Can cash transfers increase food prices in “closed” economies? Permafrost severely affects transportation in Northern Canada and few existing food retailers can exert high market power (in fact they are subject to periodic compliance reviews and food price surveys). The Universal Child Care Benefit (introduced in 2015) and the Canada Child Tax Benefit (launched in the following year) cover about 25% of households in those locations, representing nearly 7% of family income. Examining the programs’ market impact, Daley et al found that child benefits are associated with higher food prices, with an elasticity between 0.027-0.042. This means that about one-quarter of the purchasing power increased by child benefits was wiped out by higher prices for the average community – and by over 40% in monopoly communities. And while not statistically significant, food demand increases by 22 grams per extra dollar of child benefits (versus 3.6 grams per extra dollar of total income). In other words, “… communities, which experienced an increase in child benefits, also experienced an increase in food demand, leading retailers to raise prices”.

More on food consumption in North America: a 2019 policy change in California granted SNAP food vouchers eligibility to previously ineligible recipients of cash transfers (Supplemental Security Income program). What were the effects of such shift? Analysis by Hembre et al found that newly eligible SNAP households substituted some “food away from home” for “food at home” (i.e., the at home budget share rose by 2.5-4.3 percentage points, or $120 to $206, since vouchers cannot used in restaurants and other dining outlets). Bonus on food: IFPRI’s 2024 Global Food Policy Report is out!

Since I mentioned vouchers… what are recipients’ psychological reactions to money versus in-kind food, and do providers matter? Kassirer et al ran a field experiment with food-insecure individuals in Kibera, Kenya, and four online thought experiments in the US. In Kenya, 250 participants were told they’d receive a food basket worth $5, while another group of 250 people would receive an equivalent amount of cash (framed to be used for food purchases). Importantly, participants weren’t informed that the other aid-type was being offered. Now, participants in the food group were more likely to pick up the assistance, and those that did get food “… were more satisfied with their aid experience than participants who were offered money”; and individuals mentioned more “positive social emotions” in the food as opposed to the money group. One of the experiments in the US, however, shows that such feelings are unlikely to arouse when transfers are provided by the government instead of charities (see discussion on p.28).

From Kenya to Mali: how to reduce high out-of-school rates among children? Sessou et al examine the educational effects of the Jigisemejiri unconditional cash transfer program. With monthly payments of around 9% of beneficiary household consumption, the program led to significant gains in schooling outcomes for Malian girls – especially among younger (ages 6–9) and older (ages 15–18) students – but not boys. Specifically, Jigisemejiri increased girls’ highest-grade completion by 20% (and 38% among the youngest cohort). And for girls 15-18 years old, school enrolment and grade promotion rose by 5.9 and 6.4 percentage points, respectively. How so? On one hand, the program increases household education expenditures for girls and decreases them for boys; on the other hand, girls spent less time in agricultural tasks at home, domestic work, and self-employment (older cohort).

Bonus on gender: an article by Asmorowati and Yuda argues that in Jakarta, cash transfers act as a “caregiving allowance”, that is, their income support function allows mothers to prioritize family obligations, hence in a way reinforcing traditional family labor division.

Entrepreneurship! Cho has an excellent summary on “what works” in helping small-scale entrepreneurs succeed in the labor market. In particular, her review of the literature calls for a comprehensive approach combining skills training and access to finance with other supplemental services (as opposed to than stand-alone interventions). BTW check out the great evidence map on the matter.

A couple of poverty resources: Carter et al lay out a private sector, business perspective on when economic growth reduces, and when not, poverty. So what are the key ingredients? Based on 6 successful case studies (Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Korea, and Vietnam), two partially successful (Ghana and India) and a couple of mixed experiences (Angola and Nigeria), it basically boils down to combining “growth in urban centres with public investments directed at rural areas and higher social spending”. And another paper by Ruja et al review 22 articles codifying main poverty determinants and operational bottlenecks for its reduction.

Miscellaneous! Barney offers his reflections on the PSNP in Ethiopia, where he calls for “thoroughly considering how we can keep what we have alive, rather than putting it under ever-increasing pressure to be an all singing, all dancing answer to multiple crises”; a WBG results brief ​​outlines the performance of cash transfers in Egypt; Fortnam and Hailey draw from thinking in social-ecological systems for understanding and preventing famines; a blog by Mahmud makes the case for universal social protection in Bangladesh; and let’s relax with a nice podcast, like Okunogbe’s on countries’ capabilities to raise tax revenues.

Finally, pencil in these three interesting events, namely on social protection and inclusive care (June 6), an overview of recent social protection reforms in Oman (June 11), and a three-day conference on social protection and inequality Latin America and the Caribbean (June 25-27).

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
        • Unconditional cash transfers
      • In kind transfers
        • Voucher
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes / Productive inclusion
      • Entrepreneurship / Start-up incentives
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Expenditure and financing
    • Laws and Policies
  • Programme performance / impact analysis
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Education
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Gender
    • Unpaid care work
  • Inequalities
  • Poverty reduction
  • Global
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's