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February 9, 2018 (links edition #44)

What do we know about the impacts of cash on children? Mishra and Battistin review the effects of cash on children’s health, food security, nutrition, protection, and education. Findings are in line with the core knowledge base – i.e., positive impacts on direct measures (e.g., school enrolment/attendance), with effects becoming less consistent for indirect and complex outcomes (e.g. child anthropometry, etc.). Results in the stocktaking are nicely unbundled, structured and presented, including two detailed appendixes of reviewed studies and summary evidence. Another new paper on cash: a JDE article by Handa et al evaluates the long-run effects of two cash transfer programs in Zambia. These sparked an average income multipliers on 1.67, with effects generated through investment in non-farm activity in one case, and agricultural output in the other (h/t Will Wiseman).

A modest transfer of about $1/month can significantly reduce child marriage in Bangladesh. Goldstein has a nice blog about a paper by Buchmann et al examining alternative strategies to reduce child marriage, teenage childbearing and increase girls’ education. In an RCT starting in 2008, girls in treatment communities received either i) a six-month empowerment program, ii) an in-kind transfer to delay marriage, or iii) empowerment plus transfer. Data from 15,739 girls 4.5 years after program completion show that girls eligible for the incentive for at least 2 years were 25% less likely to be married under 18, 16% less likely to have given birth under 20, and 24% more likely to be in school at age 22. The empowerment training had no significant impact, and the combination of training and the transfer had no impact beyond the transfer. (P.S. the in-kind transfer was cooking oil to encourage parents to postpone daughters’ marriage until the legal age of consent (18). The value of the incentive was approximately $16 per year, an amount chosen to offset the estimated financial cost of higher dowry).

Ownership vs efficiency is a core quandary in fragile states: Gertz and Kharas argue that to overcome this binary choice between (perceived) inefficient reliance on country systems versus bypassing government systems altogether, donors should experiment with new forms of country ownership. For instance, in the transition period following Liberia’s civil war, donors partnered with Liberia’s government through the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP), an innovative model where donors and government officials shared responsibility and oversight for improving core government functions. Similar compact-based approaches might, they argue, be applicable in other fragile states. Bonus: the description of a forthcoming seminar at ODI states that “… while western economies built states and the social contract around tax, modern Afghanistan has been built around aid”.

Speaking of taxes, a new CGD paper by Forstater underscores the potential to support and enable improvements in tax policy and administration, including by seeing key taxpayers (including firms and investors) not only as potential source of revenue, but as potential players in constituencies for reform (btw, the UN is hosting an event on the matter next week). More on the matter: a super-interesting, quantitative IZA discussion paper by Hann et al examines how the German tax-and-transfer system in reduces inequality of lifetime income through redistribution and insurance functions. Based on a dynamic life-cycle model, they found that redistribution offsets between 50-60% of the inequality in lifetime earnings due to differences in skill endowments, employment, and health risk. In particular, the social assistance component alone reduces within-endowment inequality (insurance function) by 36%, and that of between-endowment (redistribution) by 19% (h/t Ruslan Yemtsov).

Turning to a different type of insurance (livestock-based), does formal index insurance crowd out informal risk sharing? Takahashi et al present evidence from rural Ethiopia showing that not only insurance products don’t alter community-based arrangements, but they even crowd-in informal mechanisms (i.e., households are more willing to make informal transfers to peers who take up livestock insurance).

Two handy toolkits: a practical guide by Fernald et al for measuring early childhood development in low and middle income countries; and a package of WB resources in climate and resilience-building operations, including operational guidance for M&E, a five-step process for the design of evaluations, and three case studies on M&E project practices (h/t Nathan Engle).

But how will climate change affect jobs? Existing evidence shows that climate policies will likely cause a significant reduction of jobs in fossil-fuel industries. These make up a relatively small share of total employment, even in fossil-fuel-intensive countries. Using a CGE model, a new paper by Hafstead et al finds that aggregate changes are indeed small, but workers in fossil fuel industries, and locations with high concentrations of such jobs, will be harmed. Carbon pricing (such as a carbon tax or auctioned tradable carbon permits, like those shared in the last links edition) could provide revenue to fund job transition policies.

An assorted compilation: at what point in the program cycle should scale-up decisions be made? A brief by Manno et al explain how early implementation research can inform program scale-up efforts. The latest IDS Bulletin is dedicated to value chains for nutrition in South Asia, including 10 articles analyzing existing (or potential) agri-food value chain pathways for delivering nutritious foods from agriculture to vulnerable populations in the region. In the US, 6 states simplified the process for childcare subsidies for low-income households, and aligning them with other key social protection programs, like SNAP and Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A new report by Hahn et al evaluates those experiences and provides as rich set of operational recommendations.

No time to read? A couple of recent events to watch/listen: building on case studies from Iraq, Ukraine, Nepal, Mozambique and DRC (all shared and discussed in previous links editions), an ODI event debated the current state of cash transfer programming in emergencies; MIT’s Suri gave a talk last week, the first 15 mins of which are dedicated to her upcoming paper on impact of mobile money on households’ resilience (h/t Zaineb Majoka). Speaking of events, a future one on “reforming worker-adjustment policies for an era of technological disruption” sounds interesting.

Finally, some further shockwaves from Deaton’s NYT oped on poverty in the US (shared last week, see here), including a Brookings piece by Kharas and Noe and a Vox post by Briggs – both dismissing the notion of a national-domestic poverty reduction tradeoff. I suspect the debate is far from being over…

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