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Where we’ve been and where we’re going: Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Blog
  • 9th Feb 2022

BIT’s first project outside of the UK was in Guatemala in 2014. At the time, we weren’t sure what effects we could have in the rest of the world.

Our first four years in the UK government had brought along effective trials in many areas: tax collection, employment, organ donation, and more. Those early successes helped us define our role, and the role of behavioral science, in policy making. 

We believed that we could achieve similar results elsewhere, but there were no guarantees. It wasn’t until we partnered with the Guatemalan Tax Authority that we had the opportunity to test our assumptions. 

We introduced behavioral concepts to letters sent to taxpayers with overdue tax declarations prompting them to pay. The intervention increased tax payments three-fold. 

Nearly a decade of social impact

Over the past 8 years, we have run more than 40 projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, including 24 randomized controlled trials. Our work spans 14 countries (and counting!) and our partners range from local and national governments to NGOs, the private sector, and international organizations. 

Together, we have explored increasingly complex policy areas and developed interventions to: 

  • Improve school performance and management. In Peru, through social norms emails we increased the proportion of principals that turned up to school from 83% to 87%. Each principal attended school seven days more per year than those who did not receive the emails. In Guatemala, providing principals with rules of thumb guidance on school management practices increased how often they observed teachers in the classroom and how often they met with teachers to plan lessons.
  • Promote business formalization. In Mexico, we increased the proportion of small businesses who registered their workers with social security by 14%. 
  • Fight corruption. In Colombia, we effectively increased parental engagement in monitoring the quality of the food their children were receiving in public schools. 
  • Respond to gender-based violence. In Honduras during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, we developed social media ads to advertise services to survivors of gender-based violence and increased the proportion of women who visited the government’s website by 19%
  • Encourage vaccination uptake. In Colombia, through an online experiment, we found that a message asking people to reciprocate the effort made by health staff during the COVID-19 pandemic increased intention to vaccinate by 6%. If rolled out across the country, we estimate that this messaging could lead to over two million additional people getting vaccinated.

You can read more about this work here

What’s next

BIT’s goals are to: 

  • Deliver more social impact in the region 
  • Advance the fields of behavioral science and evidence-based policymaking by expanding our portfolio of research in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Continue building regional capacity to apply behavioral science and rigorous evaluation

We have solid partnerships, a core team dedicated to Latin America and the Caribbean, and a global network of research and policy support. Now, we want to take our work in the region one step further. 

Building on these assets and seizing the talent that the region has to offer, we have begun hiring staff on the ground and plan to continue growing our team. This local expertise is vital to achieving our goals. On-the-ground staff members will draw on their direct experience and knowledge of local needs and contexts. They will be able to maintain the high quality of our work while deepening local partnerships as well.

The majority of behavioral science literature is still based on research conducted in WEIRD countries (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) like the US and the UK. Developing culturally-sensitive and context-specific research in populations outside of these geographies is key to pushing knowledge of human behavior and decision-making forward. The evidence we generate in Latin America and the Caribbean will help democratize the benefits of behavioral public policy and help advance equity.

Supplementing this work, we will continue helping our partners build their capacity to apply behavioral science and rigorous evaluation. Since we started working internationally in 2014, BIT has supported behavioral units in over 10 countries, including Guatemala, Chile, and Argentina. We are eager to continue supporting these and new behavioral insights teams. 

Thank you

We look forward to growing our social impact in Latin America and the Caribbean—and the team to deliver it. BIT is grateful to all who have partnered with us over the years, and to the governments and organizations that put behavioral insights into practice every day to improve policies and people’s lives.

Stay tuned for more! 

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