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SP Links February 8 – Universal child grants, cash and depression in South Africa, quasi-UBI in Finland, resilience in the Philippines, attitudes toward redistribution….

I am attending a great conference on universal child grants in Geneva – very interesting panels and materials. For an overview of the issues, check out the event’s background note by ILO, UNICEF and ODI. Great infographics (p.3), with UCGs being present in 21 countries in pure form, and in 14 states in a ‘quasi-UCG’ version (including based on short-term schemes, affluence tests, and coordinated models). Livestream and recordings of the event are available here, while I will offer more detail discussion on the event’s papers in the coming weeks.

But a new article on the matter is just off the press: Eyal and Burns examine the effects of cash transfers on depression in South Africa. They show that one-third of South African adolescents will suffer from depressive symptoms if either parent does so. In this context, the child support grant is associated with a reduction in the intergenerational transmission of depression by more than 40%. The effect is larger for female adolescents, who are more likely to be affected negatively by parental mental illness.

The much-awaited preliminary results of the Finnish quasi-UBI are now available (h/t Christian Bodewig). Some select highlights: the evaluation finds no effects on employment status during the first year of implementation (the number of annual days in employment for the group that received the quasi-UBI is on average about half a day higher than for the control group). However, the level of confidence in one’s own future is considerably higher among beneficiaries than in the control group. Furthermore, 66.7% of recipients reported that their ability to concentrate is either good or very good – a level 10 percentage points higher than the control group’s. Finally, there seems to be no statistically difference between engagement in part time work between treatment and controls.

Four crisis and displacement-related resources. In the first paper, Verme and Schuettler review 49 empirical studies estimating the impact of forced displacement on host communities. The meta-analysis shows, for example, significant improvement on employment and wages for 12 to 20% of the evidence base, and negative for 22-25% of it (the rest is statistically not significant). Negative results on employment and wages relate to young and informal workers in middle-income countries.

A second working paper by Walsh and Hallegatte shows that almost 0.5 million Filipinos per year face transient poverty due to natural disasters. Nationally, the bottom income quintile suffers only 9% of the total asset losses, but 31% of the total wellbeing losses. This entails that cost-benefit analyses based on asset losses direct risk reduction investments toward the richest regions and areas. A focus on poverty or wellbeing rebalances the analysis and generates a different set of regional priorities.

A third paper by Laborde et al goes back to the 2010-11 food price hikes and argues countries’ individual insulating policies accounted for 40% of the increase in the world price of wheat and one-quarter in that of maize. The 2010-11 food price spike tipped 8.3 M people (nearly 1% of the world’s poor) into poverty. Fourth and finally, a joint brief by WRC and IRC provides a succinct summary of cash transfers in humanitarian contexts help prevent, mitigate, and respond to gender-based violence.

Back to wider social protection issues: what shapes attitudes toward redistribution? A paper by Cojocaru examines survey data from a range of middle and upper-middle income countries and shows that “… individuals may support more redistribution today if they feel that they may not be able to move up the socio-economic ladder as much because of unequal access to opportunities [i.e., where informal networks/personal connections matter], as they may be more amenable to the government’s efforts to aid those at the bottom” (see section 7.2).

The future of industrialization and wage employment in Africa is key not only for growth, but also to shape how social insurance is provided. In this respect, a new WIDER paper by Fisker and Schou corroborates Rodrik’s premature deindustrialization – that is, the manufacturing sector has barely grown in the country between 2011 to 2017.

Social media are increasingly weaved into social protection programs’ administration via outreach and other functions. So let’s round this edition up with some interesting results on the matter. Allcott et al measured the willingness-to-accept of 2,844 Facebook users to deactivate their Facebook accounts for four weeks. What happened? (i) Reduced online activity and increasing socializing with family and friends; (ii) reduced both factual news knowledge and political polarization; (iii) increased subjective well-being; and (iv) caused a large persistent reduction in Facebook use after the experiment.

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