Let’s begin with a recurrent conundrum: is it better to give less cash to more people or more cash to less people? As part of a collection of short essays, Kondylis and Loeser summarize the comparative cost-effectiveness of alternative cash transfers designs, including unconditional cash transfers of different size and “graduation” packages (TUPs) (see p.21-23). They found that smaller UCTs have larger impacts on consumption per unit of transfer than larger UCTs; and that the average UCT is between 5 and 43% more effective than TUPs in increasing consumption at the average evaluated year (1.5 years for UCTs and 2.6 years for TUPs). In her overview essay, Legovini put it forthright: “… the smaller the transfers are, the larger their cost-effectiveness is, suggesting that [unconditional cash] should be thinly and widely distributed across populations in need” (p.19). However, note that (i) “small” transfers are defined as those less than $1,000 in cost; (ii) only consumption is measured; and (iii) TUP impacts surpass those of UCTs after 3.4 years.

Yet giving too little gets you very little: McKelway et al evaluate the effects of a one-off cash transfer ($12) to seniors living alone in India’s Tamil Nadu state. The intervention helped alleviating short-term (3 weeks) functional impairment, but had no other effects (e.g., on food security) while impacts faded after 3 months.

Looking at wider effects from combing interventions, a paper by Aggarwal et al on Malawi found that a single cash payment of $500 expanded agricultural input usage significantly (spending on chemical fertilizers grew by about $4.9); but combining cash transfers with subsidized access to local farmer input fairs doubled their effect (spending increased by another $4 on average).

More from Africa! Kidd et al offer a range of projections on impacts and costs from introducing a child benefit in Kenya. Pending on whether the scheme would target children under 2 or 10 years of age, it would reach all children in such cohorts by 2038 and 2031, respectively (table 0.1, p.7). Monthly transfers of about $6 would are simulated to spur GDP between 1.7-5.5 percentage points by 2033, while their impact on growth, revenues and jobs are highest if transfers are externally financed (h/t Bart Edes).

What’s the future of the extended pandemic SRD cash transfers in South Africa? A short piece by Orkin et al opines that in South Africa, “simply receiving a cash grant encourages recipients of the grant, and other members of their household, to increase their search for jobs”. SRD, they authors argue, should not be conditioned, but labelling it as a “job-seekers grant might be effective”.

From COVID-19 to inflation: how can programs’ purchasing power be shielded against rising prices? A section of a 700-page report by the OECD provides a handy stocktaking of social protection benefits indexation methods. It shows that 16 OECD countries adjust their cash benefits in line with prices, of which 11 use the CPI; 2 countries uprate benefits according to the minimum wage, and one (Finland) uses the highest among the minimum wage and CPI inflation; and 16 countries reported that they adjust benefits on a discretionary basis. Austria, for example, has introduced automatic indexation for cash benefits from January 2023, while in Belgium family allowances are in most regions adjusted monthly (see table 2.3, p.51, for indexation benchmarks).

Speaking of crises… Harpring has a review of supply chain factors affecting the feasibility of cash and vouchers in humanitarian contexts. These constraints affect, according to his analysis across three accompanying articles, both the flow of goods as well as of money, including banking and financial infrastructure. Bonus: the WBG-UNHCR joint data center on forced displacement has 8 new summaries of cash transfer articles in addition to the 16 briefs present in the databases.

On gender sensitive cash transfers… from men’s standpoint: Pereira et al interviewed males whose partners received LEAP cash transfers in Ghana and documented their overall satisfaction with such approach. In fact, their indebtedness lowered, marriage improved, and violence dropped. Still, men expected to be consulted on cash usage and felt disrespected when not so.

Opportunity corner: the WBG is looking for candidates to conduct a global evidence review and meta-analysis of youth ALMPs over the next months (h/t Jonathan Stöterau).

Final assortment! Webb et al have a systematic review of metrics of healthy, environmentally sustainable, affordable, and equitable diets; and Georgetown University and the World Bank released a call for papers for a conference on poverty in honor of Martin Ravallion (deadline for submission is May 26).


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. 

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
      • In kind transfers
        • Voucher
    • Subsidies
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Expenditure and financing
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Child-sensitive social protection
  • Gender-sensitive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Labour market / employment
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • South Africa
  • India
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Finland
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's