Many households that rely on both wage labor and agricultural income in low- and middle-income countries live in rural areas where accessing markets can be difficult and agricultural productivity is particularly low. Poor infrastructure, such as substandard or missing roads and bridges, is one factor that can inhibit rural individuals from easily accessing local markets to sell goods, or from holding stable employment in neighboring villages or the village center. To address this, governments and international organizations have spent billions of dollars on infrastructure improvements to integrate rural markets. However, there is little rigorous evidence on whether these types of public investment programs benefit rural populations because placement is often politically motivated. Researchers are working with Bridges to Prosperity, a nonprofit organization that partners with local governments to connect communities through public infrastructure projects to explore this question in Rwanda.
The researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to determine the impact of building footbridges on wages and agricultural outcomes. Researchers identified 229 build sites across 23 of 30 Rwandan districts in need of a bridge in coordination with the Rwandan government. The build sites selected for this study span all regions of Rwanda, except the relatively flat Eastern Province where bridges are unlikely to provide any benefit. Bridge construction will be randomly rolled out between 2021-2025, and researchers will assess outcomes from villages that received bridges sooner relative to those who did not have a bridge built until later in the study. Researchers will collect data on households’ labor market participation and agricultural input and output decisions, as well as information on consumption, debt, and education, and health. In addition to surveying households, the researchers will also collect input and crop prices, bridge use data, and market-level surveys to determine the bridges’ community-level effects.
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