Have been away and eager to get the latest on social protection? Weekly links are back with an extra-rich edition to get you on top of all recent research, news, and more.

Let’s start with child-sensitive cash transfers in Southern Africa! A JDS article by Granlund and Hochfeld finds that South Africa’s Child Support Grant had positive socially-transformative effectson women empowerment, sense of dignity, and autonomy among primary caregivers. At community level, the grant seems to also help strengthening informal sharing mechanisms (the article also comes with several telling quotes from beneficiary interviews). In Zambia, instead, Chakrabarti et al show no impact of the unconditional Child Grant Program on stunting after four years, hence stressing the importance of complementary nutritional interventions.

Cash transfers for providing environmental conservation – or Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) – are spreading rapidly. Adjognon et al evaluate a PES program in Burkina Faso, with participants reporting 12% higher food consumption expenditures and a reduction in food insecurity between 35-60%. Transfers were spent mostly on cereals, meat, and pulses, with no evidence of increased consumption in temptation goods.

Two new studies on the late-PROSPERA program in Mexico. In the first, Pfutze investigates whether the CCT ‘graduation’ threshold was set at an appropriate level (spoiler: it may have been too low). His paper shows that the graduation-related interruption of cash payments had a negative effect on high school attendance for lower secondary school aged students in urban, and upper secondary school aged ones in rural areas. Another paper by Yoruk et al argues that indigenous people receive more social assistance mainly because of their ethnic identity instead of mere poverty profiles, and that such support made indigenous populations less likely to join anti-government protests.

Moving to Asia, Atanda replicates the Muralidharan et al’s 2017 paper on the effects of biometrically-authenticated payments, or ‘smartcards,’ on India’s NREGA and Social Pensions schemes in Andhra Pradesh. He assesses the original study’s findings and obtains comparable outcomes – that is, smartcards decreased the time lag for recipients to receive funds, reduced leakages of benefits, and increased enrollment rates in the two programs.

Do new migration opportunities for rural households change the nature and extent of informal risk sharing? Meghir et al experimentally test the question in Bangladesh, randomly offering poor rural households cash transfers to migrate temporarily during the agricultural lean season. The payments led to a 40% improvement in risk sharing in their villages. (Note: the migration subsidy was 600 Taka ($8.5) conditional on one person from the household migrating, with an additional 200 Taka given if the migrant reported to our enumerators in the destination).

What’s the latest on pensions in middle-income countries? A paper by Apella shows that, although in the latest 13 years there has been coverage extension due to growing formal employment as well as social pensions, the Ecuadorian current pensions coverage is still insufficient. Also, population aging would exert some pressure on financial sustainability that, within the current framework, would imply a deficit trend starting in the mid-2030s. In another paper, Roushdy and Selwaness assess the patterns of social insurance coverage in Egypt and its determinants among both wage and non‐wage workers. Results show that men, older, married, better educated and white‐collar highly skilled workers are more likely to be insured. Bonus: a short pamphlet outlines the ESRC-DFDI research on social pensions.

Let’s move to a rich set of jobs-related materials. Pahl et al discuss the rise of global value chains (GVC) in Africa. In particular, they show how GVC jobs and incomes have changed over the period 2000-14 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa, compared to developments in some other low- and middle-income countries in the world. Bonus: check out n excellent review by Barrett et al on agri-food value chains.

An article by Ross examines the “occupation aspiration gap” among adolescents in India, with the gap being the difference between the wages associated with adolescents’ occupation aspiration and the wages associated with their parent’s occupation. He finds that children with the largest aspiration gaps have lower human capital levels than those with more moderate gaps. This empirical result provides evidence for the theoretical prediction that aspirations that are ahead, but not too far ahead, provide sound incentives for investment.

Azar et al provide empirical support to the monopsony model as an explanation for the near-zero minimum wage employment effect documented in prior work – that is, more concentrated labor markets (where wages are more likely to be below marginal productivity) experience significantly more positive employment effects from the minimum wage.

Cetti et al study the joint impact of three measurement issues in the empirical literature on the labor share (start-end periods for analysis as well as accounting for self-employment and residential real estate income). After correcting for these potential biases, the authors do not find a general decline in the labor share in a sample of advanced economies. (In this regard, the behavior of the US labor share after 2000 presents a puzzle.)

“… a skilled girl is not an empowered girl”, according to a blog by Walker on at-risk girls in Northern Nigeria. Her analysis stresses that without psycho-social support and life skills training integrated into vocational skills programs and post-training economic support, skills interventions do not transform girls’ lives.

Speaking of girls, what do we know about gender differences in time use? An analysis by Matulevich et al from 19 countries shows that women of prime working age are the most penalized on a host of measures, including labor market participation, unpaid domestic work, and leisure time.

What’s new on resilience? To start with, there is a new framework: an article by Manyena et al unveils DRIFT, the Disaster Resilience Integrated Framework for Transformation, which underscores the linkages between context, risk drivers, capacities and processes to manage risks. At regional level, a multi-agency report by WFP et al examines a variety of conceptual links and practical experiences on connecting disaster risk management and social protection in ASEAN countries, including setting out recommendations for ASEAN member states, its secretariat, and for development partners.

But do natural disasters always affect the poorest the most? Not necessarily. Research by Erman et al on the April 2018 floods in Dar es Salaam, for instance, reveals that the shock wiped out 2-4% of the city’s GDP, and that 77% of total losses were due to asset losses – with richer households having more valuable assets than the poor.

