Distributional impacts of cash transfers on the multidimensional poverty of refugees: The Emergency Social Safety Net in Turkey

Most impact evaluations of humanitarian cash transfer programmes use traditional metrics of poverty and study average effects of outcomes separately. We analyse the impact of the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash programme on the multidimensional poverty of refugees in Turkey, using a purpose-built Refugee Multidimensional Poverty Index. We conduct a causal analysis of both average and distributional impacts of the ESSN on the incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty, and decompose effects for separate dimensions and indicators of poverty. Results show that the ESSN significantly reduced the incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty amongst its beneficiaries. Significant reductions are found in the dimensions of food security, living standards, health and education. This supports emerging claims that these types of programmes, still relatively new in humanitarian contexts, can improve multiple outcomes simultaneously. Reductions in the deprivation scores of the more deprived households stand out as a finding that outcome specific evaluations and multidimensional impact evaluations focusing on estimating average treatment effects would have missed, demonstrating the added value of the distributional analyses used. By learning from the largest humanitarian cash programme in the world, results provide important lessons for cash programmes on multidimensional poverty of refugees elsewhere.