Is there evidence on cash transfers supporting both refugees and host communities? In Jordan, the 2017 Hajati (‘my needs’) cash transfer program reached 55,000 children, later scaled down to 10,000, across 205 double-shift schools. Differently from its child grant predecessor, Hajati supported the most vulnerable children independently of nationality or registration status (86% of whom were Syrian). Participants received an unconditional transfer of $28/month accompanied by text messages emphasizing the importance of education. An evaluation by UNICEF’s Innocenti Office of Research shows that the program had a range of impacts, like on depressive symptoms (reduced by 5 percentage points), improved self-esteem (3pp), as well as enhanced food security (5pp), access to basic items (5pp), and a 3pp reduction in child labor (see results on tables E1-E8, p.100-108) (h/t Amber Peterman).
More on cash and schooling: what happens when giving cash transfers ($50) directly to high school students every week for a full year? A New Orleans school sent students cash for 52 weeks via a phone app, with the news interviewing beneficiaries on how they are using the money (check also the project’s overview).
Let’s compare cash to alternatives: a new twist on the cash versus inkind (in this case vouchers) debate… which is most effective in alleviating “energy poverty”? A study on Spain by Barrella and Centeno shows that when the objective is to enhance the ability of households to attain a basic level of domestic energy services, cash alleviates such energy poverty by 1%, while vouchers by 11%. Bonus: Tshilombo, who spent 10 years at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, describes “why vouchers lack dignity and are bad value”.
More from the Europe, this time on reducing gender income inequality: Avram and Popova have a review of eight EU states showing that social protection tax and transfers help, but not enough — the gap is only closed when structural labor market bottlenecks are addressed, or when “… women’s labour force participation and wages are on a par with men”.
Continuing on the labor thread, a blog by Steward argues that cash transfers provide “… a level of certainty that allows workers to act with dignity, whether that means taking on a new job, organizing for change at their workplace, or pursuing training opportunities”. And Gollin responds to lingering debates on graduation models, like government ownership and scale (h/t Michal Rutkowski).
Three tech-related resources! Mukherjee and Maruwada contrast digital and physical building blocks, with differences lying in digital exchange of information, marginal cost structure, and multi-usability; a piece by Merelli covered innovations in digital cash transfers, with references to India’s Bihar, Brazil, the Philippines, Togo, Pakistan, Namibia, and South Africa; and when examining new techniques for poverty estimation in China, Xu and Cao found that “… poverty mapping combined with night time lights and machine learning can compensate for the data gap in deprived areas”.
News on food insecurity? The “urban and educated” is the new profile of food insecure populations in Afghanistan: a survey by WFP reveals that only 5% of Afghans have enough to eat every day, and “… for the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities”. From here it’s natural to turn to humanitarian issues: how can cash transfers be integrated into Humanitarian Response Plans? Ojiambo and Chamaa discuss this in light of recent changes to the Humanitarian Programme Cycle. Bonus: Zaharia et al measure nutritional resilience in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Uganda.
Assorted mix! McKernan et al argue that over the 1990s-2000s, “… hardship would be even more prevalent in the United States without the existence of the current safety net programs [like TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid/SCHIP]”; a proposal from the UK to overhaul the current unemployment benefit system; and Qian reviews Huang’s book, “Social protection under authoritarianism: Health politics and policy in China”
Finally, two events on data and delivery next week – a GIZ, BMZ and ECLAC-sponsored event on digital technologies in LAC social protection systems planned for Sept 27th (info, agenda and registration), and ILO’s webinar on social protection data and national statistical systems in Africa scheduled on the 28th (info and registration).
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.