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October 6, 2017 (links edition #28)

Let’s start with cash transfers. A new brief summarizes findings from Niger by Barry et al. (see also here for longer version). The study, an RCT, compares cash only and cash with accompanying measures (behavioral change). Mothers in the latter were more likely to breastfeed, children were better stimulated, household violence decreased, and families engaged in preventive health care. Yet child malnutrition wasn’t reduced. In the last links round, I share the piece by Parker and Todd arguing that we don’t know enough of the long-term effects of CCTs. In a new WD article, Stampini et al start filling that gap by investigating learning achievement and school placement effects in Jamaica’s PATH. They found that PATH urban male beneficiaries who sat the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) over the period 2010–14 performed better on the test (scoring 22.48 points, or 5.1%, higher than non-beneficiaries); consequently, they were placed in better secondary schools (7.2 percentiles higher in a national school ranking based on preprogram GSAT scores). Yet, they found no impact on any outcome indicators for urban girls. Bonus: last year, Martin Ravallion gave a fascinating lecture at UNU-WIDER (see here for his 65 slides). The talk’s write up is a great new social protection paper, with pages p.23-48 taking us on a tour dissecting pros and cons of social assistance programs (a balanced discussion on UBI can be found in p.14-15).

A couple of additional materials on UBI (courtesy of Ian Orton). After the vibrant, although at times confusing, discussions on UBI in France’s political elections, now it’s the UK’s Labor party considering a UBI. The idea is also discussed in UNCTAD’s 2017 edition of the flagship Trade and Development Report. The TDR is somewhat cautious, seemingly preferring ‘right to work’ to a ‘right to transfers’ (see box p.162). Talking of universality, IDS has a special issue of its Bulletin with 11 articles dedicated to the topic (I particularly enjoyed the one by de Haan and Maxwell).

The fact that some programs interact and overlap can create opportunities for using them as vehicles for informing about other interventions. In this spirit, Lynch et al. examine the joint eligibility and participation in the US SNAP (ex food stamps) and the Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) among children and adults under age 65 in 2011, 2013, and 2015. They showed that joint eligibility significantly increased for adults in several states. Such increase suggests that many others may be reached through SNAP (given its high coverage), while there are untapped opportunities to reach eligible people through other programs, such as the earned income tax credit. More on Medicaid: in a new NBER paper, East et al. find that generations getting in utero access to Medicaid have higher average birth weight and decreased incidence of very low birth weight.

Golding et al. have a new Lancet article where they assess under-5 and neonatal mortality in Africa over 2000–15 (see here for visuals). They found that most countries need to reduce mortality rates by at least 8.8%/year, between 2015 and 2030, to achieve the SDG 3.2 target by 2030. Quite a challenge.

Some materials on service provision. In a new paper, Demirguc-Kunt et al measure India’s performance in service delivery. They find low access (nearly 60% of the surveyed population is unable to apply for services), with women and poor adults being more likely to report an inability to do so. Among those that manage to apply, less than a third found the application process user-friendly. In a comparative study between Argentina and Chile, Brieba shows that Chile’s greater investment in health-specific state capacities was behind the remarkable historical “reversal of fortune” between these two countries in terms of infant and maternal mortality levels from 1960 to the present, as well as behind Chile’s notorious reduction in the territorial inequality of these outcomes. Finally, K. Sen reviews the book “How solidarity works for welfare” by Prerna Singh, a good read on the topic.

Four great readings on displacement. First, a telling stat: with an average inflow of 120,000 refugees per week, the Rohingya crisis is the worst since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Second, in an insightful ODI/HPG report, Barbelet and Wake analyze the livelihoods of refugees in four countries (Cameroon, Jordan, Turkey and Malaysia). They argue that Cameroon is ‘a facilitating host’, with the most permissive legal framework; Jordan is a more ‘controlling host’, while Turkey is ‘an implementing host’, where the government has strongly led the refugee response. Malaysia, instead, was categorized as a ‘reluctant host’, tacitly acknowledging the presence of refugees, but with the most restrictive state policies of the four case studies. The report also looked at refugees’ aspirations (strikingly common and including safety, family unity, finding ways to sustain themselves and providing for the education and future of their kids), while their interaction with host communities is mixed, swinging between assistance and exploitation. Third, Alix-Garcia et al have a very interesting JDE article showing that refugees are a positive force of local economic activity: based on survey data from Kakuma (Kenya), they estimate that refugee inflows increase economic activity in areas very close to Kakuma refugee camp: the elasticity of the luminosity index to refugee population is 0.36 within a 10 km distance from the camp center. In addition, household consumption within the same proximity to the camp is 25% higher than in areas farther away. The key drivers are increased availability of new employment and price changes in agricultural and livestock markets that are favorable to local producers. Fourth, and finally, in an IDS paper Justino conducts a useful lit review on governance-related interventions in conflict areas. It discusses cash transfers on p.18-19, including citing the Philippines study by Crost et al that found a reduction in violent events during the first nine months in villages where the Pantawid CCT was implemented.

