Impacts of an Unconditional Cash Transfer on Household Food and Nutrition Security in Malawi
Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 2:45 PM
Brickell Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Unconditional cash transfers are rapidly becoming a cornerstone of African social protection programs and government policies, growing in response to the intergenerational transmission of poverty, chronic hunger, and low levels of human capital accumulation. This paper contributes to the African unconditional cash transfer evidence-base by examining the impact of the Malawi Social Cash Transfer Program on household food and nutrition security. Beneficiary households are selected through a community-based targeting committee that identifies households that are ultra-poor and labor-constrained. The bimonthly transfer amount varies by household size and the number of household members enrolled in school. This study uses longitudinal data from the experimental, mixed-methods, cluster-randomized impact evaluation of the Malawi SCTP in Salima and Mangochi districts. The baseline survey was conducted in 2013 prior to village cluster randomization into treatment and delayed-entry control groups, and the first follow-up survey was completed in January 2015. We find that the program had a small impact on current economic vulnerability to food insecurity, and that program impacts on economic vulnerability were stronger for the poorest households, households with children ages 0-17, and household with transfer shares of at least 20 percent of baseline consumption. The SCTP also has a strong protective effect on diet quality during the lean season, with beneficiary households consuming more calories than control households, being less likely to be food-energy deficient, and having lower hunger gaps among households that are energy deficient. We do not find strong impacts on diet quality. Several program impacts are moderated by baseline poverty level and distance to the nearest food market, but we do not find evidence of overall heterogeneous program impacts by caregiver health knowledge. Households with higher transfer shares tend to have stronger impacts, especially for indicators of diet quantity.