The expansion of social protection programs has an important role to play in pandemic response. Cash transfers are an especially promising avenue, as they are effective at improving a number of development outcomes. These include raising individuals’ incomes and asset ownership, improving their nutritional status and mental health, and lowering their risk of experiencing illness or intimate partner violence (IPV). Digital payments can offer the opportunity to distribute cash transfers in a manner compliant with social distancing.
How should policymakers decide what type of support to provide to vulnerable citizens during the pandemic, and which individuals should benefit? This policy brief outlines four key decisions in social protection program design. These choices relate to topics like determining funding requirements, selecting beneficiaries, and deciding whether beneficiaries should receive cash payments, digital payments, or in-kind transfers of food or other goods.
Evidence can help to guide these decisions. This brief shares the latest evidence on these topics, as well as ongoing studies which are examining social protection in the time of COVID-19 at IPA’s Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) hub. It also identifies important areas for future research on this topic.
We use a randomized experiment to compare a workforce training program to cash transfers in Rwanda. Conducted in a sample of poor and underemployed youth, this study measures the impact of the training program not only relative to a control group but relative to the counterfactual of simply disbursing the cost of the program directly to beneficiaries. While the training program was successful in improving a number of core outcomes (productive hours, assets, savings, and subjective well-being), cost-equivalent cash transfers move all these outcomes as well as consumption, income, and wealth. In the head-to-head costing comparison cash proves superior across a number of economic outcomes, while training outperforms cash only in the production of business knowledge. We find little evidence of complementarity between human and physical capital interventions, and no signs of heterogeneity or spillover effects.
We examine some effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) during the COVID-19 pandemic using a large-scale experiment in rural Kenya. Transfers significantly improved well-being on common measures such as hunger, sickness and depression in spite of the pandemic, but with modest effect sizes. They may have had public health benefits, as they reduced hospital visits and decreased social (but not commercial) interactions that influence contagion rates. During the pandemic (and contemporaneous agricultural lean season) recipients lost the income gains from starting new non-agricultural enterprises that they had initially obtained, but also suffered smaller increases in hunger. This pattern is consistent with the idea that UBI induced recipients to take on more income risk in part by mitigating the most harmful consequences of adverse shocks.
Se ha demostrado que en situaciones de emergencia la asistencia de dinero ayuda a los beneficiarios a mitigar las consecuencias económicas resultantes, por ejemplo, mediante el aumento de la seguridad alimentaria. La Devolución del IVA, una nueva transferencia de dinero incondicional en Colombia, asistirá a 1 millón de hogares de bajos ingresos en atravesar la crisis económica a causa de la pandemia del COVID-19. A través de una evaluación aleatoria, los investigadores podrán medir los efectos de la transferencia en la salud física y mental de los beneficiarios, la seguridad alimentaria, la seguridad financiera y el aprendizaje de los niños, entre otros.
La propagación global del COVID-19 y las medidas de confinamiento para contenerle han incrementado el estrés económico y la violencia doméstica. Para enfrentar este desafío, los investigadores se han asociado en Colombia con IPA, Fundación Capital y Comfama para evaluar el impacto de una intervención interactiva basada en WhatsApp, que pretende mejorar la salud financiera y reducir la violencia doméstica al introducir consejos de comunicación de pareja en un programa existente de educación financiera. Los investigadores están midiendo el impacto en capacidad financiera, empoderamiento de las mujeres e incidencia de la violencia doméstica en el contexto de la pandemia por COVID-19.
Social protection programs are needed more than ever during periods of social upheaval but are also likely to be even harder to implement successfully. Furthermore, social upheaval makes measuring the impact of such policies all the more difficult. We study the impact of a multi-faceted social protection program, often referred to as a “graduation” model program, in Yemen during a period of civil unrest. We are unable to measure outcomes for four years, thus much remains unknown about what transpired in the intermediary time. After four years we find positive impacts on asset accumulation and savings behavior, albeit substantially less than the amount the household originally received.
Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers, practitioners, and funders are faced with competing ideas about the best way to reduce extreme poverty. Innovations for Poverty Action conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impacts of diverse components and variants of the Village Enterprise microenterprise program, an integrated poverty alleviation intervention that provides poor households with a combination of cash transfers, mentorship, business training, and support with the formation of savings groups, over a one-year period.
- Village Enterprise’s microenterprise development program led to increased consumption, assets, and income, as well as improvements in nutrition and subjective well-being.
- Cost-effectiveness appears high: researchers estimate a full cost recovery within three to four years.
- A cost-equivalent cash transfer appeared to have less promising medium-term impacts on poverty reduction and subjective well-being than the microenterprise program, though estimates are more ambiguous.
- Adding a light-touch behavior change component to the cash transfer changed the investment patterns of cash transfer recipients and improved subjective well-being somewhat, but cannot be characterized as a substitute for the much more heavy-touch training and mentorship interventions of the microenterprise program.
- Overall, the results suggest that training and mentorship components of integrated poverty alleviation programs are sensible and cannot simply be removed (or substituted for cash transfers). But as they are complex, more research is needed on the issue of scaling them while maintaining their quality.
