Cash transfers: what does the evidence say?

A rigorous review of impacts and the role of design and implementation features

Cash transfers have been increasingly adopted by countries worldwide as central elements of their social protection and poverty reduction strategies. A growing number of studies provide rigorous evidence on the impact of cash transfers, and the role of specific cash transfer design and implementation features in shaping outcomes.

This rigorous review of the impact of cash transfers, conducted by ODI, with OPM and funded by DFID, is the largest and most comprehensive review of its kind to date. It consolidates and assesses the body of evidence from 2000 to 2015, covering low- and middle-income countries worldwide, to provide policy-makers, practitioners and researchers with a single resource on the most rigorous and up-to-date evidence available.

The review covers the intended and unintended impact on individuals and households of non-contributory cash transfer programmes on six outcome areas:

  1. Monetary poverty
  2. Education
  3. Health and nutrition
  4. Savings, investment and production
  5. Employment
  6. Empowerment

It pays particular attention to the links between variations in cash transfer design and implementation details (e.g. transfer value, targeting mechanism, conditionality) and outcomes.

The outputs of the project include: 

  • the full report, containing detailed findings organised by outcome area and design feature, as well as a summary of existing literature reviews, a discussion of the review’s methods and a synthesis of findings and policy implications;

  • an annotated bibliography, summarising each of the studies reviewed, methods adopted and outcomes, indicators and cash transfer programmes covered;

  • a summary briefing paper, providing an overview of the findings; and

  • a briefing paper on the findings in relation to women and girls (forthcoming).