Let’s begin with a big question: how are cash transfers institutionalized in Africa? Lavers and Hickey chart the pathways for cash transfers absorption into government structures. Such process occurs in two distinct ways: one involves an initial “push” by donors, followed by broader domestic embracement as part of competitive elections (e.g., Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and, to some extent, Zambia). Another route, instead, involves the adoption of cash transfers only when the dominant ruling coalition felt threatened by a serious crisis – here transfers are provided based on elite perceptions of needs, then complemented by donor support (e.g., Ethiopia, Mozambique and Rwanda). What’s next? It depends on “… whether Covid-19 is perceived by ruling elites in sub-Saharan Africa to be a distributional crisis that threatens their political survival, and also whether policy coalitions are able to both frame social transfers as a relevant response and, in the context of cash-strapped governments, help mobilize new resources to fill the gap”.
Let’s move to cash transfers “plus”: a new study by Roelen and Saha explores whether the Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM) integrated model in Haiti improves mental health. Over the course of 18 months, the CLM offers a 5-arm package involving weekly $13 transfers, an asset worth $155, support to join savings and credit services, weekly home visits by social workers (including health and nutrition messaging), and housing and latrine materials for $250. What did the evaluation find? The CLM helped improve Haitian mothers’ mental health (via less poverty-induced stress) by 1 point in the Kessler psychological distress scale; however, there was limited impact on cognitive stimulation of children (3–5 years old) and violence reduction at home.
Since I mentioned Haiti, Carruth and Freeman have a highly critical paper of public works in the country and Ethiopia. In particular, their ethnographic data question the ethics and appropriateness of ‘food-for-work’ and ‘cash-for-work’ programs which, they argue, require “… participation but never the true employment or empowerment of the poor”, who themselves remain “always beneficiaries, never employees”.
More on public works, but from a different perspective: Gazeaud et al investigate whether those schemes encourage migration from the Comoros to the neighboring (and richer) French island of Mayotte. The program provides works in chunks of 20 days with payments made at the end of each period ($2.3/day for four hours work). Contrary to previous research on, for example, India’s NREGA program, their findings show that cash transfers can increase migration by 3 percentage points even if provided conditioned on work. How? By relaxing liquidity constraints and easing risk aversion. The key was indeed the flexibility in the program, whereby households could select one household member to work and use cash transfers to finance the migration of another member.
News on Covid-19 innovations? Berner and Van Hemelryck have a great review of beneficiary registries (and social registries) in Latin America – plenty of juicy information here, particularly on p.25-32 describing the integration of programs (like the 5 schemes in Peru served by mobile banking), reaching informal workers (e.g., Argentina’s Emergency Family Income, or IFE) or the connections with other safety nets (e.g., Paraguay’s replacement of food baskets with cash transfers, or Brazil’s food distribution to indigenous families). See also p.16-18 for a useful summary table on coverage, information collected, and level of interoperability of registries.
Speaking of crises, a newly-released paper by Aleksandrova and Costella proposes an expanded framework for articulating the role of social protection in addressing climate change risks – see for example figure 1, which builds on the concepts of ‘adaptive’, ‘climate-responsive’, ‘shock-responsive’ and ‘transformative’ social protection, and enriches them with further environmental and ecological considerations for slow onset crisis.
A cautionary tale on cash transfers! Filmer et al have a VoxDev brief synthesizing their previous papers (see here and here) finding that conditional cash transfers in the Philippines decreased severe stunting among beneficiaries by 40%; yet where markets were less functional, cash transfers ended up hurting ineligible households (including stunting of young children increasing by 34%) due to higher prices of perishable foods, particularly animal-sourced proteins.
More on market-mediated effects: what would be the multipliers when forgiving $10k or $50k of US federal student loan debt, asks a piece by the CRFB? The answer is… not much, or between 0.02 and 0.25 (in comparison, Covid relief measures had a multiplier of 0.4-0.9).
Time for labor and skills (h/t Michael Weber). Saumik and Raju discuss barriers to growth-enhancing structural transformation in Ghana. Their simulations suggest that a 90% reduction in the disparity in regional intersectoral productivity gaps raises national aggregate productivity by 11.9% and the contribution of structural transformation to productivity by 19.7%. And Galecka-Burdziak et al examine the effects of shortening the potential benefit duration (PBD) of unemployment payments in Poland: they found that a one-month shorter PBD decreases average benefit duration by 0.5 months and average unemployment duration by 0.4 months. The PBD reduction by six months increased the job finding rate within the first 9 months by 6 percentage points.
To conclude… Cunningham reflects on the two stage difference-in-differences quasi experimental method, and a YouTube video (about an 1h long) where Widerquist provides “A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments”.
Ugo Gentilini is from the World Bank’s Social Protection & Jobs global practice. The Social Protection Links newsletter, issued every Friday, distills and discusses a selection of curated resources on the topic, from academic articles to podcasts. The blog is republished on socialprotection.org each week, offering knowledge on social protection to helps you stay on top of it — succinctly, regularly and frequently. Previous editions can be found here.