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Profiles

Luisa Natali

Social Policy Specialist

Luisa Natali is a Social Policy Specialist at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti where she first joined as a Consultant in 2011. Luisa’s main research fields are Development Economics, Economics of Gender and Policy Impact Evaluation. Her research interests lie in social policy and social protection, and in particular in the evaluation of cash transfer programmes on children’s and overall household’s well-being. Most of her research is based on sub-Saharan Africa but she is also interested in the evaluation of cash-based programmes in refugee-hosting settings. Luisa has previously worked as a research consultant for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). She has gained field experience in Zambia, South Africa, Bangladesh and Jordan. She holds a PhD and Master’s in Development Economics from the University of Sussex, UK.

Publications

The Difference a Dollar a Day Can Make: Lessons from UNICEF Jordan's Hajati cash transfer programme
Publication Publication

The Difference a Dollar a Day Can Make: Lessons from UNICEF Jordan's Hajati cash transfer programme

What difference does a dollar a day make? For the poorest households in Jordan, many of whom escaped conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, UNICEF Jordan’s Hajati humanitarian cash transfer programme helps them keep their children in school, fed and clothed – all for less than one dollar per day. In fact, cash transfers have the potential to touch on myriad of child and household well-being outcomes beyond food security and schooling.
Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition in Zambia
Publication Publication

Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition in Zambia

We examine the effect of the Zambia Child Grant Programme – an unconditional cash transfer (CT) targeted to rural families with children under age five – on height-for-age four years after programme initiation. The CT scheme had large positive effects on several nutritional inputs including food expenditure and meal frequency. However, there was no effect on height-for-age. Production function estimates indicate that food carries little weight in the production of child height. Health knowledge of mothers and health infrastructure in the study sites are also very poor. These factors plus the harsh disease environment are too onerous to be overcome by the increases in food intake generated by the CT. In such settings, a stand-alone CT, even when it has large positive effects on food security, is unlikely to have an impact on long-term chronic malnutrition unless accompanied by complementary interventions.
Exploring the potential of cash transfers to delay early marriage and pregnancy among youth in Malawi and Zambia
Publication Publication

Exploring the potential of cash transfers to delay early marriage and pregnancy among youth in Malawi and Zambia

There is increasing interest in the potential of cash transfers to facilitate safe transitions to adulthood among vulnerable youth in low-income settings. However, little evidence exists that analyses these linkages from at-scale government-run programmes. This brief summarizes the impacts of two government-run large-scale unconditional cash transfers on outcomes of early marriage and pregnancy among youth in Malawi and Zambia after approximately three years. Results indicate limited impacts on safe transitions for both males and females. However, the programmes were successful in reducing poverty and improving schooling outcomes—two main pathways for safe transitions as reported in the literature. Research implications include the need to study transitions over longer time periods, including tracking of youth as they transition out of study households. If reducing early marriage and pregnancy is among policy makers’ primary priorities, then dedicated programming via cash plus or services specifically targeted at addressing the needs of adolescents and youth should be considered.
The Transformative Impacts of Unconditional Cash Transfers: Evidence from two government programmes in Zambia
Publication Publication

The Transformative Impacts of Unconditional Cash Transfers: Evidence from two government programmes in Zambia

Unconditional cash transfers are on the rise in Sub-Saharan Africa, with recent estimates indicating a doubling of programmes between 2010 and 2014. This brief provides an overview of the comprehensive impacts across eight domains of two unconditional cash transfer programmes implemented by the Zambian Government: The Child Grant Programme (CGP) and the Multiple Category Targeting Programme (MCP). Although the primary objective of these programmes is poverty mitigation rather than economic empowerment, we document protective and productive outcomes in order to assess whether these programmes generate transformative effects and have the potential to offer a sustained pathway out of poverty for poor households.

Blogs

Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19
Blog Blog

Fast access to cash provides urgent relief to those hardest hit by COVID—19

COVID—19 is wreaking health and economic turmoil worldwide. These impacts are all the more pronounced in low-income or crisis-affected countries, where the economic crisis caused by the pandemic may hit harder than the virus itself. This is the case for Jordan which, in addition to 15.7% of its population living below the poverty line, hosts 650,000 registered refugees who fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria.Since 2017, UNICEF Jordan has been supporting vulnerable households with  monthly direct cash payments (known as ‘Hajati’). This cash is ‘no strings attached’ but recipients are encouraged to use it to support children’s schooling. Forthcoming UNICEF Innocenti research reveals how Hajati positively impacts children’s lives.
Administrative Data: Missed opportunity for learning and research in humanitarian emergencies?
Blog Blog

Administrative Data: Missed opportunity for learning and research in humanitarian emergencies?

Researchers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of using administrative data collected during emergencies for research on children. Administrative data can do much more than help deliver services or provide inputs for monitoring. Researchers can use administrative data also for learning and research in humanitarian emergencies if agencies make available their data for analysis as part of an ethical, secure and deliberate strategy.
Opening the black box: Cash transfers and post-intervention research
Blog Blog

Opening the black box: Cash transfers and post-intervention research

Last Fall I visited three of the most poverty-stricken rural districts of Zambia: Kaputa, Kalabo and Shangombo. Each location took two days’ travel by car from Lusaka.

Journal articles

Cash Transfers, Early Marriage, and Fertility in Malawi and Zambia
Journal Article Journal Article

Cash Transfers, Early Marriage, and Fertility in Malawi and Zambia

More evidence on the relationship between cash transfers and child height
Journal Article Journal Article

More evidence on the relationship between cash transfers and child height

Income transfers, early marriage and fertility in Malawi and Zambia
Journal Article Journal Article

Income transfers, early marriage and fertility in Malawi and Zambia

Does money buy happiness? Evidence from an unconditional cash transfer in Zambia
Journal Article Journal Article

Does money buy happiness? Evidence from an unconditional cash transfer in Zambia