Let’s kick start with new evidence on social protection and human capital!
In terms of food security and nutrition, a preliminary paper by Scott finds that the national school feeding program, which provides 97.8 million children with a free cooked meal every day, accounted for 12-15% of the actual 10 percentage point stunting reduction in Indian children between 2006 and 2016. Park et al show that in Ethiopia, the combination of accompanying measures (behavioral change communication) and food vouchers enhances child diet and anthropometrics, while those programs alone would be less effective. Shrinivas et al demonstrate that more generous PDS (food subsidy) benefits in India led to improved dietary diversity and ‘crowded-in’ consumption of nutritious non-staple foods, with eﬀects being highest in households where women have more control over the household food budget. Bonus on intrahousehold issues: Brown et al show that Bangladeshi women, children, and the elderly face significant probabilities of living in poverty even in households with per capita expenditure above the poverty threshold. In particular, the poverty rate almost doubles once intra-household inequality is accounted for.
In terms of education, Molina Millan et al investigate the long-run impacts of a CCTs in Honduras, i.e., 8 years after the program ended. They detected an increase of 0.6 grades attained, as well as likelihood increases in secondary school completion and starting university studies of more than 50% for those exposed at school age. Gains are, however, limited for indigenous children. Also, exposure to the CCT increased the probability of international migration of young men between 3-7 percentage points.
Moving to health, Christian et al provide evidence that agricultural productivity shocks aﬀect mental health in Indonesia, and that the PKH conditional cash transfer program reduced yearly suicides by 0.36 per 100,000 people, i.e., a 18% decrease. Some counterintuitive findings on soda and alcohol: Gutierrez and Rubli show that a soda tax in Mexico led to more drinking water consumption, but this increased gastrointestinal disease because of its low-quality. Dar and Sahay document that an alcohol ban led to an increase in crime in the Indian State of Bihar: since state capacity and supply of police is fixed, diverting law enforcement resources towards implementing the alcohol ban effectively reduces capacity to prevent crimes.
A trio of Universal Basic Income (UBI) papers, which will feed into the Annual Review of Economics, has just been unveiled: Ghatak and Maniquet discuss the theoretical and normative underpinnings of UBI in a first, second and third-best world; Hoynes and Rothstein review the case of a UBI in the US and high-income countries, including the trade-offs between adequacy, coverage and sustainability; and Banerjee et al tackle three big questions for low and middle income countries, drawing on evidence on how would cash being spent and its possible ensuing multipliers, as well as offering a balanced discussion on targeting. Bonus: in a new note, Standing casts UBI as an antidot to the precariat class, ‘rentier capitalism’ and structural inequality.
A couple of resources on two big cash debates – conditionality and inflation. What are the effects of enforcing conditions in Kenya’s CCT? A paper by Heinrich and Knowles compare the effects of soft (labelled) and hard (enforced) conditions in the national CT-OVC program. They found that the suspension of payments for non-compliance was particularly harmful for the poorest households, who decreased consumption by about 500 KSH (about 1/3 of the size of the transfer), or about 25% of average monthly consumption. They also show that while providing adequate food and nutrition was not an explicit program rule, over 70% of households assigned to hard conditions thought that it was a formal requirement. The inflationary effects of cash transfers are often dismissed, but Jayachandran finds that in richer villages in Mexico, there was a negligible effect of cash transfers on prices, but in the poorer ones there was sizeable inflation – listen to her Vox interview here.
Peterman and Handa have an interesting Forbes article proposing a fund whereby donors can contribute to funding competitive applications for cash implementation, a bit like proposed in the humanitarian sphere by CGD-ODI in 2015. On the latter issue, Konyndyk has a thought-provoking note on a range of possible humanitarian innovations, like in the realm of donor political economy model, delinking normative and operational functions, outcome-centered response planning. A CaLP paper by Hutton et al offers an intriguing set of lessons on humanitarian cash transfers in Yemen, while an IDS brief by Apgar et al looks at inequality within climate change programming with Borana pastoralist communities in Isiolo, Kenya.
More resources on India! A thoughtful CGD piece by Mukherjee and Gelb argues that despite all the technical sophistication of Aadhaar authentication, there is still a need to have a human failsafe option to ensure that beneficiaries are not excluded from accessing their entitlements, and that the role of local officials should be changed to productively complement digital systems. In a new working paper, Galdo et al developed a new method combining census and satellite images for India, and found that census data are not, as often claimed, that far off in identifying urban settlements and the urbanization rate. Yet there are still some clear urban-rural misclassification for certain town/village types.
Turning to jobs-related issues, Heemskerk et al examine the impact of a significant increase of the minimum wage in Romania during 2013-16. The main finding is that the positive effects prevail when the starting level of increase is very low, with suggestive evidence that the minimum wage increases may have even contributed to a gradual formalization of the labor market. Bonus: an IZA workshop discussed matching workers and jobs online.
Final fireworks: interested in the politics of social protection? Check out this Cambridge event in early 2019. Dave Evans has a rich post sorting through an ocean of development economics papers presented at annual North East Universities Development Consortium gathering, many of which are highlighted in this edition (chapeau Dave!)