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Tia Palermo

Sr. Social Policy Specialist (Former title)

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.

Publications

Child Marriage and Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program: Analysis of protective pathways in the Amhara region
Publication Publication

Child Marriage and Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program: Analysis of protective pathways in the Amhara region

Emerging evidence suggests that social protection programmes can have a positive role in delaying marriage for girls. But the pathways and design features by which programmes may influence child marriage outcomes remain unknown. This mixed-methods study explores whether and how the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) in Ethiopia, given its national reach and potential to address poverty, can also affect child marriage practice. It draws on descriptive quantitative and qualitative data from an ongoing impact evaluation of the Integrated Safety Net Program (ISNP) pilot in the Amhara region. It finds that PSNP, through an economic channel, is effective in reducing financial pressures on families to marry off girls and in improving girls’ education opportunities. Income-strengthening measures must, however, be accompanied by complementary efforts – including girls’ empowerment, awareness-raising and legal measures – to transform deep-rooted social and gender norms and attitudes that perpetuate the harmful practice of child marriage.
‘Cash Plus’: Linking Cash Transfers to Services and Sectors
Publication Publication

‘Cash Plus’: Linking Cash Transfers to Services and Sectors

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.
How to Make ‘Cash Plus’ Work: Linking Cash Transfers to Services and Sectors
Publication Publication

How to Make ‘Cash Plus’ Work: Linking Cash Transfers to Services and Sectors

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.
Myth-busting? Confronting Six Common Perceptions about Unconditional Cash Transfers as a Poverty Reduction Strategy in Africa
Publication Publication

Myth-busting? Confronting Six Common Perceptions about Unconditional Cash Transfers as a Poverty Reduction Strategy in Africa

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.

Blogs

Five things we learned from research on child survivors of violence
Blog Blog

Five things we learned from research on child survivors of violence

Violence against children is a pervasive global phenomenon. Estimates indicate over 1 billion children under the age of 18 experience emotional, physical or sexual violence every year from a range of perpetrators – including parents, peers and intimate or dating partners. Despite these high figures, official figures of VAC are just the tip of the iceberg.
Mind the gender gap: How can a gender-norm lens improve social protection outcomes for adolescents?
Blog Blog

Mind the gender gap: How can a gender-norm lens improve social protection outcomes for adolescents?

Since adolescence is a highly vulnerable period of rapid physiological, biological, and psychological change, researchers and development partners are increasingly asking how social protection can facilitate safer transitions to adulthood, and what additional factors shape these transitions for youth.
Measuring taboo topics: List randomization for research on gender-based violence
Blog Blog

Measuring taboo topics: List randomization for research on gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is notoriously under-reported—for understandable reasons. Experience of violence is highly stigmatized and victims are often shamed. ...
Are randomized control trials bad for children?
Blog Blog

Are randomized control trials bad for children?

There was a time when UNICEF was known in development circles as the agency that “does everything but knows nothing.” Indeed, UNICEF is known for getting things done for children through persuasive advocacy, a human rights approach, and its presence on the ground. 

Journal articles

Uptake of HIV testing among adolescents and associated adolescent-friendly services
Journal Article Journal Article

Uptake of HIV testing among adolescents and associated adolescent-friendly services

Impact evaluation of a social protection programme paired with fee waivers on enrolment in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme
Journal Article Journal Article

Impact evaluation of a social protection programme paired with fee waivers on enrolment in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme

Perspectives of adolescent and young adults on poverty-related stressors: a qualitative study in Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania
Journal Article Journal Article

Perspectives of adolescent and young adults on poverty-related stressors: a qualitative study in Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania

Understanding the Relationships Between HIV and Child Marriage: Conclusions From an Expert Consultation
Journal Article Journal Article

Understanding the Relationships Between HIV and Child Marriage: Conclusions From an Expert Consultation

Podcasts

Tia Palermo on cash transfers, gender and impact of research

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

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