization, the case allows students to analyze the possible causes of low ORT utilization and potential measures to address them.

    Keywords: Health Care and Treatment; Innovation Strategy; Problems and Challenges; Developing Countries and Economies; Technological Innovation; Distribution Channels; Emerging Markets; Consumer Behavior; Performance Consistency; Performance Evaluation; Health Industry; Africa; Asia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Natalie Kindred. "Oral Rehydration Therapy." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 914-038, March 2014. View Details
  6. Community Health Workers in Zambia: Incentive Design and Management

    Keywords: Developing Countries and Economies; Training; Health Care and Treatment; Compensation and Benefits; Recruitment; Selection and Staffing; Mission and Purpose; Non-Governmental Organizations; Motivation and Incentives; Health Industry; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Kristin Johnson. "Community Health Workers in Zambia: Incentive Design and Management." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 914-024, February 2014. View Details
  7. Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (C)

    Keywords: Saving; Innovation and Invention; Measurement and Metrics; Product Design; Success; Performance Evaluation; Banking Industry; Philippines;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Dean Karlan, Wesley Yin, and Marc Shotland. "Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (C)." Harvard Business School Supplement 914-003, February 2014. View Details
  8. Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (B)

    Keywords: Microfinance; Saving; Innovation and Invention; Measurement and Metrics; Product Design; Success; Performance Evaluation; Banking Industry; Philippines;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Dean Karlan, Wesley Yin, and Marc Shotland. "Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 914-002, February 2014. View Details
  9. Incentives at the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC)

    Keywords: community health workers; Motivation and Incentives; Health Care and Treatment; Health Industry; Bangladesh;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Kristin Johnson. "Incentives at the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC)." Harvard Business School Background Note 914-036, February 2014. (Revised April 2014.) (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  10. Deworming Kenya: Translating Research into Action (A) and (B)

    Teaching Note for 910001.

    Keywords: Health Disorders; Research and Development; Health Care and Treatment; Kenya;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Neil Buddy Shah, Rachel Gordon, and Elena Moroz. "Deworming Kenya: Translating Research into Action (A) and (B)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 910-002, June 2010. (Revised March 2014.) View Details
  11. Community Health Workers in Zambia: Incentive Design and Management

    This case examines the various considerations relevant to selecting and compensating workers in a context where their work involves a pro-social component. This is relevant to not only health care in Zambia, but to NGO and public sector workers who are both motivated by the mission of their positions and the remuneration. Zambia was facing a healthcare human resource crisis with less than half of the healthcare workers needed to meet health needs. Yet, it was simultaneously burdened by high incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, malnutrition, and respiratory and diarrheal diseases. The Zambian Ministry of Health (MoH) realized that in the short term, it would be impossible to train the number of doctors and nurses needed to fill this gap. Thus, they were considering incorporating the primarily volunteer community health worker (CHW) force into salaried health workers of the MoH. Given the high level of personal commitment and dedication combined with the proper education and skill needed to be an effective community health worker, the MoH was struggling to identify the best strategy to recruit and retain motivated and capable CHWs.

    Keywords: Developing Countries and Economies; Training; Health Care and Treatment; Compensation and Benefits; Recruitment; Selection and Staffing; Mission and Purpose; Non-Governmental Organizations; Motivation and Incentives; Health Industry; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Natalie Kindred. "Community Health Workers in Zambia: Incentive Design and Management." Harvard Business School Case 910-030, March 2010. (Revised February 2014.) (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  12. Uptake of Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests

    This case describes barriers to adoption of malaria rapid diagnostic tests in Zambia and highlights the importance of understanding end users in promoting product adoption. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are simple, easy-to-use tools that provide a relatively reliable, inexpensive way to confirm diagnoses of malaria. In addition to ensuring that patients' febrile illnesses are properly diagnosed and treated, confirming malaria diagnoses has broader public health benefits, including promoting the efficient use of limited malaria medications and preventing increased resistance to first-line malaria treatment. However, despite the evident potential benefits of RDTs, many clinicians in Zambia do not use them or simply ignore their results. Why don't they trust these tools, and what can be done to improve adoption? Various barriers to uptake and methods to overcome these challenges are explored, with broad implications for technology adoption and health policy. A particular emphasis is placed on the role of behavioral preferences.

