"In Kampala, Uganda, students who watched a feel-good movie about a chess prodigy improved their academic results. In Oaxaca, Mexico, clients of a microcredit organization were successfully trained to have greater aspirations for the future. And in Kolkata, India, sex workers in brothels were imbued with a sense of empowerment that helped them to take concrete steps to improve their lives."
"In Kampala, Uganda, for example, a study by Emma Riley, a graduate student at the University of Oxford in Britain, examined the effects on students of watching a movie, “Queen of Katwe,” starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. The Disney movie is based on the life of Phiona Mutesi, a girl from a poor township in Kampala, whose father died of AIDS when she was young.
Ms. Mutesi went on to become a champion chess player, representing Uganda in international competitions, an achievement that exceeded what many students in Uganda had expected for themselves or even thought possible.To encourage them to aim higher, students preparing for their national exams were shown the movie. When they took the exams, they performed better than a control group that instead watched a Hollywood fantasy movie, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” that did not feature an appropriate role model. Significantly more of the “Queen of Katwe” movie watchers had scores high enough to gain admission to a public university.""The Kolkata, India, experiment, conducted by five scholars based in the United Kingdom and India, ran a short course on personal growth for 264 sex workers, who had often felt stigmatized and powerless. After participating, the women had measurably greater self-esteem and a stronger belief that they could determine the course of their lives. More concretely, they began saving more money and getting more frequent health checkups.These successes suggest that even traditional anti-poverty programs work partly because they lift people up psychologically. For example, a program designed by a nonprofit in Bangladesh that has also been used in India, Ethiopia, Peru and other countries has given poor people livestock plus training on how to care for the animals.This aid package has raised participants’ incomes more than might have been expected, based on the direct monetary value of the animals and the education. What helps to explain the outsize impact is that participants started working more hours."Critics of anti-poverty aid have charged that it encourages laziness, but in this case, the opposite happened. The assistance motivated people to work harder. The extra work was partly a rational calculation: Productive assets like cows or goats magnified the payoff from labor. But it’s also true that participants’ mental health improved, which likely made them able to work more.Better mental health is also one of the striking benefits of the cash grants that the American nonprofit, GiveDirectly, has given to poor households in Kenya.""Hope isn’t a cure-all. In none of these examples can we be certain that it actually explains the gains in people’s income or education. And instilling hope without skills or financial resources is unlikely to be enough to lift people out of poverty."