Reconciling Evaluations of the Millennium Villages Project

DATE: 2022-01-18

By Gelman, Andrew, Shira Mitchell, Jeffrey D. Sachs and Sonia Sachs

Statistics and Public Policy Vol. 9, No. 1 (2022).

Date Published: Jan 18, 2022



The Millennium Villages Project was an integrated rural development program carried out for a decade in 10 clusters of villages in sub-Saharan Africa starting in 2005, and in a few other sites for shorter durations. An evaluation of the 10 main sites compared to retrospectively chosen control sites estimated positive effects on a range of economic, social, and health outcomes (Mitchell et al. 2018). More recently, an outside group performed a prospective controlled (but also nonrandomized) evaluation of one of the shorter duration sites and reported smaller or null results (Masset et al. 2020). Although these two conclusions seem contradictory, the differences can be explained by the fact that Mitchell et al. studied 10 sites where the project was implemented for 10 years, and Masset et al. studied one site with a program lasting less than 5 years, as well as differences in inference and framing. Insights from both evaluations should be valuable in considering future development efforts of this sort. Both studies are consistent with a larger picture of positive average impacts (compared to untreated villages) across a broad range of outcomes, but with effects varying across sites or requiring an adequate duration for impacts to be manifested.

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