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Mythbusting: confronting six common perceptions about cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

This paper summarizes 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, it investigates 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. The paper presents 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 programs can bring about in sub-Saharan Africa, and globally. It concludes by underscoring outstanding research gaps and policy implications for the continued expansion of unconditional cash transfers in the region and beyond.

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Publication date: 2018

Author(s): Sudhanshu Handa, Silvio Daidone, Amber Peterman, Benjamin Davis, Audrey Pereira, Tia Palermo, Jennifer Yablonski

Journal: World Bank Research Observer

Volume: 33

No.: 2

Page(S): 259-298

Language: English

Peer reviewed: YES

Related Innocenti Project(s):

Social protection and cash transfers

Countries

Sub-saharan africa