    Keywords: Developing Countries and Economies; Health Pandemics; Technology; Health Care and Treatment; Policy; Behavior; Prejudice and Bias; Health Industry; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Natalie Kindred, and Richard Sedlmayr. "Uptake of Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests." Harvard Business School Case 911-007, January 2011. (Revised April 2014.) (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  13. Oral Rehydration Therapy

    This case highlights the puzzlingly high rate of diarrhea-related child mortality in developing countries despite the existence of a simple, effective treatment: oral rehydration therapy (ORT). ORT treated extreme dehydration caused by diarrhea, which was a leading cause of death among young children in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Heralded in the 1970s as one of the most important medical advancements of the 20th century, ORT contributed to a reduction in diarrhea-related child deaths from roughly 4.5 million in 1980 to 1.5 million in 2000. Yet for reasons unclear to the global public health community, the mortality rate stalled at around 1.5 million, where it remained in 2010. In presenting the problem of diarrhea-related death, the solution represented by ORT, and the various factors potentially influencing ORT utilization, the case allows students to analyze the possible causes of low ORT utilization and potential measures to address them.

    Keywords: Health Care and Treatment; Innovation Strategy; Problems and Challenges; Developing Countries and Economies; Technological Innovation; Distribution Channels; Emerging Markets; Consumer Behavior; Performance Consistency; Performance Evaluation; Health Industry; Africa; Asia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, and Claire Qureshi. "Oral Rehydration Therapy." Harvard Business School Case 911-035, December 2010. (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  14. Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (A)

    Green Bank of the Philippines was known for its product innovation and its ability to bring new products to market. In 2002, Green Bank designed an untested commitment savings product that both gave individuals access to formal savings and helped them commit to reaching their savings goals. Omar Andaya, the Green Bank president, must decide how to evaluate the success of this product. The management team at Green Bank discusses various evaluation methods, including a formal quantitative impact evaluation using a randomized control trial (RCT), and the value an impact assessment brings to the Bank. In particular, they grapple with the question of how success is measured for a product both for the bank and for its clients. The case highlights the issues an organization must consider before deciding to do an impact assessment as well as common design challenges.

    Keywords: Saving; Innovation and Invention; Measurement and Metrics; Product Design; Success; Performance Evaluation; Banking Industry; Philippines;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Dean Karlan, Wesley Yin, and Marc Shotland. "Evaluating Microsavings Programs: Green Bank of the Philippines (A)." Harvard Business School Case 909-062, June 2009. (Revised February 2014.) (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  15. Deworming Kenya: Translating Research into Action (A)

    Karen Levy and her colleague, Margaret Ndanyi, have spent the last six months planning and preparing for a national Kenyan program to target school children most at risk for parasitic worm infection. One week after its launch, the program seemed to be going well but Ndanyi and Levy knew that it still needed to be administered in almost 40 districts at thousands of schools. They wondered: Would they meet their goal of deworming over three million school children before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2009? Would they be able to do it for less than $0.50 per child?

    Keywords: Planning; Risk and Uncertainty; Mission and Purpose; Performance Efficiency; Programs; Problems and Challenges; Research; Policy; Health Care and Treatment; Management Practices and Processes; Kenya;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Neil Buddy Shah, and Rachel Gordon. "Deworming Kenya: Translating Research into Action (A)." Harvard Business School Case 910-001, March 2010. (Revised April 2010.) View Details
  16. Deworming Kenya: Translating Research into Action (B)

    Karen Levy and her colleague, Margaret Ndanyi, learn the results of their nation-wide effort to rid Kenyan school children of parasitic worm infection.

    Keywords: Programs; Health Care and Treatment; Research; Policy; Outcome or Result; Kenya;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Neil Buddy Shah, and Rachel Gordon. "Deworming Kenya: Translating Research into Action (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 910-027, March 2010. View Details
  17. Roll Back Malaria and BCG: The Change Initiative

    Roll Back Malaria, a global partnership dedicated to fighting malaria has not met its founders' expectations of effectively combatting malaria. In 2005, after several internal evaluations, RBM leadership has decided to engage the Boston Consulting Group to work on a Change Initiative that when completed will enable RBM to address the eradication of malaria both more effectively and through larger scale efforts. However, the Initiative has become derailed after BCG's first major presentation to the RBM board. Will this end the Change Initiative prematurely?

    Keywords: Health Care and Treatment; Management Practices and Processes; Performance Evaluation; Communication Strategy; Communication Intention and Meaning; Non-Governmental Organizations; Change Management; Multinational Firms and Management; Negotiation; Health Industry;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Rachel Gordon, and Catherine Ross. "Roll Back Malaria and BCG: The Change Initiative." Harvard Business School Case 910-023, March 2010. (Revised March 2014.) (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details
  18. PSI: Social Marketing Clean Water

    Senior management at PSI, arguably the world's largest and most successful social marketer with impressive achievements in the field of family planning, HIV/AIDS, and malaria prevention must determine what to do about their slow-to-take-off clean water initiative. PSI's point-of-use products offered effective protection against water-borne diseases, especially diarrhea, yet the organization found it hard to attract donor funds to sustain the initiative. Its managers must determine how to alter their strategy going forward.

