dr. W. (Wendy) Janssens

  • Telephone:+31 20 59 82550
  • Room nr:10a-64
  • E-mail:w.janssens@vu.nl
  • Unit:faculteit der economische wetenschappen en bedrijfskunde ( economics )
  • Position:Associate Professor

Brief résumé

Wendy Janssens is Associate Professor in Development Economics and a senior researcher at the Amsterdam Institute of International Development (AIID). She is leading a Financial and Health Diaries research project in Nigeria and Kenya on household strategies to cope with health shocks, including micro-insurance, savings, microcredit and informal support networks. She is also principal investigator of an experimental and behavioral study on domestic violence in fragile settings, as well as a multidisciplinary research project on contraceptive use and women’s empowerment in Mozambique. In 2010, she was awarded a four-year Veni-grant by the NWO to study the relationship between health insurance and microcredit in Sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, she was visiting scholar at the World Bank Research Group in Washington and at the Institute of Fiscal Studies in London. Her prior research focused on impact evaluations of development programmes such as health care insurance and HIV/AIDS treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa, Early Childhood Development in the Caribbean and women’s empowerment in India.

Research interests

Development economics, behavioral economics, impact evaluation, sexual and reproductive health, microfinance, health insurance, intra-household decision-making, women's empowerment, early child development.

Research projects


This multidisciplinary research project aims to disentangle the bi-directional relationship between family planning and women’s empowerment. The project consists of two interrelated studies in Mozambique:
1) a sexual diaries study to examine how consistent use of family planning methods is affected by women’s bargaining power and awareness in combination with specific social and economic circumstances (e.g. financial shocks) as well as the perceived risk of HIV infection. This study will be combined with a Randomized Control Trial of a Family Planning training program;
2) a quantitative study on the drivers of fertility, taking into account the economic and social costs and benefits of an additional child, given budget constraints and uncertainty. This study aims to enhance understanding of ideal family size, fertility rates and family planning decisions.
The two studies are preceded by a qualitative study with the objective to determine perceptions, attitudes and barriers towards family planning, fertility and intra-household decision-making. This will allow for a cultural assessment of how much (perceived) power women have over their sexual and reproductive health.
The project is funded by Hewlett/PopDev and NWO-Wotro.


The Financial and Health Diaries studies in Nigeria and Kenya aim to understand the low uptake of micro health insurance among two rural target groups of the Health Insurance Fund in a high-risk but resource-poor environment with low access to formal financial services. During a full year in both countries, weekly financial diaries are collected to observe the income and consumption patterns of the participants, whether and how they save, which shocks they experience and how they cope with them, and whether liquidity or solvability constraints obstruct insurance premium payments. The financial diaries are complemented with weekly health diaries to gain deeper insights into health-seeking behavior, out-of-pocket health expenditures and informal insurance mechanisms in the absence of formal health insurance. The project is funded by NWO and the PharmAccess Foundation.


Female and male condoms are the only two dual protection methods against unintended pregnancies and HIV/STD infection, but usage rates of especially female condoms are very low throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Female condoms have been positioned traditionally from a women’s empowerment perspective. However, prevailing gender norms in the region mostly attribute sexual decision-making power to men. This study analyses men’s motivations to start and continue using female condoms in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Cameroon based on qualitative data collected from 478 participants in 52 Focus Group Discussions. The project was funded by UAFC (Universal Access to Female Condoms) Joint Programme and Oxfam Novib.


The demand for health insurance in developing countries remains low even when offered at affordable premiums. This research investigates whether the joint liability context of micro-credit groups affects the decision to enroll in health insurance. On the one hand, peer pressure to prevent health-related default might enhance insurance uptake. On the other hand, limited commitment opens up the opportunity for free-riding. To study whether low enrollment rates in microcredit group can be attributed to a social dilemma and whether social sanctions and group norms can alleviate part of the problem, we have conducted framed public good experiments in Tanzania, eliciting demand for group versus individual insurance under joint versus individual liability. The project was funded by the ILO Microinsurance Innovation Facility.


Health risks are among the most severe risks confronting poor households in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in areas where affordable and good quality health care is scarce and access to health insurance is limited. Individuals may travel far distances or even move to other places in order to seek treatment, to escape from infectious diseases or to help their families overcome financial hardship resulting from high medical expenditures and loss of income due to illness. Such relationships between health risks and migration are rarely explicitly studied despite their important consequences for the planning, targeting and effectiveness of health policies. Our research investigates the role of travel distance in addition to price and quality in dealing with the risks of chronic as well as  acute illnesses and injuries. The project was funded by the Agence Francaise de Developpement and the Hewlett Foundation.

The AIDS-pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa puts increasing pressure on the buffer capacity of low and middle income households without access to health insurance. This research projects examines the consequences of health shocks for medical expenditures, income-generating capacity and household coping strategies, as well as the mitigating effects of access to health insurance. It uses a panel dataset from 2006 to 2009 based on a random sample of 1,769 households and 7,343 individuals living in the Greater Windhoek Area in Namibia. In addition to a socio-economic and a bio-medical survey, the study includes medical testing for HIV-infection. This allows for an explicit analysis of HIV-related health shocks. In a related study we investigate how refusal to participate in HIV-tests affects the measurement of HIV prevalence in nationally representative household surveys. The project was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From 2006 to 2010, Wendy Janssens was the AIID principal investigator of a longitundinal impact evaluation of the Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) in the Caribbean island of St Lucia. RCP is a home-visiting Early Childhood Development programme aimed at vulnerable families with children in the age group from birth to three years old. Its main objective is to enhance appropriate child rearing practices in order to support the healthy development of young children. The quantitative impact evaluation of RCP yielded evidence on the effect of the programme on the targeted children and their caregivers. The evaluation was designed as a quasi-experimental study, consisting of a baseline survey and three follow-up survey rounds of children enrolled in the programme as well as a matched control group. At yearly intervals, trained nurses assessed the cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development of the children. In addition, enumerators interviewed their caregivers on parenting behavior, social support networks and the home environment. The study was financed by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. 


The research project studied the role of social networks, norms and trust in the emergence and sustainability of collective action in rural India. In particular, I focused on the determinants, underlying mechanisms and outcomes of social capital using a large-scale dataset on a women’s empowerment programme that I collected in 2003. An impact evaluation of the programme shows evidence of large impacts on the social capital of participants as well substantial spillover effects on non-participants in programme villages, such as on their children’s immunization rates and school enrollment.



Ancillary activities

No ancillary activities
Last changes Ancillary activities: Amsterdam 06 februari 2017
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