Some news on humanitarian assistance. Field practitioners can now count on an App for standards in provision during emergencies. A Humanitarian Standards Partnership app (HSPapp) consolidates more than a thousand pages of content from six sets of standards and includes cross-referencing and a search facility. Content is available in English, French and Spanish. The Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations are designed to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related threats. Yet KYC can also restrict options for delivering humanitarian assistance, as affected populations often have trouble producing required identity documents. Two case studies (cash transfers to refugees in Uganda and to Typhoon-affected households in the Philippines) illustrate that access to financial services and adherence to KYC regulations are mutually attainable goals, even amidst crises.

More on IDs, with the European OSCE has a great new compendium of good practices in ID management (courtesy of Kathy Lindert). In a similar vein, the European RNSF launched a report offering plenty of ideas on how to connect informal workers to social protection measures.

New resources on equity and inequality. The long-awaited book on the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) assessment by Inchauste and Lustig is out. The volume takes a detailed picture at the current state in transfers and taxes in low and middle income countries. One of their main points: in some LICs and in a bunch of MICs, people in the poorest quintile are net payers (meaning: they are worse-off after accounting for all the direct and indirect benefits and taxes). Short blog is also available here, while the larger handbook is accessible here (see chapter 10 in particular). Andy Summer at King’s College and colleagues have launched a Global Poverty and Inequality Dynamics (GPID) research network. Most of their work will revolve around what the call the ‘developer’s dilemma’, basically the classic productivity-equity trade-off. The launch comes with two briefing papers, 2 working papers, and 4 country notes. An ADB paper by Eichengreen et al argues that growth ingredients appear to differ between middle income countries and LICs. Key for MICs, they point out, are not really the efficiency in the financial system and demographic variables, but rather if a country experienced a banking or currency crisis, the extent of nonforeign direct investment capital inflows, and government debt as a share of GDP. See also the blog here.

Two new pieces on insurance. Takahashi et al. find that formal index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) not only doesn’t undermine, but even strengthens and complements the local ‘dabare’, i.e., the informal risk sharing arrangements among pastoralists in Ethiopia. In an IFPRI blog, Kramer and Anisimova propose to use picture-based crop insurance as a more cost-effective option than models based on satellite images.

In a Brookings blog, Caprara discusses an interesting community-based approach in Nairobi’s slums, where 400 youth and women participate in an initiative for home-waste separation, recycling, and composting while building capacities for entrepreneurship and youth leadership. Food for thought when thinking of public works and productive inclusion in urban settings. More on Africa: Manchester’s ESID has an interesting 15-min podcast on the political economy of social protection in Mozambique.

Some jobs-related pieces. Robots shouldn’t look for jobs in Germany: Dauth et al. show that while Germany has many more robots than the US – and a larger manufacturing employment share – robots had no aggregate effect on employment. Robot exposure is found to even increase the chances of workers staying with their original employer. The World Economic Forum just released its Global Human Capital Index 2017, which ranks 130 countries along four dimensions (capacity, deployment, development and know-how) and across five generations. According to the GHCI, the world has fulfilled only 62% of its human capital potential. Interestingly, Rwanda (71), Ghana (72), and Cameroon (73) fare better than Turkey (75), Brazil (77), and Saudi Arabia (82). Acosta et al have a great new book examining socio-economic skills in the Philippines’ workforce. Among their findings, two-thirds of employers report difficulty in finding workers with adequate work ethics or appropriate interpersonal and communications skills.

Finally, we have a new volume on how in-kind food, vouchers and cash transfers evolved over time in six countries (US, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Egypt) – and what factors shaped those trajectories. It is an extensive piece co-edited with Harold Alderman and Ruslan Yemtsov, and co-authored with 19 colleagues. The book and single chapters can be accessed here, while an accompanying short blog is available here.

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