Let’s begin with a couple of resources on cash transfers and human capital. In a new IDB working paper, Sanchez Chico et al analyze whether children exposed since birth to a CCT in El Salvador, Comunidades Solidarias Rurales, have better outcomes at initial school ages (h/t Marco Stampini). They find that the program increased the probability that a five-year-old was attending school by 12.3 percentage points, a 30 percent increase over the 42% attendance rate for ineligible five-year-olds. Relatedly, the CCT increased the probability that the child had completed some schooling (including preschool) by 8.7 percentage points, a 20%. Participating families also experienced a significant improvement in a wealth index. Hadn’t seen materials on social protection and HIV/AIDS for a long time – UNAIDS has now a handy guidance note, with figure 13 (p.37) nicely contextualizing cash transfers within the broader array of HIV interventions.
A UBI in DC? An interesting podcast with Jeremiah Lowery and Camila Thorndyke of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network discusses their “Put a Price on it, D.C.” campaign. This campaign aims to institute a local carbon tax on carbon emissions and redistribute resources via something close to a negative income tax. More on carbon taxes: where is the debate after thirty years of research? An 88-page working paper by Timilsinas conducts a lit review focusing on the tax’s economic impacts, choices for revenue recycling, distributional implications, and competitiveness and border tax adjustment. Speaking of carbon emissions, Dissanayake et al show that there is demand among the rural poor in Ethiopia for more fuel-efficient cooking stoves.
More on Africa: Clementi et al investigate the distributional changes that hindered pro-poor growth in the past two decades in Sub-Saharan Africa. By developing a new decomposition technique based on a nonparametric method — the relative distribution — the paper finds a distributional pattern affecting most of countries: 19 of 24 countries experienced a significant increase in polarization, particularly in the lower tail of the distribution, and this distributional change lowered the pro-poor impact of growth substantially. Without this effect, poverty could have decreased an additional 5-6 percentage points during the past decade. Bonus on poverty: a great blog post by Branko Milanovic sets out the wide-ranging implications of Allen’s poverty lines work (see his AER article here), including in terms of explaining the spatial origins of the industrial revolution
Moving to Asia, with a focus on urbanization. Liu and Parilla have an interesting Brookings piece laying out a typology of five Chinese cities. In a forthcoming WD article, Lanjouw and Marra draw on small-area estimation methods to estimate welfare outcomes at the level of individual towns and cities in Vietnam (h/t Luc Christiaensen). Results show an inverse relationship between poverty and city size in Vietnam, with the urban poor being disproportionately concentrated in small towns and cities.
Two interesting papers on employment in low-income countries. Fox and Kaul have a rich review of youth employment programs in low-income countries. They find that the evidence casts serious doubt on the efficacy and value of training interventions to help youth enter formal wage employment. The case is stronger for interventions that speed the transition to self-employment in farming or non-farm household enterprises. They recommend that support for development of transferable character skills and social integration among youth through positive youth development programs should be tested further for employment and earnings impacts, including along with cash transfers to youth or access to finance. Based on a new dataset, Feng et al. find that unemployment rates are substantially lower in poor countries than in rich countries. In the poorest quartile of the world income distribution, unemployment averages around 2.5%, while in the richest quartile, around 8% of the labor force is unemployed on average.
The latest issue of Forced Migration Review has a juicy collection of short articles on refugees, social protection and labor markets (h/t Xavier Devictor). Among them, Del Carpio et al (p.10-13) show that while Turkey hosts nearly 3.3 million registered refugees, mostly from Syria, at least half of the over 2 million working-age Syrians work informally. Barriers to formal economic integration include, among others, that those receiving EU-financed cash assistance risk losing benefits if they work formally. Also, refugees are restricted to seeking formal work in the place where they are registered, and changing their registration location is a costly and cumbersome procedure. Bilgili and Loschmann (p.22-23) examine household surveys of Congolese refugees in three of the largest refugee camps in Rwanda (Gihembe, Kiziba and Kigeme) and of locals living nearby: they find that although Congolese refugees officially have the right to work, in reality their experiences in the local labor market differ considerably from that of local Rwandans. Mallett et al (p.51-54) show that lending initiatives and vocational training in Ethiopia’s refugee camps have little effects on transformative change in people’s livelihoods or migration plans. Finally, research by Easton-Calabria and Pincock in Kenya and Uganda (p. 56-58) reveals ways in which refugees are working to support, protect, advocate for and transform the prospects of their communities.
A couple of additional materials on humanitarian assistance. I am sometimes baffled by the notion of “multipurpose” cash in crisis response… isn’t cash multipurpose by definition? In a new review, Harvey and Pavanello attempt to clarify the concept and summarize case studies from Greece and Afghanistan (full cases studies are available here). They show that evidence is lacking sectoral outcomes in health, WASH, shelter, food security and nutrition, education, livelihoods, energy and environment programming, and protection. An ODI review by Holloway and Grandi explores the concept of ‘dignity’ in displacement crises and its philosophical, legal and medical underpinnings in practice. Bonus: a Devex article zooms into the Governance, Conflict, and Crime Initiative at J-PAL, where approximately 15 RCTs will be implemented in crime and conflict-related projects.
Finally, three of my heros review some fascinating new books: Dani Rodrik penned the preface for Santiago Levy’s latest gem, Under-Rewarded Efforts: The Elusive Quest for Prosperity in Mexico; Pritchett discusses Dan Honig’s Navigation by Judgment: Why and When Top Down Management of Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work; and Chris Barrett has a very positive review of Barry Riley’s book, The Political History of American Food Aid: An Uneasy Benevolence: “… rarely have I learned so much as from Riley’s impressive and beautifully written history”.