What about conflict? An ODI paper by El Taraboulsi et al focuses on the situation of Libyans displaced since 2011, both within Libya itself and in Tunisia. Verwimp et al discuss the emergence of “microeconomics of violent conflict” as a new subfield of development economics. Devadas et al estimate that Syria’s GDP dropped by one-third as a result of the conflict. And the rich syllabus of Blattman’s course on ‘order and violence’ is available online.

From conflict to health shocks: Bisca and Bance reflect on how public works can help the Ebola response in Eastern DRC. This is a bit of an unconventional approach to public works, given their focus mostly on public health and security. The piece stresses the importance of rebuilding trust between the state and citizens – such lack of trust is indeed a main reason why communities are resisting the Ebola response, with the public work posited to address this gap.

More on health and nutrition: a piece by Heinrich and Knowles discusses the effects of “labelled” cash transfers on health and education in Kenya; what happened when, in 2011, an ID requirement for Peru’s Seguro Integral de Salud health insurance was introduced? A CGD paper by Bauhoff and Oroxom found no measurable effect on service utilization or health outcomes among infants. Okala et al examined the positive effects of maternal nutritional supplementation during pregnancy on infants’ responses to the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine in Gambia. In Guatemala, Leroy et al show that PRECOMIDA, a food-based nutritional program, helped retain maternal postpartum weight.

From conflicts to humanitarian assistance: at CGD, Konyndyk points out 5 takeaways on the future of humanitarian reform; the Turkish Red Cross released a handy technical report on the national Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) detailing its components, actors and functions; AusAid et al explored the feasibility of cash transfers (and vouchers) in Fiji and Vanuatu; a short brief sets out the gender-related impacts of an ACF cash-plus program in Yemen; the outcomes of a social protection workshop by UNICEF et al in Sudan; and a one-page matrix on gender-based violence resources in humanitarian settings.

Some intersting urban materials. Is India’s urbanization hidden? Van Duijne’s analysis for Bihar argues that a deeply politicized and contested process of rural-urban reclassification is at the root of urban settlements remaining largely concealed in official statistics – that is, village leaders resist being absorbed by expanding cities for remaining agrarian populations. In another paper, Peralta Quiros et al present an analysis of transit accessibility to employment for 11 African cities. Results? Looking at ‘average accessibility’ (i.e., the percentage of estimated employment opportunities throughout the city accessible by the average individual within 60 minutes), Dakar seems to be the best performing city (see table 3, p.10).

A few resources on taxation: a policy brief by Ndung’u argues that taxation on mobile phone airtime and financial transactions in Kenya may not expand the tax base significantly but, rather, may reverse the gains on retail electronic payments and financial inclusion (see blog here). Bloch et al have a report on fiscal space for child-sensitive social protection in MENA (see also a summary and one-pager) Le Nestour and Crawfurd discuss tobacco taxes in low and middle-income countries (where the poor smoke more than the rich, see figure 2). Kouame finds that trust in public institutions (and the neighborhood) are largely associated with tax morale in 4 African countries (see figure 2, p.16).

Speaking of institutions… an ESID piece by Pritchett sets out some new example, like Sudan, to support the theory of “big stuck” in state capability and “premature load bearing”. In a sobering WBER article, Banuri et al find that choices made by staff in the World Bank and DFID are often driven by ideological predisposition, including on charged topics like minimum wages.

Measurement news! Seitz examines household surveys in five Central Asian countries, with novel maps of where the poor and the middle class live presented. Ceriani et al impute and include housing rents in consumption-based measures and assess their distributional impact in four countries. And Ravallion reviews the late Tony Atkinson’s last bookMeasuring Poverty Around the World.

Assorted mix: Swedlund and Lierl assess the rise and fall of budget support in development. A paper by Jawad reflects on a set of core social protection conceptual frameworks and how they pan out in the MENA region. The latest issue of the IDS bulletin is devoted to the political economy of food (see in particular the article by Hossain and Scott-Villiers on the food-protesting nexus). A podcast with Chetty on poverty and opportunity in the US (h/t Dina Pomeranz), and a piece on the consequenses that the American Welfare Queen had on anti-poverty policy (h/t Alejandro Grinspun).

Finally, it has nothing to do with social protection per se, but was fascinated by Lee et al’s experiment in Vietnam where shrimp producers targeted for an aquaculture interventions shared information via social networks. This had significant (although fading) effects among such indirect recipients, a dynamic that might occur in numerous social protection measures (e.g., nutrition information accompanying cash transfers).


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.

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
        • Conditional cash transfers
        • Unconditional cash transfers
      • In kind transfers
        • Conditional in-kind transfers
        • Unconditional in-kind transfers
    • Subsidies
    • Social care services
  • Social insurance
    • Old-age pension
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
    • Expenditure and financing
    • Monitoring and evaluation systems
  • Programme design
    • Benefits design
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment / delivery
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Consumption and expenditure
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Financial education and inclusion
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Gender
  • Health
    • Child health
    • Maternal health
  • Resilience
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Burkina Faso
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Zambia
  • Ecuador
  • Bangladesh
  • Turkey
  • Yemen
  • Fiji
  • Vanuatu
  • East Asia & Pacific
  • Europe & Central Asia
  • Latin America & Caribbean
  • Middle East & North Africa
  • South Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's