Let’s begin with a poker of gender-related social protection papers! A review by Bergstrom and Ozler examines the effects of cash transfers on adolescent girls: based on 10 studies in 5 low- and middle-income countries, they show that cash (both unconditional and conditional) is effective at increasing schooling; but results are more mixed at delaying marriage and fertility (see useful table 1, p.11-12). In Pakistan, Musaddiq and Said documented a range of positive effects of a conditional cash transfer program in Punjab: this increased completion of secondary school by 1.3%, decreased early marriage by 3.5%, while children of women exposed to the program were less underweight (-1.7%) or stunted (-1.15%) (h/t Dave Evans). A JMP by Flores estimates that in Mexico, participation in Oportunidades increased mothers’ bargaining power by almost 24% (h/t Amber Peterman). And a study on fisherwomen in Brazil by Silva et al found that they “… did not show strong adaptive and coping responses, and were primarily reliant on government cash transfer programs”. Bonus: Halim et al examined 22 evaluations of childcare and found that 21 of them displayed positive impacts on maternal labor market outcomes (both work intensity and participation).
Let’s move to Africa: “… it is an extremely positive development that anticipatory action is firmly now on the humanitarian agenda in Somalia”, notes a brief by Levine et al. Also, Hanmer et al found that over half of internally displaced households in Somalia are female headed: hence “… [p]rograms that respond to women’s care responsibilities and address barriers to women’s economic opportunities are especially important for internally displaced people”.
More on the Horn: in Ethiopia, social protection (PSNP) and humanitarian assistance (HFA) coexist at local level in a large number of ‘woredas’ (see figure 2.1, p.4). An assessment by Sabates-Wheeler et al lay out lessons and findings from the interactions between the PSNP-HFA systems. They found that in the context of droughts (2017-18), the PSNP served not only as an effective channel to deliver humanitarian assistance (mostly in-kind food) – but also as a complementary one, since humanitarian aid reached different beneficiaries (the less poor but still shock-prone) than the PSNP (which targets the poorest and most food insecure). (BTW, see also footnote 4 for a description of the evolving contingency financing system). Yet transfer values were higher for the PSNP. An exception is the Somali region, which adopted a unified delivery system (planning, joint committee structures, alignment in targeting, timing, and value of transfers, and issuing of cards): there, HFA was used to increase the PSNP caseload and extend the period of its public works from 6 to 12 months.
Moving south in the region, EPRI and WFP have a report on food security and nutrition-sensitive social protection in Southern Africa. There is a lot to like about the publication – e.g., I really enjoyed the discussion on cost and affordability of diets (p.15), the “react-then-pivot strategy” (p.19), and Covid responses and urban informal workers (p.51).
From Southern Africa to South Asia: India’s NREGA public works program had a predecessor, SGRY (where however the program budget dictated the level of employment provision). While these never overlapped geographically, in evaluating NREGA control groups were often ex-beneficiaries of SGRY. If the effects of SGRY are accounted for, a new paper by Bahal argues that the impact of NREGA public works might be larger than previously assumed. But by how? About +34% in private jobs generation and by up to +40% in earnings. Bonus on Asia: in Indonesia, an RCT by Banerjee et al estimated that assistance to sign-up for health insurance increased enrolment by 3.5% (full paper is available here) (h/t Tomoo Okubo).
… from South Asia to South America: Leon studies the mobile payment system of Movii in Colombia, the first fintech firm in the country operating under a financial non-banking license for electronic deposits and payments. His networks analysis (and great visuals) reveal that while starting with person-to-person transactions, users soon extended them to person-to-business and business-to-business payments.
… and up to North America: high-income countries were not immune from social protection delivery challenges during the pandemic. But plenty of learning emerge: in the US, Waxman et al document the experience of Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) – a program replacing school meals with daily SNAP food voucher-type transfers (at least $5.7/day). In the first phase (school year 19/20), this involved “… intensive level of collaboration between education administrators and state SNAP agencies that had not previously existed”. Challenges included changing addresses during the pandemic, the logistics of issuing new EBT cards in a short time frame, and handling benefit payments. With the new school year (20/21), benefits had to be tailored to the wide variety of student learning models, including a shifting mix of fully virtual, hybrid, and in-person formats (see table 1, p.9 for evolving eligibility criteria).
News on climate? An interesting COP event is coming up on social protection, climate resilience, disaster response and gender equality (Monday Nov 8th); and Ramachandran has a thought-provoking piece defining rich countries’ climate policies as “colonialism in green”.
Assorted mix! Fragoso discusses a proposal for an unconditional cash transfers for the poor as a way to empower beneficiaries (see also her blog here) (h/t Alexandra Barrantes), while Harvard’s political economy workshop is named the “Alberto Alesina seminar on political economy”;
Let’s end with some thoughts on the importance, limitations and creativity of research: McKibbin and Weinberg show that in the US, a biomedical publication reduces disease-induced mortality by 0.35%; but in economics, Greenspon and Rodrik point out that “… the representation of authors based in low-income countries remains extremely low”. And Rousu et al have a paper on using music to teach economics!
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.