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Richard de Groot

Consultant (Former title)

Richard started at UNICEF's Office of Research – Innocenti in February 2015. He holds a Master’s degree in International Economics Studies and is currently a PhD fellow at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance. He has experience implementing evaluations and quantitative research in collaboration with organizations such as Plan International, UNICEF Cambodia, and the World Bank on topics related to poverty alleviation, human development, and children’s nutritional status. He has experience in quantitative and qualitative research methods. His research interests focus on the impacts of social programmes on children’s health and nutrition, household economic wellbeing and the pathways of impact. He is currently involved in the impact evaluation of the Ghana LEAP 1000 programme.

Publications

Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: The role of rights and accountability in the 'making and 'shaping' of social protection
Publication

Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: The role of rights and accountability in the 'making and 'shaping' of social protection

The rise of social protection into the limelight of social policy has opened up space for understanding how it can act as a key interface between states and citizens. This paper rethinks social protection through the lens of citizenship. It considers how the design and implementation of social protection can be shifted away from discretionary and technocratic forms, to forms which stimulate vulnerable citizens to make justice-based claims for their rights and demand accountability for the realization of those rights. It puts forward a conceptual framework for social protection with three modalities through which citizens can be engaged: as shapers and makers; as users and choosers; and as passive consumers.
Child Malnutrition, Consumption Growth, Maternal Care and Price Shocks: New Evidence from Northern Ghana
Publication

Child Malnutrition, Consumption Growth, Maternal Care and Price Shocks: New Evidence from Northern Ghana

Childhood malnutrition remains a significant global health concern. In order to implement effective policies to address the issue, it is crucial to first understand the mechanisms underlying malnutrition. This paper uses a unique dataset from Northern Ghana to explain the underlying causes of childhood malnutrition. It adopts an empirical framework to model inputs in the production of health and nutrition, as a function of child, household and community characteristics. The findings suggest that child characteristics are important in explaining inputs and nutritional outcomes, and that maternal agency and health contribute to improved health status. Household resources in the form of consumption are positively associated with food intake and nutritional outcomes. Simulations show that income growth, improving maternal care and avoiding sudden price shocks have a positive but rather limited effect on the reduction of malnutrition. Effects are greater in children under two. Hence, policies that address underlying determinants simultaneously, and target the youngest population of children, could have the largest effect on reducing malnutrition in this population.
Why Assist People Living in Poverty? The ethics of poverty reduction
Publication

Why Assist People Living in Poverty? The ethics of poverty reduction

The paper provides an examination of the relevance of ethics to poverty reduction. It argues that linking the shared values that define the social arrangements and institutions, which we refer to as ‘ethical perspectives’, to the emerging welfare institutions addressing poverty in developing countries provides a window into these processes of justification at a more fundamental level.
Ghana LEAP 1000 Impact Evaluation: Overview of Study Design
Publication

Ghana LEAP 1000 Impact Evaluation: Overview of Study Design

This brief documents the impact evaluation design of the Ghana Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) 1000 programme which is being piloted in ten districts in two regions and targets about 6,000 households initially.

Blogs

Families in norther Ghana assemble to receive a cash transfer payment.
Blog

Cash transfers and improved child nutrition: Where did all the impacts go?

