Giving Cash to the Poor?: Impacts of Africa’s Unconditional Cash Transfers
(Poverty and Income Policy)
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Brickell Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Juan Bonilla, American Institutes for Research
Panel Chairs: Sudhanshu Handa, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; UNICEF
Discussants: Carolyn Heinrich, Vanderbilt University and Mary Zaki, University of Maryland
Research on cash transfer programs has primarily focussed on Latin America and social protection domains such as education, health, poverty, and food security. However, there is a recent abundance of innovative research on cash transfer programs coming out of Africa that not only investigate the traditional domains, but also dig deeper into the potential effect of cash transfer programs to better explain the pathways that these programs reduce poverty and build human capital. This panel brings together research from several different cash transfer programs, African countries, and domains.
The African government run programs are unique in that, in contrast to the first generation of Latin American conditional cash transfers, they are nearly all unconditional programs. Despite strong overall evidence, there are still questions as to how impacts in these unconditional programs compare to traditional conditional programs. This panel presents new cross-country evidence on poverty and empowerment impacts among three large-scale African government run programs: 1) Impacts on food security in Zimbabwe’s Harmonised Social Cash Transfer; 2) Impacts on women’s empowerment and decision-making in the Zambian Child Support Grant, 3) Impacts on consumption smoothing and productive activities also in the Zambian Child Support Grant, and 4) Impacts on child nutrition in Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer.
All of the studies in this panel are part of large scale evaluations of national programs and include either new measures and indicators never used before in the cash transfer context, or longitudinal data over a time period rarely observed in cash transfer research. These studies will help policymakers and donors gain more insight into how to design cash transfer programs to target specific outcomes. These studies will also help researchers design studies of cash transfer programs to investigate domains not previously studied.
Lastly, the papers represent collaborations between academic institutions, research institutes, international organizations and government counterparts. Rigorous research designs, use of experimental methodology and large-sample surveys increase the policy relevance and reach of findings—both for African government programming, as well as globally.