What Works? To Reduce Poverty Through Social Protection

This paper presents the evidence on how social protection and especially non-contributory cash transfers impact on individuals and households in low- and middle-income countries. Based on evidence extracted from 152 studies, the paper discusses the impact of cash transfers on specific key indicators under the following outcomes: resources and economic growth, health, education, gender, social cohesion and human security. These topics have been selected since the linkages to these areas are important in Sida´s implementation of social protection and because there is an extensive evidence base. For most indicators, cash transfers contributed to progress in the direction intended by policymakers. However, the paper also highlights important variations and heterogeneity. Furthermore, we evaluate what works in terms of social protection delivery, reviewing the evidence on how design and implementation choices are important for effective poverty reduction. Reviewed design-choices include: payment delivery, conditionality, cash Vs. in-kind transfers and graduation approaches. Finally, the paper highlights gaps in the evidence base and areas which would benefit from additional future research, as well as summarizes key findings and conclusions on how cash transfers impact on multidimensional poverty-reduction and what design-choices are proven effective.