    Keywords: Investment Funds; Health Care and Treatment; Social Marketing; Natural Environment; Social Enterprise; Business Strategy;

    Citation:

    Rangan, V. Kasturi, Nava Ashraf, and Marie Bell. "PSI: Social Marketing Clean Water." Harvard Business School Case 507-052, January 2007. (Revised December 2007.) (Request a courtesy copy.) View Details

Other Publications and Book Chapters

  1. Evaluating the Effects of Large Scale Health Interventions in Developing Countries: The Zambian Malaria Initiative

    Since 2003, Zambia has been engaged in a large-scale, centrally coordinated national anti-Malaria campaign, which has become a model in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper aims at quantifying the individual and macro-level benefits of this campaign, which involved mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic tests, and artemisinin-based combination therapy. We discuss the timing and regional coverage of the program and critically review the available health and program rollout data. To estimate the health benefits associated with the program rollout, we use both population-based morbidity measures from the Demographic and Health Surveys and health facility-based mortality data as reported in the national Health Management Information System. While we find rather robust correlations between the rollout of bed nets and subsequent improvements in our health measures, the link between regional spraying and individual health level appears rather weak in the data.

    Keywords: Programs; Health Pandemics; Developing Countries and Economies; Zambia;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Gunther Fink, and David N. Weil. "Evaluating the Effects of Large Scale Health Interventions in Developing Countries: The Zambian Malaria Initiative." In NBER Volume on African Economic Successes, edited by S. Edwards, S. Johnson, and D. Weil. University of Chicago Press, forthcoming. View Details
  2. My Policies or Yours: Do OECD Agricultural Policies Affect Poverty in Developing Countries?

    Keywords: Agribusiness; Policy; Government and Politics; Developing Countries and Economies; Trade; Poverty; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry;

    Citation:

    Ashraf, Nava, Margaret McMillan, and Alix Peterson-Zwane. "My Policies or Yours: Do OECD Agricultural Policies Affect Poverty in Developing Countries?" In Globalization and Poverty, edited by Ann Harrison. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. (Read the New York Times article citing this paper .) View Details

    Research Summary

  1. Overview

    Professor Ashraf's research applies insights from psychology, sociology, and economics to understand and affect behavior in development. Her current research interests fall into three broad categories: technology adoption, motivation and incentive design, and intra-household decision making.

    Keywords: health; Microfinance; Agriculture; Women's Empowerment;

  2. Technology Adoption

    Professor Ashraf's research in technology adoption addresses the puzzling question of why easy and accessible technology is not used, even when it has the potential to save lives or significantly increase income.

    "Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia." (with James Berry and Jesse Shapiro) August 2008, forthcoming, American Economic Review, December 2010.

    "Finding Missing Markets: Evidence from an Export Crop Adoption and Marketing Intervention in Kenya." (with Xavier Giné and Dean Karlan), American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 91, no.4, November 2009.

    "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." (with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin) Quarterly Journal of Economics 121, no. 2, 2006.

  3. Motivation and Incentive Design

    Professor Ashraf's research in motivation and incentives focuses on how to design incentives in sectors where it is important that individuals are motivated by service, such as healthcare or environmental conservation. An important lever is the extent to which individuals have "pro-social" motivation, which I have explored in laboratory settings across countries.

    "Decomposing Trust and Trustworthiness." (with Iris Bohnet and Nikita Piankov) Experimental Economics 9, no. 3, September 2006.

    "No Margin, no mission? A field experiment on incentives for public service delivery." (with Oriana Bandiera and Kelsey Jack) forthcoming, Journal of Public Economics.

    "Selection and Compensation of Community Health Workers in Zambia." (on-going, with Oriana Bandiera and Scott Lee).

  4. Intra-Household Decision Making

    Professor Ashraf's research in intra-household decision making examines how households make financial and health decisions, particularly in the presence of asymmetric information or benefits.

    "Spousal Control and Intra-Household Decision Making: An Experimental Study in the Philippines." American Economic Review 99, no. 4, September 2009.

    "Female Empowerment: Further Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." (with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin) April 2009, World Development 38, Issue 3, March 2010.

    "Savings in Transnational Households: A Field Experiment among Migrants from El Salvador." (with Diego Aycinena, Claudia Martinez A., and Dean Yang) forthcoming, Review of Economics and Statistics.

    "Household Bargaining and Excess Fertility: An Experimental Study in Zambia." (with Erica Field and Jean Lee) American Economic Review 104, 7 (July 2014).

    "Understanding Male Fertility Preferences in Zambia."
    (on-going, with Erica Field and Alessandra Voena).

  5. Health

    "Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia." (with James Berry and Jesse Shapiro) August 2008,  American Economic Review, December 2010.

