The effects of cash transfers on intimate partner violence (IPV) is one of the most vibrant research themes in social protection. So what’s the latest evidence on the matter? A new review by Baranov et al finds that cash reduces IPV in several ways, including physical violence by 4 percentage points (pp); emotional violence by 2 pp; and controlling behaviors by 4 pp (see above graph). Importantly, “… of the 14 studies that directly examine the relationship between [cash] receipt and IPV, not one study finds that CTs are associated with a significant overall increase in IPV”.

Societal values and cohesion can shape the scope of social protection, but such concepts can be elusive and hard to quantify. That’s why I particularly enjoyed a new paper by Nowack and Schodereron testing those concepts empirically across 63 countries. They find that underlying cultural values, such as egalitarianism, can affect “at least moderately” social protection policies and institutions. Countries with a larger proportion of universal vs means-tested programs have statistically significant more freedom of discussion and ‘institutional’ trust. However, ‘social’ trust rises by merely 1/10 standard deviation with every increase of 1 standard deviation in the proportion of universal vs means-tested schemes.

In a similar philosophical spirit… cash is not happiness; but transfers can be a means to the pursuit of happiness. This is now empirically demonstrated: by increasing income, Viet Cuong shows that social pensions in Vietnam help older people feel more satisfied with their life, in social relations, and even experience higher likelihood of having sexual relations (h/t Amber Peterman).

Let’s stay in Asia: Nishtar discusses Pakistan’s emergency Ehsaas cash program for 12 million households, how it is building longer-term financial inclusion, and its contribution in shifting the payment ecosystem from cash-based to digital.

From Asia to LAC: a great paper on social protection and Covid in the region by Lustig and Tommasi discusses how the pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities, and how lockdowns are affecting poor people. And check out p.13 on “people to people social protection”, with a call for “… new thinking about social protection, beyond what governments can do”.

More on the region, with two new papers on cash transfers and human capital! Conditional cash transfers may alter household decisions directly via conditions, but also indirectly by deferring consumption, investing in education as a habit formed during the program, through information received, or by relaxing budget constraints. Contreras Suarez and Cameron show that none of those indirect effects were sparked by Colombia’s Familias program.

In Peru, Sanchez et al found that the Juntos program affects cognitive skills among children of 0-4 years of age, but those in the 5-8 age cohort. Why? Because the former group was exposed during early-life sensitive periods, received the program for a longer duration, and benefitted from more growth monitoring sessions and vaccinations. Both cohorts, however, improved nutritional status!

Speaking of which… looking for a low-cost intervention for child nutrition? Smile! Gwozdz et at evaluate a program placing smiles on lunch stamps of primary school children in 5 European countries (Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Sweden). Effects? After 6 weeks, smiles grew the share of children consuming fruits and vegetables by 37 percentage points. (Caveat: smiles also increased food waste).

From nutrition to food: the food systems dashboard is now online, including country profiles, data and stats ranging from food supply to nutrition (with info on dietary intake, food security and lots of other indicators).

What’s new on resilience and fragility? A fascinating report tracks the evolution and achievements of the cash working group in Nigeria; the Caribbean is ‘cash ready’ – but are humanitarian actors so, asks Yoshikawa; an event at ODI explored local humanitarian action; Khan discusses urban poverty and how to generate opportunities in cities; and a mapping tool for humanitarian programs was set up as part of the Grand Bargain Cash Sub Group on Linking Social Protection and Humanitarian Cash Transfers (see its recent statement).

Back to Covid! Estimates by Schellekens and Sourrouille indicate that 21% of the global Covid-related deaths accrues to low and middle-income countries. But their simulations predict a dramatic reversal, with those countries’ share of fatality rate bound to triple and reach 70%. Looking for a sound and readable analysis of what C-19 means for low and middle income countries? Chapter 3 of the new Global Economic Prospects report fits that bill (h/t Gabriel Demombynes). Bonus: attempting to make predictions about C-19? Don’t even try, says Branko Milanovic.

In terms of jobs, a paper by Gupta et al estimates the effects of social distancing on US jobs. Main finding: the employment rate fell by about 1.7 percentage points for every extra 10 days that a state was closed during the period March 12-April 12. An interim report on India’s lockdown by Ray and Subramanian takes a 360 degree tour of the issues ranging from the philosophy of lockdown to the provision of relief measures. And a new ESID blog on Zambia’s response to Covid-19 asks whether the country should revive the economy or avoiding a public health crisis – or how to achieve both.

Final assortment: Leon-Himmelstine and Pinet blog about how can Covid-19 be the catalyst to ‘decolonize development research’; you can register for free to virtual JAPL Evaluating Social Programs miniseries in June; and here is a video of yesterday’s panel on social protection and children organized by UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Center.


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 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.

To sign up to the newsletter or share materials, you can contact Ugo by email ([email protected]), Twitter (@ugentilini) or LinkedIn.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Health
  • Human capital
  • Nigeria
  • Zambia
  • Colombia
  • Peru
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Vietnam
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Sweden
The views presented here are the author's and not's