A handy round-up of evidence on social assistance and intimate partner violence by Hidrobo and Roy. Their VoxDev piece shows that in Ecuador, transfers (in food, cash, and voucher) led to significant reductions of 25-35% in physical violence. In Bangladesh, cash and food transfers combined with accompanying measures (behavioral change) led to a 26% reduction in physical violence, but there were no impacts from transfers alone. In Mali, cash transfers led to a 41% reduction in physical violence in polygamous households, but they had no effects on monogamous families. Bonus: a short IDS piece by Quinn-Graham reflects on gender and social protection.
More on cash transfers: An NBER paper by Almas et al estimates ‘food elasticities’ in Kenya, or how much of cash transfers provided by a GiveDirectly scheme goes into food spending. The authors’ estimate is 78%, which “… makes a nutrition-based poverty trap marginally less implausible than the low previous estimates”. In other words, nutrition lies at the core of poverty in the studied context. The study varies three design features of unconditional cash transfers by frequency (monthly vs. lump-sum), recipient gender (male vs. female), and magnitude (USD 404 vs. USD 1520). Results suggests a higher elasticity for small than for large transfers, but the difference is not statistically significant. Also, men and women display similar preferences over food consumption.
Since I mentioned nutrition… a WD article by Boysen et al shows that in Africa, taxation can be an important tool for nutrition: in particular, obesity and underweight can be lowered by higher import tariffs on highly processed vis-à-vis less-processed foods. A Lancet study by the Global Burden of Disease at IHME shows that poor diets are more lethal than tobacco (h/t Lawrence Haddad). In fact, poor diets were responsible for 10.9 million deaths, or 22% of all deaths among adults in 2017 (chiefly via cardiovascular diseases). Tobacco, instead, was associated with 8 million deaths.
Speaking of taxes, a piece by Kiel and Fresques argues that in the US, tax audits seem to be particularly intense in areas with high participation in the EITC, the work-based tax credit program for poor people (h/t Shwetlena Sabarwal).
Back to human capital-related issues, what works in tertiary education? A review by Herbaut and Geven finds that outreach and needs-based grants to disadvantaged students are among the most impactful interventions. By the way, interested in country-level analysis of human capital? The Philippines Economic Update has a great section on the matter, check out p.47 onwards (h/t Gabriel Demombynes).
Some age-related materials: in 2000, 1-in-10 people in China was aged 60 and above. In 2025, that number will double to 1-in-5. Many worry China “will grow old before it grows rich”. But a piece by Ahonsi argues that aging brings with it new opportunities as well. On children issues, here are some shocking figures on child poverty in the UK: 30% of British children, or 4.1 million kids, were living in relative poverty in 2017-18, and 70% of those living in poverty were in working families.
Let’s talk technology! Is Aadhaar-based biometric identification necessary for India’s food security program? An EPW article by Allu et al lays out a host of identification and registration alternatives and combinations used across Indian states (h/t Saksham Khosla). In Ethiopia, a multi-agency study examined mobile cash transfer effectiveness and satisfaction level among PSNP beneficiaries over three rounds of e-payments (January-March 2018) in the Amhara region. More than 80% of respondents preferred mobile money to manual distributions, although cash was not always delivered on time.
More on Africa: a Brookings post by Hamel et al shows that more Africans are now escaping extreme poverty than are falling (or being born) in it. However, the net pace of poverty reduction in the region is very slow, i.e., 367 people per day. In 2030, Africa will house 87% of the global poor—the main hotspots outside Africa will be Haiti, PNG, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
The evolving nature of humanitarian assistance. A collection of reports by Tango documents the remarkable evolution in USAID’s approach to cash-based interventions. In FY16, USAID managed over $300 million in cash transfer and voucher programs (see table 2, p.30 for a timeline of key milestones). The research included 7 case studies, among which DRC, Haiti and Jordan/Turkey. Bonus: a report by Austin reviewed CashCap’s support to the Rohingya crisis over 2017-2019 and across 13 evaluation dimensions.
Several interesting resources on bigger-picture economic development. Remember the middle income trap? Check out new JDS articles by Klingler-Vidra and Wade on technology in Vietnam, Paus on innovations in Latin America, and Raj-Reichert on value chains in Malaysia. Bonus on value chains, Borin and Mancini have a working paper on ‘measuring what matters’.
But does development economics research conform to an evaluation technique? Fact-checking by McKenzie shows that 90% of development papers are non-RCTs (in the top 5 journals, RCTs are just 31%). And Evans challenges the notion that development economics is all about regressions. Bonus: enjoy Blattman’s slide deck on development politics as part of his order and violence course (lesson 1).