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Social protection - cash transfers

The Transfer Project is a multi-country research initiative to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Programs are nationally owned and implemented by Government, and there is focus on dissemination of results to national stakeholders, as well as regional workshops to allow for cross-country learning and capacity building.

The project aims to generate evidence from largely unconditional transfers across both social protection and productive domains. Innovations in questionnaire design allow for examination of non-traditional outcomes, including safe transition of adolescents into adulthood and local economy impacts. The evaluations exploit the expansion of programs to construct delayed entry comparison groups, paired with randomized or quasi-experimental longitudinal designs. Multiple countries include nested longitudinal qualitative components to explore and explain impacts.   

Key partners include UNICEF Country Offices, the regional office of East and Southern Africa, national implementing agencies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Save the Children UK, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Social protection - cash transfers

The Transfer Project is a multi-country research initiative to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Programs are nationally owned and implemented by Government, and there is focus on dissemination of results to national stakeholders, as well as regional workshops to allow for cross-country learning and capacity building.

The project aims to generate evidence from largely unconditional transfers across both social protection and productive domains. Innovations in questionnaire design allow for examination of non-traditional outcomes, including safe transition of adolescents into adulthood and local economy impacts. The evaluations exploit the expansion of programs to construct delayed entry comparison groups, paired with randomized or quasi-experimental longitudinal designs. Multiple countries include nested longitudinal qualitative components to explore and explain impacts.   

Key partners include UNICEF Country Offices, the regional office of East and Southern Africa, national implementing agencies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Save the Children UK, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

LATEST PUBLICATIONS

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.

AUTHOR(S)

Sudhanshu Handa; Silvio Daidone; Amber Peterman; Benjamin Davis; Audrey Pereira; Tia Palermo; Jennifer Yablonski
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.

AUTHOR(S)

Armando Barrientos; Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai; Daisy Demirag; Richard de Groot; Luigi Peter Ragno
We study the impact of the Zimbabwe Harmonized Social Cash Transfer (HSCT) on household food security after 12 months of implementation. The programme has had a strong impact on a well-known food security scale – the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) – but muted impacts on food consumption expenditure. However aggregate food consumption hides dynamic activity taking place within the household where the cash is used to obtain more food from the market and rely less on food received as gifts.

AUTHOR(S)

Garima Bhalla; Sudhanshu Handa; Gustavo Angeles; David Seidenfeld
In sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world, the number of cash transfer programmes has doubled in the last five years and reaches close to 50 million people. What is the impact of these programmes, and do they offer a sustained pathway out of ultra-poverty? In this paper we examine these questions using experimental data from two unconditional cash transfer programmes implemented by the Government of Zambia. We find far-reaching effects of these two programmes, not just on their primary objective, food security and consumption, but also on a range of productive and economic outcomes. After three years, we observe that household spending is 59 per cent larger than the value of the transfer received, implying a sizeable multiplier effect. These multipliers work through increased non-farm business activity and agricultural production.

AUTHOR(S)

Sudhanshu Handa; Luisa Natali; David Seidenfeld; Gelson Tembo; Benjamin Davis
This paper revisits the relationship between income and happiness and estimates the impact of a social cash transfer programme on individual subjective well-being. Social cash transfer programmes provide consistent, non-contributory income to targeted, poor households. In Latin America, they are usually conditioned on measurable behaviours, but in sub-Saharan Africa they tend to be unconditional.

AUTHOR(S)

Kelly Kilburn; Sudhanshu Handa; Gustavo Angeles; Peter Mvula; Maxton Tsoka
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.

AUTHOR(S)

Richard de Groot
This methodological brief focuses on the qualitative component of the evaluation of the Ghana Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) 1000. Quantitative measures will indicate if LEAP 1000 reduces child poverty, stunting and other measures of well-being, while qualitative research explores in more depth the reasons why and how this may or may not be happening.

AUTHOR(S)

Michelle Mills; Clare Barrington
This Brief summarizes the proceedings of the Know Violence Roundtable examining the evidence on the role of social protection in reducing childhood violence hosted by UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, 12-13 May, 2016.

AUTHOR(S)

Sarah Cook; Naomi Neijhoft; Tia Palermo; Amber Peterman
In 2010, the Zambian Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health began implementation of the Child Grant Programme with the goals of reducing extreme poverty and breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty. The impact of the grant was explored across a range of outcomes for women over the medium term (two to four years). One of the difficult aspects of assessing this evidence is the myriad of indicators used to measure ‘empowerment’. For example, researchers have used indicators ranging from women’s intra-household decision-making to social networks, land or asset ownership, and interpret all these as ‘empowerment’, making it difficult to draw conclusions. The analysis is complemented with qualitative data to understand the meaning women and men place on empowerment in the rural communities. Although more evidence is needed to understand how cash transfers can empower women in Africa, women’s savings and participation in small businesses were seen to have increased, giving them more autonomy over cash and improving their financial standing.

The paper investigates the assumption that giving cash as part of social safety nets targeted to women will lead to their empowerment. There is a perception that both conditional and unconditional cash transfers will lead to changes in intra-household power dynamics, but the evidence to support this to date is mixed. This evaluation of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme uses mixed methods to examine the four-year impact on women’s household decision-making, empowerment and overall household dynamics.

AUTHOR(S)

Juan Bonilla; Rosa Castro Zarzur; Sudhanshu Handa; Claire Nowlin; Amber Peterman; Hannah Ring; David Seidenfeld
MORE PUBLICATIONS

Project team

Jose Cuesta; Richard de Groot; Jacob De Hoop; Valeria Groppo; Michelle Mills; Luisa Natali; Tia Palermo; Audrey Pereira; Amber Peterman; Leah Prencipe; Elsa Valli


Partner organizations

FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Save the Children Fund UK

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Videos

Addis Ababa cash transfer project workshop

Books

From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa


Blogs

From a human face to human emotion: valuing feelings in development

Food for thought on measuring child food insecurity

Making research count: Lessons on turning evidence into action from the Transfer Project

Cash For Free: Who's In The Driver's Seat?

Turning cash into goats. The cash transfer effect in Tanzania

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

Connecting the dots between social protection and childhood violence: a neglected research agenda

Can cash transfers prevent intimate partner violence?

Cash transfers: What’s gender got to do with it?

More on Cash Transfers to Reduce HIV among Adolescents

What is the role of cash transfer programmes in achieving zero hunger in sub-Saharan Africa?

Violent beginnings: The critical window to prevent intimate partner violence

Cash transfers and fertility: new evidence from Africa

Evidence from Africa shows cash transfers increase school enrollment

Cash transfers in Africa generating evidence on the impact

It’s Payday! What a cash transfer looks like in Ghana

Doing impact evaluation in a remote region of Ghana

Giving girls a chance


Journal articles

Poverty and perceived stress: Evidence from two unconditional cash transfer programs in Zambia

Impact of cash transfer programs on food security and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa: A cross-country analysis

Social networks, social participation, and health among youth living in extreme poverty in rural Malawi

Effects of a Large-Scale Unconditional Cash Transfer Program on Mental Health Outcomes of Young People in Kenya

The impact of Zambia’s unconditional child grant on schooling and work: results from a large-scale social experiment

Unconditional government social cash transfer in Africa does not increase fertility

How does a national poverty programme influence sexual debut among Kenyan adolescents?

Time Discounting and Credit Market Access in a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Programme


What's new stories

Major international conference on youth and gender


External website

The Transfer Project


Conferences & Meetings

Social Protection “Plus” Workshop

Social Protection and Childhood Violence: Expert Roundtable

The Transfer Project Workshop 2016