Unconditional cash transfer programs and women’s empowerment: evidence from Pakistan

This study explores the impact of unconditional cash transfers on the multiple dimensions of women’s empowerment in Pakistan. Emphasizing the importance of cultural and religious norms, empowerment is considered as a latent construct manifested through three distinct choice dimensions, viz., “self,” “familial,” and “economic.” For the empirical estimation, a structural equation model is used on the country-representative Impact Evaluation Survey data of 2015–16 for the Benazir Income Support Program. The measurement model identifies various indicators for the dimensions considered. The results confirm the importance of providing cash transfers to the country's poorest women in all three dimensions, while the impact on self-choices is almost 40% that of the impact on the other two aspects of empowerment. Our findings provide recommendations for the successful implementation of social assistance programs.