February 7, 2020

In-kind incentives and health worker performance: Experimental evidence from El Salvador

By Miguel Valdez Soto

We experimentally evaluated the effects of in-kind team incentives on health worker performance in El Salvador, with 38 out of 75 community health teams randomly assigned to performance incentives over a 12-month period. All teams received monitoring, performance feedback and recognition for their achievements allowing us to isolate the effect of the incentive. While both treatment and control groups exhibit improvements in performance measures over time, the in-kind incentives generated significant improvements in community outreach, quality of care, timeliness of care, and utilization of maternal and child health services after 12 months. Gains were largest for teams at the bottom and top of the baseline performance distribution. We find no evidence of results being driven by changes in reporting or by shifting away effort from non-contracted outcomes. These results suggest that in-kind team incentives may be a viable alternative to monetary or individual incentives in certain contexts.

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