Cash Transfer Timing: How Transfer Duration and Frequency Contribute to Outcomes

Studies from 2016 on demonstrate that the impact of cash transfers varies based on duration, depending on whether they are distributed over a short (24 months or less) or long (more than 24 months) period. Cash transfers distributed over a long period provide predictability that is associated with greater impact, particularly with transfers distributed to improve children’s health, nutrition and education, and employment and labor. Longer duration of transfers allows for households to plan, which in turn allows households to engage in riskier yet more-profitable income-generating activities, when available. Longer duration of transfers, such as through universal basic income experiments, may especially benefit children when timed to pivotal developmental periods such as the first 1,000 days of life. This review examines the impact of the timing of cash transfers both in terms of duration and frequency of transfers, and at times in combination (where noted).