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Tia Palermo

Sr. Social Policy Specialist

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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 social policy, adolescent well-being, transitions to adulthood, and violence and holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy.
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Cash transfers have been successful in reducing food insecurity, increasing consumption, building resiliency against economic shocks, improving productivity and increasing school enrolment. Despite the many successes of cash transfer programmes, they can also fall short of achieving longer-term and second-order impacts related to nutrition, learning and health outcomes. A recent study highlights how so-called ‘Cash Plus’ programmes, which offer additional components or linkages to existing services on top of regular cash payments, may help address such shortcomings.


Keetie Roelen; Tia Palermo; Leah Prencipe

The broad-ranging benefits of cash transfers are now widely recognized. However, the evidence base highlights that they often fall short in achieving longer-term and second-order impacts related to nutrition, learning outcomes and morbidity. In recognition of these limitations, several ‘cash plus’ initiatives have been introduced, whereby cash transfers are combined with one or more types of complementary support. This paper aims to identify key factors for successful implementation of these increasingly popular ‘cash plus’ programmes, based on (i) a review of the emerging evidence base of ‘cash plus’ interventions and (ii) an examination of three case studies, namely, Chile Solidario in Chile, IN-SCT in Ethiopia and LEAP in Ghana. The analysis was guided by a conceptual framework proposing a menu of ‘cash plus’ components. The assessment of three case studies indicated that effective implementation of ‘cash plus’ components has indeed contributed to greater impacts of the respective programmes. Such initiatives have thereby addressed some of the non-financial and structural barriers that poor people face and have reinforced the positive effects of cash transfer programmes. In design of such programmes, further attention should be paid to the constraints faced by the most vulnerable and how such constraints can be overcome. We conclude with recommendations regarding the provision of complementary support and cross-sectoral linkages based on lessons learned from the case studies. More research is still needed on the impact of the many variations of ‘cash plus’ programming, including evidence on the comparative roles of individual ‘plus’ components, as well as the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour pathways which influence these impacts.


Keetie Roelen; Stephen Devereux; Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai; Bruno Martorano; Tia Palermo; Luigi Peter Ragno



Measuring taboo topics: List randomization for research on gender-based violence (10 Jan 2018)

Gender-based violence is notoriously under-reported—for understandable reasons. Experience of violence is highly stigmatized and victi ...

Are randomized control trials bad for children? (18 Oct 2017)

There was a time when UNICEF was known in development circles as the agency that “does everything but knows nothing.” Indeed, UN ...


#HEARMETOO: UNICEF Research on Gender-Based Violence for #16Days of Activism

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.