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June 8, 2018 (links edition #60)

An exciting wave of Innocenti working papers on social protection in fragile contexts: Bruck et al find that assets-based transfers enhance nutrition in Niger; Aurino et al show that school feeding led to increases in school enrolment by 11 percentage points in Mali, but gains were concentrated among children living in non-conflict areas; Schwab demonstrates that in Yemen both cash and food transfers led to productive investments, with cash mostly devoted to livestock while food recipients invested in higher-return crops; Valli et al argue that cash, food and voucher transfers for Colombian refugees in Ecuador led to overall enhanced social cohesion as measured though six aggregate dimensions derived from 33 individual indicators; Schnitzer shows that proxy means tests performs better in targeting chronically poor households, while the household economy approach work better in targeting the transiently poor during crises; de Hoop et al find that CCT for an after-school program for Syrian refugees doesn’t affect enrollment, but enhances attendance by 20%; lastly, Krishnan et al quantify the welfare impact of a potential reform of the Iraqi PDS in urban areas, i.e., a complete PDS removal will require compensating poor households by 74 percent of their expenditures, while a targeted removal of the top 4 deciles will leave poverty unaffected and generate cost savings – but may create public discontent.

Talking of protests, Hossain et al have an IDS working paper examining public riots resulting from energy subsidy reforms over 2017-17. Based on case studies from 6 countries (table 4.1 nicely describe the reform episodes), they found that protests appear to slow, if not block, structural reforms, and they also seem to morph readily into more political protests with far greater potential than their origins in fuel prices would predict. Bonus on energy: Whitley et al discuss the G7 fossil fuel scorecard.

A couple of neat pieces on cash transfers. A short Nature article by Arnold reviews a sub-set of UBI and negative income tax pilots. Among the best lines, “… an affordable UBI is inadequate, and an adequate UBI is unaffordable”. Arruda and Dubois have an insightful brief on the history of social cash transfers in Zambia – see the three phases identified in table 3. Addendum on Africa: Erman et al examine vulnerability and resilience to floods in urban Ghana.

Let’s zoom into child-sensitive social protection: the IPC has two handy one-pagers on non-contributory transfers for children in Iraq and Iran. The Economist picked up on a couple of papers shared in the past links editions about the challenges of SNAP and other US safety nets in reaching the poorest – e.g., the US spends 0.09% of GDP on cash transfers for poor households with children compared to an OECD average of 1.25% of GDP.

How to combine safety nets and health insurance for the poor? Hirvonen reflects on the experience of Ethiopia in providing households with PSNP and Community Based Health Insurance benefits. He finds that less than 25% of PSNP beneficiary households were enrolled in CBHI. Moreover, less than half of the enrollees had their CBHI insurance premiums waived (see full paper here).

A vibrant set of crisis-related resources. With a looming new Ebola outbreak, the spotlight is now on countries’ preparedness plans – these seem underfunded and ad-hoc according to a CGD post by Glassman et al. A CaLP paper by Cissokho sets out key lessons from 5 West Africa countries in identifying minimum expenditure baskets (to be reflected in cash transfer programs’ benefit size). Currion has as a futuristic ODI paper applying the concepts of networks to examine how the humanitarian system operates globally and nationally, including a case study on Ebola. A report lays out emerging issues from the ‘Cost Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness’ workshop held on 9-10 April (organized by USAID, IRC and CaLP). Another meeting, the annual Devex World event on aid and development, is coming up on June 12.

Finally, let me round up with inequality. Milanovic has an interesting post on the European political malaise as fueled by continued migratory pressure and rising inequality. The World Inequality Report 2018 by Alvaredo et al was recently debated at LSE. The flagship, available here, shows that since the 1980s the global top 1% earners has captured twice as much of that growth as the 50% poorest individuals. The bottom 50% has nevertheless enjoyed important growth rates. The global middle class (which contains all of the poorest 90% income groups in the EU and the United States) has been squeezed. A final bonus on spatial inequality: De Rosa and Kim unpack a systematic country diagnostics for Romania in a Brookings FD blog.

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