What increases school attendance the most, cash transfers or more information to parents? De Walque and Valente have probably the first paper that is able to compare the effects of a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program with the sole provision of information on school attendance to parents (h/t Dave Evans). Their experiment in Mozambique shows that the effect of the information treatment on attendance (4.5 percentage points) is as large as 75% of the effect of the CCT treatment. Also, they find that incentivizing children is at least as effective in raising attendance as incentivizing parents. Finally, both the information treatment and the children’s incentives treatment improve scores on math tests by 8.5 to 9.4% of the control group’s mean.
But what are the most effective interventions to improve access to education for girls? A fascinating working paper by Evans and Yuan shows that the top 3 programs are all CCTs – in South Africa, Malawi, and Nicaragua – followed by other health and education-related measures. However, cash transfers also feature among the least effective measures for such goal: the bottom two schemes include an unconditional cash program (South Africa) and a CCT (Uruguay) (see table 3-4, p.26-27). The results are part of a broader question about what can we learn about girls’ education from interventions that don’t focus on girls. Among the key lessons, girl-targeted interventions and general interventions seem to deliver similar gains (see also CGD blog here).
Moving to poverty objectives, a WIDER working paper by Kampamba et al simulate the poverty effects of altering design features of Zambia’s Social Cash Transfer program, which currently reduces poverty by 1.6 percentage points (pp). What did they find? The introduction of a child grant for children aged 0–2 years would reduce poverty by 2.6 pp; launching a universal old-age and disability grants would dwindle poverty by 2.11 pp; removing the current affluence test and residency criteria would reduce poverty by 2.17 pp; finally, increasing transfers’ adequacy would yield reductions between 2.69-2.76 pp.]
Turning to higher-income contexts, countries are adapting social protection to the ‘new’ forms of work in several ways (h/t Indhira Santos)? A great report by the OECD outlines experiences and approaches for covering platform workers, those on temporary contracts, etc. These include extending benefits to workers in the ‘grey zone’ (Germany, Japan, and Portugal); enhancing the portability of benefits across occupations (Denmark and France); providing benefits and simplifying administrative procedures for the self-employed (Spain, Lithuania, Estonia and Belgium); improving access to benefits for fixed-term and part-time employees (Slovakia and Luxemburg); increase the role of tax-financed benefits (Korea and Italy).
Speaking of taxes, an interesting post by Brockmeyer sets out the pros and cons of working with tax data. Upsides: tax data is less prone to selective non-reporting; it contains detailed and precise information; it is collected at high frequency and electronically (which minimizes errors). Downsides: data is not necessarily capturing real economic outcomes (self-assessment declarations capture ‘reported’ outcomes); data can be limited on demographic information on individuals and households unless merged with other government databases; lots of documentation is available (tax returns, tax laws and decrees that explain the tax system), but isn’t analytically or research-friendly.
More on taxes, but also on benefits: Bornukova et al have a note examining the tax-benefit structure in Ukraine. The analysis finds, for instance, that household at the bottom of the income distribution derive most of their final income from transfers of various types. The tax benefit system overall is quite progressive and contributes significantly to the reduction of poverty and inequality. Direct transfers, in particular means-tested poverty benefits, as well as child benefits have larger poverty and inequality impact relative to resources allocated.
Bonus on Ukraine: the city of Pavlograd is planning a 2-year UBI trial providing €100/month to 2000 randomly selected adult citizens (the average monthly salary in Ukraine is around €286). Yet, it seems that fund-raising will be necessary: the City will only cover a limited number of administrative costs, with the funds for transfers being expected from charitable organizations.
Three jobs-related resources! A working paper by Beyer et al presents a new dataset of employment indicators for South Asia, showing that, with the exception of Sri Lanka, more than half of the employment is self-employment or unpaid family work (it also estimated that one percentage point growth of GDP led to a 0.34 percent increase in employment). An IDS brief by Roelen discusses the findings and recommendations on connecting graduation programs and early childhood development in Haiti. An IZA report shows the blurring lines between work and leisure, i.e., employees in Germany devote more than 6 hours per week to job-related activities outside working hours, but also spend 4 hours tending to private matters while at work.
Let’s turn to crises and resilience. Diwakar et al released a new ODI report examining the relationship between natural disasters and child poverty in India and Kenya (see also a summary). In a Brookings blog, Beavogui reflects on ARC, the African Risk Capacity platform, that transfers weather risk away from governments (since 2014, ARC provided indirect insurance coverage to more than 9.7 million Africans and disbursed payouts for assisting 2.1 million people and 1 million livestock). A CaLP blog by Bumbacher asks why in-kind transfers are deemed safer than cash assistance. A year ago, 11 Congolese refugees were killed as they demonstrated against reductions in food aid in Rwanda’s Kiziba refugee camp: an interview with Oxford’s Easton-Calabria provides an update on the situation.
Do you have some spare minutes for watching a video? If you only have 2 minutes, check out a VoxDev recording with Abebe discussing the impact of two youth job programs in Ethiopia – a transport subsidy and helping candidates communicate their skills more effectively to their potential employees. If you have a little more time, say 50 minutes, you may consider this video of ESID’s Lavers discussing the politics of redistribution in Ethiopia. And if you have 1h:45m, then enjoy the full CGD event on lessons from graduation programs.