How to adapt cash transfers design parameters in crisis situations? A rich review by Smith and Bowen provides us with handy checklists as well as 61 country examples on adaptation practices across the delivery chain, including 26 country illustrations of tweaks in the ‘assessment’ phase, 14 for ‘enrollment’, 8 for ‘provisions’, and 15 for ‘management’. Among my favorite practical nuggets were outreach adaptations in Nepal, Tonga, and Uganda; overcoming barriers from missing IDs in Kyrgyzstan; the use of social registries in the Dominican Republic, Mauritania, and Pakistan; political and legal constraints to setting transfer values in Lesotho; modifications to payment interface in Yemen; standardizing exit and scale down criteria in Mozambique; and incorporating new beneficiaries in Ethiopia and Kyrgyzstan. Plus… more in-depth case studies on Turkey (p.27), Kenya (p.39), and Philippines (p.45)!

Since I mentioned transfer values… how should these be determined? A blog by Carraro et al lays out key considerations for calibrating transfer size, such as considering country minimum income standards, expected program duration, market prices, household size and composition, possible additional needs created by shocks, and administrative capacity; and another piece by McLean et al explores the difference in transfer size-setting between safety nets and humanitarian assistance, concluding with a discussion on “harmonization vs homogenization”.

Looking ahead… can cash transfers reduce temporal discounting, that is, alter beneficiaries’ perceptions of their lifespan? Singh et al show that in the US, casino-based cash dividends among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation members in North Carolina. Using quasi-experimental methods (DiD) with data from 2000 to 2010, they found that cash transfers are associated with a 15.23-year increase in self-reported lifespan among men, but not women (h/t Scott Santens).

From conditional to unconditional transfers: what are “contingency management rewards”, exactly? A new form of conditional cash transfers where drug users get paid for staying abstinent, writes NYT’s Goodnough. (Actually, they are value-based vouchers for an of $200 over 12 weeks to be spent in specific outlets). These seem to work better when compounded by accompanying measures. Biggest problem? Their effects drop after the treatment ends.

Effects of safety nets on Covid19-induced poverty and inequality! Lustig et al estimate that additional spending on social assistance has a large offsetting effect in Brazil and Argentina. But the effect is much smaller in Colombia and even nil in Mexico, where there has been no such expansion. More globally, “social protection stands at a critical juncture” according to an interesting new article by Razavi et al. Bonus on inequality: check out Oxfam and Development Finance International’s new Inequality Index 2020, which details country-by-country public expenditure across health, education and social protection among others — check website and data and summary/full report (h/t Larissa Pelham).

More on Covid impacts: interested how Covid-19 impacts the US food system jobs, spending and prices? Costlow and Masters have a great analysis… a sneak preview: prices stabilized by September, but not in a good way: grocery prices are higher and farmers get paid less, mainly due to disease avoidance costs. Cugat and Narita discuss how the pandemic increases inequality in low and middle income countries (spoiler: it wipes out gains from the last decade). But there are also opportunities stemming from Covid, as Khogali argues in the context of Sudan’s response to the crisis.

News on education? The “smart buys” report by the WBG et al featuring recommendations from the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel is brilliant. It proposes a structured way of ranking measures by cost-effectiveness and nicely organizes them into buckets, from great to bad buys. But attention: performance is gauged for learning outcomes only, not for all aspects of education. So while cash transfers are classified as ‘bad buys’, as Amanda Glassman said we still need kids in schools for them to learn…

The future is here! Among the zillion findings, the WEF “future of work report” shows that 84% “white collar” employers are set to rapidly digitalize working processes, including a significant expansion of remote work—with the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely. And how are youth employment programs being customized for the pandemic? Nice new paper by the S4YE Coalition captures a crisp set of practices, including scaling of virtual operations, accelerating online learning, crowdsourcing ideas, and many others (e.g., see table 1 as a great summary!).

More on jobs, with the labor and skills corner produced in partnership with Michael Weber and Indhira Santos. Schoukens and Weber discuss unemployment insurance for the self-employed for the post-corona world; and while Van Landeghem unpacks issues with statistical profiling of unemployed jobseekers; and Mitchell et al individuals with higher “task effectiveness” in Peru are less likely to have engaged in risky behaviors such as smoking, taking drugs, and engaging with gangs.

From LAC to jobs in Asia: Bossavie et al show that after the 2013 tragic factory collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, the garment sector made changes such as minimum wage increase, high profile but voluntary audits, and an increased reluctance to subcontract to smaller factories. What happened after 3 years? The paper finds that reforms initially increased female workers’ wages, these fell by an estimated 20%.

Financing! Lakin has an interesting literature review on a tough topic, or the political economy of tax reform in low- and middle-income countries; an excellent report by Boitreau et al combines sovereign debt, sustainable finance and a range of other financial issues (h/t Cindy Paladines), while a forward-looking report by Wagner et al examines forecast-based humanitarian action (h/t Paul Bance).

The nerds corner! A paper by de Chaisemartin and Ramirez-Cuellar illustrates how to cluster your standard errors for matched pairs or stratified experiments (h/t Ioana Marinescu), while microdata for the FAO et al evaluation of the Lesotho Child Grant and SPRINGS program (cash plus livelihoods/nutrition) is now available online (h/t Amber Peterman).

Final fireworks: let’s hope that Gawain is wrong, as he expects 48% of international NGOs not surviving the next 2 years; an interview with Stiglitz about the post-pandemic economy; and an amazing video from the WURI West Africa prize’s 208 submissions.


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
  • Labour market / employment programmes
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Expenditure and financing
  • Programme implementation
  • Programme design
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Income inequality
  • Labour market / employment
    • Informality
    • Unemployment
  • Poverty reduction
  • Global
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's