    "Household Bargaining and Excess Fertility: An Experimental Study in Zambia." (with Erica Field and Jean Lee) American Economic Review 104, 7 (July 2014).

    "No Margin, no mission? A field experiment on incentives for public service delivery." (with Oriana Bandiera and Kelsey Jack) forthcoming, Journal of Public Economics.

    "Understanding Male Fertility Preferences in Zambia." (on-going, with Erica Field and Alessandra Voena).

    "Selection and Compensation of Community Health Workers in Zambia." (on-going, with Oriana Bandiera and Scott Lee). 

  6. Microfinance

    "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." (with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin) Quarterly Journal of Economics 121, no. 2, 2006.

    "Female Empowerment: Further Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." (with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin) April 2009, World Development 38, Issue 3, March 2010.

    "Deposit Collectors." (with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin) Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 6, No. 2, Article 5, March 2006.

    "Savings in Transnational Households: A Field Experiment among Migrants from El Salvador." (with Diego Aycinena, Claudia Martinez A., and Dean Yang) forthcoming, Review of Economics and Statistics.

    "Spousal Control and Intra-Household Decision Making: An Experimental Study in the Philippines."American Economic Review 99, no. 4, September 2009.

  7. Women's Empowerment

    "Female Empowerment: Further Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines." (with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin) April 2009, World Development 38, Issue 3, March 2010.

    "Household Bargaining and Excess Fertility: An Experimental Study in Zambia." (with Erica Field and Jean Lee) American Economic Review 104, 7 (July 2014).

    "Spousal Control and Intra-Household Decision Making: An Experimental Study in the Philippines."American Economic Review 99, no. 4, September 2009.

    "No Margin, no mission? A field experiment on incentives for public service delivery." (with Oriana Bandiera and Kelsey Jack) forthcoming, Journal of Public Economics.

    "Understanding Male Fertility Preferences in Zambia." (on-going, with Erica Field and Alessandra Voena).

    Teaching

  1. Managing Global Health: Applying Behavioral Economics to Create Impact (MBA)

    Health, and development more broadly, is not something we give to people: it is something they produce themselves, interacting with supply-side and institutional factors. This course trains students to see through the lens of the end-user and to use the levers of behavior change to generate impact in health and social programs. Although most of the applications are in global health, it is appropriate for students who anticipate working in health, education, or international development sectors, as well as those with a general interest in learning how behavioral economics can be effectively applied.

    In this course, students learn how to design products and services from the perspective of the patient/customer and the provider/supplier.

    The course is organized around three core modules, each of which focus on one of the elements that comes together to jointly produce a health outcome: the customer, the provider, and the system:

    1. How do we understand the needs of the customer (patient)? How do we design and deliver products to meet those needs?

    2. How do we motivate the providers and ensure they are providing the best care possible?

    3. How can the larger health system, including private sector actors, enable the production of health? How do we change practices on a system-level?

    Through exposure to major practitioner challenges and innovative solutions from HBS Case discussions, protagonists from the field, expert guest faculty from across Harvard, and engagement with cutting edge research in public health, public policy, psychology, and economics, students will learn to bridge the worlds of research and action to creatively, and skillfully, make an impact in global health.

  2. Field Experiments (PhD)

    This course is for doctoral students who want to learn how to design and run field experiments as a research methodology. The objective is for students to refine their own experimental designs and be able to run them by the end of the course, leading to an academic paper.

    The course will be hands-on and oriented towards providing technical skills for the design and implementation of field experiments, including overcoming the many possible associated pitfalls. We will examine in-depth examples of how field experiments are designed, implemented and analyzed, including the “back story” of several published field experiments.

    We will also discuss at length throughout the course how to use field experiments to test academic theory as opposed to only for policy/impact evaluation. The course also introduces particularly fruitful areas for research using field experiments and facilitates students’ presentations of their own research ideas.

  1. Recipient of a 2012 Rising Star in Global Health Grant from Grand Challenges Canada.

  2. Winner of the 2006 TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award Certificate of Excellence for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security for the article “Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines” (Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2006) with Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin.

  3. Recipient of the 2003 Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal from the Chancellery of Honours, Canada.

  4. Member of Phi Beta Kappa since 1996.

  5. Inducted into the Order of British Columbia in 1995. Youngest Recipient Ever.

Selected Articles

18 Sep 2014
Economist
20 Sep 2014
Economist
06 Aug 2014
HBS Working Knowledge
04 Jul 2005
American Psychological Association
13 Jul 2011
HBS Working Knowledge
01 Dec 2011
HBS Alumni Bulletin
01 Mar 2006
Harvard Magazine
28 Jun 2011
HBS Alumni Bulletin
07 Feb 2012
WAPPP Wire (Harvard Kennedy School's Women and Public Policy Program)
01 Jan 2011
MIT TechTV