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Tia Palermo

Sr. Social Policy Specialist

Tia Palermo is a Social Policy Specialist and oversees projects relating to social protection and equity in low- and middle-income countries focusing on cash transfers and impact evaluations of interventions to combat poverty and exclusion of children. As part of the Transfer Project, her work examines the ability of social policy to improve outcomes among children and adolescents, including those related to schooling, sexual behaviour, mental health, and violence. She joined UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in 2014 and has published extensively on topics related to gender-based violence, reproductive health, transitions to adulthood, and social policy and holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy.
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In this paper we summarize evidence on six perceptions associated with cash transfer programming, using eight rigorous evaluations conducted on large-scale government unconditional cash transfers in sub-Saharan Africa, under the Transfer Project. Specifically, we investigate if transfers: 1) induce higher spending on alcohol or tobacco; 2) are fully consumed (rather than invested); 3) create dependency (reduce participation in productive activities); 4) increase fertility; 5) lead to negative community-level economic impacts (including price distortion and inflation), and 6) are fiscally unsustainable. We present evidence refuting each claim, leading to the conclusion that these perceptions – insofar as they are utilized in policy debates – undercut potential improvements in well-being and livelihood strengthening among the poor, which these programmes can bring about in sub-Saharan Africa, and globally. We conclude by underscoring outstanding research gaps and policy implications for the continued expansion of unconditional cash transfers in the region and beyond.


Sudhanshu Handa; Silvio Daidone; Amber Peterman; Benjamin Davis; Audrey Pereira; Tia Palermo; Jennifer Yablonski
Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread globally. In their lifetime, one in three women will experience intimate partner physical or sexual violence and 7 per cent will experience forced sex by someone other than an intimate partner.




Cash transfers and fertility: new evidence from Africa (24 Feb 2016)

Social cash transfers are an increasingly popular tool in African national governments’ social protectionstrategies, bu ...

Evidence from Africa shows cash transfers increase school enrollment (20 Feb 2015)

An estimated 63 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 are currently out of school, according to a recent report by the ...


Tia Palermo on Evaluation of Social Cash Transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa


Adolescent wellbeing

A four year programme on social and structural determinants of adolescent wellbeing in low and middle income countries.

Social protection - cash transfers

A multi-country research initiative to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programmes.