Cash versus Kind: Benchmarking a Child Nutrition Program against Unconditional Cash Transfers in Rwanda

The authors developed a methodology to benchmark in-kind programs against cost-equivalent cash transfers. The application compares a multi-dimensional child nutrition intervention to unconditional cash transfers, using randomized variation in transfer amounts and regression adjustment of expenditures to estimate impacts of cash transfers at identical cost as well as to estimate the return to increasing cash transfer amounts. While neither the in-kind program nor a cost-equivalent transfer costing $124 per household moves core child outcomes within a year, cash transfers create significantly greater consumption and asset accumulation. A larger cash transfer costing $517 substantially improves consumption and investment outcomes and drives modest improvements in dietary diversity and child growth.