What are the effects of poverty targeting (PMT) in contexts where everyone is similarly vulnerable? A new paper by Della Guardia et al examines the question in the context of Chad, where a cash transfer program covered 40% of the population in 7 villages of the Logone region (where 98% lived on less than $1.9/day). A number of positive spillover effects include supporting family or neighbors by sharing transfers, as well as helping create community infrastructure. There were also positive outcomes by increased spending in local markets, employing workers, and investing in household businesses. Yet poverty targeting also generated deep animosity, resentment, and divisions within communities. This led to discriminatory practices directed against cash transfer recipients by non-recipients. Examples include non-recipients buying items from beneficiaries on credit, and refusing to pay them back; avoiding purchasing from program participants; or charging participants higher market prices. What are the implications for targeting in contexts of limited budgets and widespread poverty? The authors offer two recommendations: provide greater transparency regarding the criteria for inclusion, and/or restrict the geographic areas of interventions while serving people on a universal basis.
But what do we know about social cohesion and social assistance in a variety of displacement contexts? A paper by Lowe et al surveyed 1,500 displaced and host community members in Cameroon, Colombia, and Greece. Two findings stand out: first, there is a big difference between perceived and actual effects – and both recipients and non-recipients may not know what assistance is being provided. Second, and importantly, “… where social tensions exist in relation to assistance provision, they are unlikely to be caused by the assistance itself. Rather, assistance can aggravate existing tensions”.
From a specific crisis to a wider “framing paper”: Sabates-Wheeler et al provide an overview of linkages between social protection, climate change and humanitarian assistance. They then discuss the connections between fragility and maturity of social protection systems (see figure 4.2, p.17), before unveiling a broader framework weaving together various crises, strength of social protection, actors, and modes of support (figure 5.1 p.21).
More on the topic! UNICEF launched its Social Protection System Readiness Assessment Tool. Featuring 5 modules (p.7) and organized around 4 steps (p.10), it lays out the 4 “classic” options (design tweaks, piggybacking, and vertical and horizontal expansion, p.19), and discusses pros/cons for using social protection systems during shocks.
Zooming into Africa, what are the effects of Kenya’s Covid cash transfer responses? A paper by Strupat and Nshakira-Rukundo evaluate the impact of the HSNP and NSNP schemes reaching over 1.2M families. What are their effects after 12 months from such support? Compared to non-beneficiaries, the likelihood to report loss of income dropped by 15 percentage points, improvement in food access rose by 11pp, and the chances of selling assets dwindled by 7pp. Bonus on Kenya: Russel discusses a successful impact evaluation of a graduation package, the BOMA Project’s Rural Entrepreneur Assess Project, in Samburu County.
Let’s move to Latin America! An interesting new paper by Malerba et al explores the role of carbon taxes and the redistributive effects of cash transfers in Peru. They take a dynamic view and argue that “… the distributional impacts of a reform combining carbon tax and cash transfers change by year, driven by inflation, production and consumption patterns, as well as the distribution of income. (….) [Hence] the design of cash transfer programs and tax levels need to be adapted over time”.
Tough question: “how reliable are social safety nets in the OECD?” Hyee et al tackle the question by updating their 2020 paper. They found plenty of variation in performance in accessing guaranteed minimum income programs – e.g., 4/5 low-income unemployed people were covered in Australia, France, and the UK, and only 1/5 in Greece and Italy (see figure 5, p.18). And in Italy, transfer spending in the top quintile was higher than in the bottom quintile group: 43% of all working age benefits went to the top 20%, and only 8% to the bottom income quintile. Portugal, Chile, and Turkey show similar regressive patterns (figure 2, p.9).
Finally, Tooze argues that while “Asia gets the attention, the real economic revolution is the inevitable growth of Africa”; a NYT piece on the historical roots of Haiti’s nation building and poverty (h/t Martin Ravallion); and Mendez Ramos and Lara show that the pandemic increased poverty and the risk of falling into it.
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 help you stay on top of it — succinctly, regularly and frequently. Previous editions can be found here.