Social Protection and Youth

This paper provides a narrative review of social protection policies for youth (ages 15–24) in low- and middle-income countries; assesses the state of the evidence on their impacts; and provides recommendations for policy and future research. It summarizes the findings by three groups of policies: transfers and scholarships, active labor market policies, and life skills programs. While social protection policies serve their primary purpose as safety nets, they do not have transformative effects for youth, overall. The paper highlights the tradeoffs that arise from using social protection programs to address particular market failures: many beneficiaries of popular programs are inframarginal. The impacts of social protection programs targeted to youth are likely to improve if there is higher human capital accumulation earlier in life and the programs account for age and gender, are of sufficient length and intensity, and are intentionally designed to address the underlying constraints and goals, including an understanding of important social norms in the settings in which they operate.