The long-term effects of cash transfers: Blattman et al have a great NBER paper (and ungated version) on the comparative impacts of one-off cash grants vs factory jobs on youth in Ethiopia. Following the earlier ‘sweatshop’ study, the paper is an insightful sequel 5 years later. What did it find? First, one-time and one-dimensional interventions struggle to overcome barriers to wage- or self-employment. Second, a $300 grant to spur self-employment has significant impacts on occupational choice, income, and health in the first year; but after five years, there is nearly full convergence across all treated and control groups – that is, increases in productivity and earnings from the grant dissipate as recipients exit their micro-enterprises.

Changes in safety nets can save lives and reduce crime: Dow et al find that in the US, a 10% increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit or in the minimum wage reduces suicides between 3.6 and 5.5%.Another AEJ article by Tuttle shows that in Florida, banning convicted drug felons from SNAP food stamps makes them more likely to return to jail – i.e., “… the cut in benefits causes ex-convicts to return to crime to make up for the lost transfer income” (h/t Dave Evans).

Can cash transfers help reduce tuberculosis (TB)? A quasi-experimental study by Klein et al in PLOS evaluates the effects of CCTs on 941 TB patients in Buenos Aires. Among participants, 377 CCT participants showed significantly higher success rates (82% versus 69%) and lower default rates (11% versus 20%). Why? Accessing treatment is expensive for beneficiaries, and cash helps offsetting transaction costs incurred in the process.

Speaking of health, a Lancet review estimates that global health spending reached $8 trillion in 2016, but only 0.4% of which occurred in low income countries.

Turning to another pillar of human capital, i.e., education, scholarships are sometimes included in social assistance definitions: de Hoyos et al find that a program for low-income high school students in Mexico had no effects on test scores nor graduation rates (it often went to less disadvantaged students, and many eligible students lacked the preparation to succeed in high school) (h/t Dave Evans).

And how not to discuss nutrition: IPC’s analysis of the National Food Fortification Program in Mozambique shows encouraging results in coverage, but also highlight issues around quality in provision, i.e., concentration of nutrients (see also short brief). Bonus: Afghanistan has a brand new Institute of Nutrition and Home Economics (h/t Lawrence Haddad).

What new on child-sensitive work? Soares et al discuss the potential for a child grant in Brazil and estimate that a universal grant equal to the Bolsa Família benefit (BRL41 per month) would cost about BRL26.6 billion/year, or about BRL7 billion more than Bolsa’s BRL19.1 billion/year (see also one-pager).

The first link I shared today was about jobs in Africa, so let’s go back to the topic for a moment: what is driving or inhibiting the automation revolution in sub-Saharan Africa? A GPPi report by Gaus and Hoxtel finds that hard times may be coming for sub-Saharan Africa’s growing middle class employed in the formal economy, although automation’s overall impact in the region will, at least for the foreseeable future, be limited.

Speaking of formal economies, what is a social protection issue that needs more attention? Taxes would be on top of my list, especially given their key role in domestic financing and social contracts (and in many cases delivery, too). A new ODI report by D’Orey and Prizzon shows that several countries graduating out of IDA support can exhibit a ‘missing middle’: get less aid while have low/declining tax base (e.g., Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, PNG) (h/t Amanda Glassman).

Gender resources! Blundell et al argue that in the UK, employer-provided training plays an important role in reducing the gender pay gap that builds up from career breaks following childbearing. Ntshongwana et al have a thoughtful commentary on how social protection can and should help women not only to survive, but to thrive.

Any news on resilience? The summary of Tebaldi’s review of shock-responsive social protection in MENA is now available. Three IFPRI discussion papers examine climate change adaptation in Peru by Gianella et al, Honduras by Sander et al, and Nicaragua by Rodriguez et al.  Also, I am a big fan of the ODI quadrimestral ‘resilience scans’ – these seem to have evolved into climate, conflict, and security scan, with the current issue curated by Peters and Mayhew reviewes 146 resources, ranks blog posts, and signals grey literature on those matters. WFP has an overview of the beneficiary registration and data management practices of government, UN, and NGOs programs in Somalia.

Finally, let’s talk more about data in fragile contexts. The latest census in the DRC dates back to 1984: Brandt and De Herdt have a IOB working paper reflecting on the forces have shaped the census project over 2006-2018. Krystalli has a memo on the ethics of data sharing in qualitative fieldwork in conflict areas (h/t Andrea Woodhouse). And a software program called “Annie” uses machine learning to place refugees in cities where they are most likely to be welcomed and prosper.


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 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
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Food subsidies
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
  • Programme design
    • Benefits design
    • Targeting
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Programme graduation
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Education
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Labour market / employment
    • Unemployment
  • Poverty reduction
  • Resilience
  • Ethiopia
  • Brazil
  • Middle East & North Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's