What’s most effective, only giving cash or combining cash with something else, i.e., “cash-plus”? It depends “for what”, and what is meant by “plus”! A metanalysis of 11 robust studies by Little et al compares various program design modalities on early childhood outcomes. The review shows that “cash plus nutrition behavior change communication” measures are not more effective than cash transfers alone in reducing odds of child stunting, wasting or underweight status. However, combining cash and food transfers is more effective than cash-only in reducing the odds of stunting. Moreover, cash combined with psychosocial stimulation programs may not be more effective than cash transfers alone in promoting overall cognitive development. Similarly, cash plus child protection is not more effective than cash alone in reducing parental violent discipline of children.

Since I mentioned stunting… DAI et al provide a fresh update on the linkages between social assistance and nutrition. In particular, they set out a nicely adapted theory of change (figure 2, p.5), offer considerations for design and implementation, and present a succinct summary of the evidence structured around 7 nutritional dimensions (Annex 1). Bonus on nutrition: Dreze lays out an insightful perspective on India’s deteriorating nutrition situation.

From nutrition to parenting: Lachman et al investigated the effects of a parenting program (MaPa) in the Philippines as part of the flagship Pantawid conditional cash transfer scheme. The intervention included group discussions, illustrated stories, practicing skills during the sessions, collaborative problem solving, and practicing skills at home. The program also included five SMS booster messages and one 10-minute telephone consultation with a facilitator between each session with each participant. Results? After a year, participants reported a 49% reduced risk of intimate partner violence and reductions in daily child problem behaviors (h/t Amber Peterman).

More on human capital! Can unconditional cash transfers can keep refugee children in school and out of work? In Turkey, Aygun et al estimate that the Emergency Social Safety Net (reaching 1.8 million Syrian refugees) almost eliminates child labor. In fact, the share of children engaged in work activities from 14 to 1.6%; and the fraction of children aged 6–17 not in school declined by 62% (i.e., from 36.2 to 13.7%). Why? Because cash transfers address “…both the opportunity cost and direct cost of schooling”. BTW, Hiraoka et al make a similar point on how cash payments are key for keeping girls in Pakistan’s schools.

From South to East Asia: the World Bank has a great report on Thailand’s social protection and labor market system! Among the many juicy findings, it shows that social assistance (chapter 4) covers 72% of the population and almost the full bottom quintile (94%). It also points out that “… most of the growing elderly population, the small Old Age Allowance is the only form of income support”.

Let’s move to gender… Michelmorek and Lopoo find that in the US, a $1,000 increase in exposure to the earned income tax credit program as children reduces women’s pregnancy and marriage by 2-3% in their early 20s (h/t Amber Peterman). And how is gender investigated in African climate change research, ask Vercillo et al? They argue that while the literature “… recognizes women’s important conservation, farming, and food responsibilities, it oftentimes generalized these contributions without providing evidence”.

How to connect cash transfers and labor markets? Broadmann et al discuss findings from a pilot in Greece where the national guaranteed minimum income program was connected to reformed active labor market programs in three municipalities (h/t Christian Bodewig). And expanding on the labor market thread… while informal sector workers were widely affected by the pandemic in general, new research from WIEGO shows that particular categories like home-based workers in India were severely impacted.

Technology! Masiero has an interesting paper on digital identity platforms, including presenting a taxonomy of main issues and discussing risks of exclusion and undue surveillance of vulnerable groups (see for example table 2, p.12 on India and Kenya).

Two resources at the intersection of financing and political economy: it’s always useful to get an update on global energy and fossil fuel subsidies… the analysis by Parry et al shows that subsidies were $5.9T in 2020 or 6.8% of world’s GDP. The bad news is that they are poised to rise to 7.4% of GDP in 2025. But here is the good news: reforms would cost 1% of GDP, but generate climate benefits for 3.1% of global GDP! And how to enhance humanitarian assistance? Saez et al argue that reforms should be extended to its governance, including “channeling more crisis response funding through governments”.

Final fireworks: based on recent work by the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, Lenhardt blogs about 4 key policies to “get back on track”, one of which calls for “recalibrating and better targeting cash transfers” (see also a YouTube video on a related event) (h/t Alex Glynn). A blog by Carstensen et al argues that welfare professionals are overlooked actors in social protection. And “Urban leaders should chart a new path with equity at its core”, says Dasgupta in one of the forwards to a new WRI flagship report on urbanization… check out its with great set of resources, including a synthesis, thematic papers and visuals!


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
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Food subsidies
        • Fuel, water, and electricity subsidies
    • Social care services
  • Social insurance
    • Old-age pension
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Governance and coordination
  • Programme implementation
    • Informations Systems (MIS, Social Registry, Integrated Registry)
  • Programme design
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Political economy
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Environment
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Gender
  • Human capital
  • Labour market / employment
    • Informality
  • Child Protection
    • Child labour
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Greece
  • East Asia & Pacific
  • Europe & Central Asia
  • South Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's