The American “floor for the poorest” has been sinking over the past 30 years. A new NBER paper by Jolliffe et al shows that such floor fell markedly in the 1990s, then stabilized in the 2000s, and again went on a downward trajectory. In 2016, the floor was about 30% of the official poverty line, or about $5/person/day. SNAP, the US signature food vouchers scheme, partly compensated for the decline, but its performance in reaching America’s poorest deteriorated over time. Had all of those living at or near the floor received the mean SNAP payments, the floor would have risen to about $8/person/day and stayed stable over 1988-2016.

More on safety nets in the US: the Baby’s First Years study assesses the impact of cash transfers on infants’ cognitive, emotional, and brain development. More information about the participants and the study’s progress can be found in Issue 1 of the Baby’s First Years Bulletin (h/t Paul Niehaus). And Moffit, arguably one of the most prolific researchers on welfare and labor disincentives, examines such effects for the AFDC program in ‘reform years’ of 1967, 1981, and 1996, and estimates the marginal effects on labor supply from a change in participation in such periods.

Speaking of incentives, “… the program impact stops where the incentives stop” concludes an experiment by Aeberhardt et al of a European CCT. Some 170,000 young, unskilled jobseekers in France received a monthly cash transfer for a two-year period for Euro 4800, conditional on their participation in the French national career guidance program. Cash transfers lead to a significant increase in program participation (which mainly entails meetings with counselors), but had almost null effects on employment. The authors conclude by recommending to condition incentives on outcomes of interest, rather than on intermediate targets (h/t Berk Ozler).

What are the effects of extending mobile-money services in Uganda? Wieser et al identify three main impacts: cost-savings for remittance transactions; doubled self-employment rate, from 3.4 to 6.4%; and reduced food insecurity from 62.9 to 47.2%.

Another way of reducing food insecurity? Sharing! A paper by Carraro and Ferrone shows that the presence of strong informal networks in Lesotho improves food security — i.e., they channel the effect of Child Grants from beneficiaries to other community members. More on family ties: a forthcoming EDCC article by Koh and Yang examines the South Korean experience with social insurance and reflects on their challenges for poverty reduction where private support from adult children to parents is pervasive.

Protecting human capital! Gunnsteinsson et al show that exposure to tornados in utero and infancyin Bangladesh decreased birth size and physical growth, and increased the incidence of severe fevers. But infants who received vitamin A supplementation, which boosts immune system functioning, were protected from these effects.

Let’s move to Africa… first discussing skills for the region’s workforce: new fantastic report by Arias et al discusses and quantifies trade-offs and issues in such key priority – e.g., see great organizing framework on p.22. But what are the effects of Chinese investments in the continent? They yield generally positive effects on growth and infrastructure, according to Martiscelli’s paper in DPR; but they may also generate adverse impacts on manufacturing and structural transformation. Finally, a Brookings blog by Fenz and Hamel set out a stunning stat: half of the world’s poor, or 300M people, are children, and 3/4 of them live in Africa.

Keep talking of jobs, a new WD article by Ibarra and Ros documents and explains the steep decline in labor income shares in Mexico between 1995-2015. Why? Mainly because of lagging productivity of the economy’s informal non-tradable sector. In Bangladesh, Menzel and Woodruff document that women’s wages among garment production workers are 8% lower than men’s (a gender wage gap similar to those found in higher-income countries).

Since I mentioned gender, a JDS piece by Acosta shows that in El Salvador, migration and remittances generate only minor labor reallocation effects within households: no impact is registered for off-farm labor supply, although gender-disaggregated results indicate an increase in female participation and hours worked in agricultural activities, and reduced time dedicated to off-farm and domestic ones. And in relation to migration, Gagnon and Hagen-Zanker have an OECD blog on mobility and social protection. Bonus: the new UN Women’s flagship report Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World is out (h/t Anush Bezhanyan).

From migration to forced displacement: how are European countries doing in integrating refugees into their social protection system? In Denmark, a blog by Ringel illustrates that refugees are only eligible to an Integration Allowance: this is half of regular cash transfers given to citizens and covers 1/6 of the minimum survival amount. BTW, can violence be forecasted? Bazzi et al predict violence one year ahead in Colombia and Indonesia with a range of machine learning techniques.

Final mix: a blog by Lustig et al underscores the need to place equity issues at the center of the Addis Tax Initiative agenda, while the Grand Bargain Cash Workstream released a draft for testing the multipurpose cash outcome indicators (h/t Suzanne Vanballekom).


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
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes / Productive inclusion
      • Job training
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Monitoring and evaluation systems
  • Programme implementation
  • Programme design
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Labour market / employment
    • Unemployment
  • Poverty reduction
  • Lesotho
  • United States
  • France
  • Europe & Central Asia
  • North America
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's