During a recent trip to Ghana, we presented the baseline findings from an impact evaluation of the "LEAP 1000" cash transfer programme to UNICEF colleagues, government and development partners. LEAP 1000, an extension of Ghana's Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programme, targets households with young children. It is designed to improve the nutritional status of children in  the first 1000 days of life. Implementers are up for a tough challenge, as most of the evidence to date does not show consistent positive impacts of cash transfers on child nutrition. Why is this the case? Cash transfers have become an increasingly popular development intervention. An estimated 89 programmes are currently operating in Africa alone, most of them launched in the last 5 years. Cash has become a popular policy tool because rigorous studies have shown that they can have consistent impacts on the well-being of beneficiaries. For example, findings from the Transfer Project in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) demonstrate a broad range of impacts on household consumption, food security, human capital and productive activity. But what about impacts on child nutrition? During the latest Transfer Project workshop in Addis Ababa, participants debated the question of why relatively few impacts on child nutrition emerge from evaluations across the African continent while in Latin America cash programmes have shown strong effects on nutrition. But is this actually the case? In reality, the impacts of the Latin American programmes on nutrition are not as widespread as one might think. A meta-analysis by Manley, Gitter and Slavchevska identified 79 impact estimates from 8 countries on the height-for-age z-score of children, an indicator of chronic malnutrition. It turns out that only 12 of these estimates were statistically significant, and these impacts came from Mexico (5), Colombia (5), Ecuador (1) and Nicaragua (1). The vast majority of programmes did not significantly improve child nutrition. These  conclusions are consistent with other evidence reviews conducted in recent years. But what explains such limited impacts on nutrition? In a recent paper, we use a conceptual model which shows the pathways that lead to better nutrition and we present evidence on how cash transfers could impact on these pathways. In this framework, household income is an underlying determinant of nutrition, and can only have an effect through one of the three pathways at the household level: 1) improved food security, 2) improved care for mothers and children, or 3) improved health environment. These three pathways lead to improvements in dietary intake and health of the child, which together determine the nutritional status. So, for a cash payment to have an impact on nutrition, there need to be changes at the household level, which should lead to improved nutritional status. One can see that this process can be quite complex and a lot of the impact can be 'lost along the way'. Of course, there have been some cash transfer programmes showing positive effects on nutrition. What can we learn from them? The impacts observed in Mexico and Colombia are often attributed to the size of the cash grant, which is relatively large, about 25-30 er cent of the household's pre-programme expenditures. Also in the Philippines, where the Pantawid Pamilya programme reduced severe stunting by 10 per cent, the grant constituted about 23 per cent of beneficiaries' income. However, a later report, using a different methodology and looking at a longer time horizon did not find any impacts. Nevertheless, it makes sense that more cash in the hands of households may have a stronger effect on the pathways laid out in the framework, as well as potential to affect multiple pathways at the same time. Furthermore, supply-side interventions like health infrastructure and providing market access to diverse types of food help recipients to make the most of their cash. For example, the Child Grant in Zambia had an impact on stunting, but only for households with a protected source of water in the home. For the research community, it is important to pay attention to the mechanisms through which cash transfers affect pathways to better nutrition, instead of looking at the direct impacts. By understanding the way programmes can affect the underlying determinants of nutrition, we can disentangle the relationship between getting cash on the one hand, and improving nutrition of children on the other. Moreover, the lack of consistent impacts on nutrition has motivated programme designers to implement nutritional interventions on top of their programmes, such as nutrition information sessions, communication efforts or health insurance. This is a smart move, as cash transfers can offer an effective entry point to deliver complementary health and nutrition services. Fortunately, Ghana LEAP 1000 is among the programmes using this cash plus approach, with linkages to the national health insurance scheme, providing free health insurance to all beneficiaries. We are excited to follow this and other programmes to evaluate their impact, along with the added effect of the "plus" components in addressing malnutrition. Richard de Groot holds a Master's degree in International Economics Studies and is currently a PhD fellow at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance. He has experience implementing evaluations and quantitative research in collaboration with Plan International, the World Bank and UNICEF. The Office of Research - Innocenti is UNICEF's dedicated research centre undertaking research on emerging and current priorities to shape policy and practice for children. Subscribe to UNICEF Innocenti emails here. Follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter here.

Journal articles

Families in norther Ghana assemble to receive a cash transfer payment.
Journal Article

Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: the Role of Rights and Accountability in the ‘Making’ and ‘Shaping’ of Social Protection

Families in norther Ghana assemble to receive a cash transfer payment.
Journal Article

Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition: Pathways and Impacts