> Posted by IFMR LEAD

The following post was originally published on IFMR LEAD’s Development Outlook blog.

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Picture yourself as a working-woman in rural Bihar. Lucky for you, at this time, it’s the three to four months in which you get a daily wage: harvesting season. Unlucky for you, as a Paswan, or Mahadalit, you got the short end of the bargain in land redistribution. Thus, work for you at this time means caring for someone else’s land, for a daily wage of 200 rupees. Your day starts at 5 a.m. with household chores: cooking, cleaning, and feeding the one or two livestock you own. Then you travel a short distance over to the 4-5 acre plot of land owned by one of the landowning families in your village.

According to our study’s ongoing results, in Bihar, 100 to 150 days of work is the most you’ll get as a female agriculture laborer throughout the year. If the family owns their own land, then the working woman acts as a kind of manager to the affairs of the land and the house. All women spend their days collecting cow dung and drying it in patties. When the money you are receiving is irregular, and most of your tasks are not income generating, what are the savings you have left by the end of the year?

“Nothing!” one respondent said to me in a village, when I asked. “We spend it all.”

This answer, development economists are finding, is not one to be taken at face value. Of late, economists and researchers are finding that the poor can keep track of their daily expenditure and save even minimal amounts. These savings, researchers find, can be extremely crucial for long-term spending on health and education, if encouraged and kept regularly. Our team at IFMR LEAD is doing exactly that: testing tools for saving on the low-income earners in rural Bihar and urban Lucknow.

In our intervention in Bihar, we are introducing three instruments to respondents: a key and lock box, a financial diary, and a comic book. Each tool has a unique rationale.

The methodology is as such: all 210 randomly assigned female respondents from each household over seven different villages receive a different treatment. There is a control group, which receives no treatment or intervention. The remaining are divided into four treatment groups: one receiving a lock box, one group which hears the comic book story, one group which receives a financial diary, and a last group that gets all three: lock box, financial diary, and story telling.

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