This paper evaluates a large-scale maternal cash transfer program targeted to pregnant women and mothers of children under two. The program provides monthly cash transfers, and is supplemented with Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) in a random subset of villages. Both interventions lead to a large reduction in the proportion of children (moderately) stunted. Meanwhile, cash alone has no detectable impact on child outcomes. The effects are accompanied by improvements in dietary diversity, breastfeeding, hand-washing practices, prenatal care and food consumption. These results provide strong support for adding SBCC to maternal cash transfer programs in order to realize their impact.
How large economic stimuli generate individual and aggregate responses is a central question in economics, but has not been studied experimentally. We provided one-time cash transfers of about USD 1000 to over 10,500 poor households across 653 randomized villages in rural Kenya. The implied fiscal shock was over 15 percent of local GDP. We find large impacts on consumption and assets for recipients. Importantly, we document large positive spillovers on non-recipient households and firms, and minimal price inflation. We estimate a local fiscal multiplier of 2.7. We interpret welfare implications through the lens of a simple household optimization framework.
Améliorer les opportunités d’emploi productif et inclusif est un enjeu essentiel pour une croissance durable et pour une réduction de la pauvreté en Côte d’Ivoire. La Côte d’Ivoire fait face à un défi majeur de qualité de l’emploi. L’emploi est fortement concentré dans des activités indépendantes agricoles et non-agricoles. En moyenne, l’emploi indépendant a une productivité et des revenus relativement faibles, ce qui mène à un sous-emploi important en fonction des revenus. Dans ce contexte, une stratégie productive et inclusive de promotion de l’emploi devrait à la fois se concentrer sur la création de nouveaux emplois, considérer l’amélioration de la qualité des emplois existants et l’inclusion des pauvres, des femmes et des population rurales dans des emplois productifs. Améliorer les opportunités d’emploi productif pour les groupes de population vulnérables est un enjeu essentiel pour une croissance durable et pour une réduction de la pauvreté en Côte d’Ivoire.
La disponibilité de nouvelles informations en matière d’emploi a encouragé la formation d’une initiative multi-acteurs pour opérationnaliser un nouvel agenda de l’emploi pour la Côte d’Ivoire. La réalisation des enquêtes emploi et les analyses secondaires qui en ont découlé ont permis de faire un diagnostic détaillé de la situation de l’emploi en Côte d’Ivoire. Ce diagnostic a été complété par plusieurs évaluations d’impact de programmes d’emploi qui ont permis d’améliorer les connaissances sur l’efficacité de différents types d’intervention. Par ailleurs, de nouvelles approches ciblant à la fois les individus en âge de travailler et les entreprises créatrices d’emplois, sont actuellement pilotées au niveau international dans l’objectif de maximiser les résultats sur l’emploi. Sur la base de ces nouvelles informations, la perspective d’une opérationnalisation d’un nouvel agenda de l’emploi pour la Côte d’Ivoire s’est ouverte. Cette initiative a été conjointement portée par la Direction Générale de l’Emploi et le Bureau de Coordination des Programmes d’Emploi et appuyée par la Banque mondiale, l’Agence française de développement, Innovations for Poverty Action et l’Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.
Recent research suggests giving cash directly to the poor can have a range of benefits for recipients in the first few years, including increased consumption, assets, and food security, but little evidence exists on the long-term effects of cash transfers, particularly as a way to spur entrepreneurship and increase earnings. To shed light on this question, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation in Uganda of a government self-employment program that provided cash grants of about $400 per person to groups of young adults to start a skilled trade. An IPA research team followed up after two, four, and nine years—providing some of the longest-term rigorous evidence on how start-up cash grants impact measures of poverty.
» Four years after grants were distributed, recipients were more likely to be practicing a skilled trade and earning 38 percent more than their peers who hadn’t received grants. The boost in earnings seemed to be driven by recipients’ work in skilled trades.
» Nine years after the cash grants were disbursed, most of the business and earning gains had dissipated, but grant recipients still had more household assets and were more likely to be practicing a skilled trade.
» The fade out of business and earnings effects was driven by changes in the comparison group: those who hadn’t received the grants had started working, and earning, a lot more—in fact, they had caught up to the grant recipients in hours worked and income.
» The grant had some positive impacts on health outcomes, but only for the children of women who had received the grant: children of grant-recipient mothers displayed better physical skills such has walking and talking, relative to male-recipients and to the comparison group.
» In sum, start-up grants served the purpose of providing better jobs and businesses—but they did not offer sustained gains in earnings as earlier ndings suggested.
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy non-profit that discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA brings together researchers and decision-makers to design, rigorously evaluate, and refine these solutions and their applications, ensuring that the evidence created is used to improve the lives of the world’s poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 575 leading academics to conduct over 650 evaluations in 51 countries. Future growth will be concentrated in focus countries, such as Myanmar, where we have local and international staff, established relationships with government, NGOs, and the private sector, and deep knowledge of local issues.
Over the past two decades, sports programs have proliferated as a mode of engaging youth in development projects. Thousands of organizations, millions of participants, and hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in sports-based development programs each year. The underlying belief that sports promote socioemotional skills, improve psychological well-being, and foster traits that boost labor force productivity has provided motivation to expand funding and offerings of sport for development (SFD) programs. We partnered with an international NGO to randomly assign 1200 young adults to a sports and life skills development program. While we do not see evidence of improved psychosocial outcomes or resilience, we do find evidence that the program caused a 0.12 standard deviation increase in labor force participation. Secondary analysis suggests that the effects are strongest among those likely to be most disadvantaged in the labor market.
In Ghana, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Ghanaian poor.