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Weekly Social Protection Links Posts

September 15, 2017 (links edition #26)

A wave of reports gather the perspectives of displaced populations and frontline practitioners on social protection: sponsored by the OECD, three studies assessed feedback on multiple dimensions (e.g., participation, fairness, relevance, etc.), each scored from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). The result? Afghanistan scored an average of 2.9, Lebanon 2.6, and Haiti 1.9. In a similar view, a new initiative – the ‘cash barometer’ – collects qualitative data to monitor perceptions about cash, in-kind transfers, and combinations thereof.

More on displacement in MENA: a regional piece provides some handy country briefs and stats, with regular monthly updates. In a new working paper, Gigliarano and Verme use UNHCR data on refugees in Jordan receiving WFP’s food vouchers to produce some simple graphs (ROC curves) informing about a range of trade-offs around coverage, budget, and poverty impacts.

Turning to other shocks, a new article, Platt and So compare recovery approaches in the wake of three earthquakes in Japan (2011), Turkey (2011), and (2010) Chile. They illustrate that recovery in Japan might be characterized as deliberate (involving communities) but slow; in Turkey it might be depicted as all speed and little or no deliberation; and in Chile a balance was struck between the need for speed and a desire to ‘build back better’. Also, last week I shared a set of famine lessons by Devereux et al., with this round featuring a short blog post by IFPRI’s Paul Dorosh discussing the key role of governance in averting famines in Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

Some Africa materials. A short one-pager summarizes the OECD report on ‘Social Protection in East Africa: Harnessing the Future’ (the full report, previously shared, is available here, and a webinar here). The brief and paper identify a set of megatrends that will affect social protection between now and 2065 (chaotic urbanization, etc.). An experiment in Malawi by Brune et al. examined the spending patterns of about 500 households provided with direct cash payments or cash through bank deposits with various financial options. They find that “… households manage cash effectively without the use of formal financial products”. In other words, the simpler the better.

An IZA JDM article by Ivaschenko et al. investigates the effects of public works and training on crime among urban youth in Papua New Guinea. Among other findings, the paper shows that the project had large impacts on participants’ social networks and probability of employment, but limited effects on most types of crime.

Talking of urban areas, Ingelaere et al. analyzed the recorded narratives of rural migrants in Tanzania to understand why they migrate to small towns instead of big cities. Some reasons are very pragmatic, like the fact that secondary cities resemble the familiar reciprocal village economy; but perhaps more intriguingly, the paper sheds light on migration as a dynamic process – not a ‘one-off’ act – were migrants initially try places easier to navigate (like small towns), with subsequent moves that gradually build on the experience gained through earlier moves.

Two unusual voices discussing universal basic income: the political philosopher Hillel Steiner makes the case of a global UBI (courtesy of Ian Orton). Reflecting on 2016, Hillary Clinton seems to regret not having championed a basic income a la Alaska: “… I wonder now whether we should have thrown caution to the wind and embraced ‘Alaska for America’ as a long-term goal and figured out the details later”.

In a new NBER paper, Schiman et al add to the available evidence that childhood health affects later-life health and financial wellbeing. They do so by analyzing data from England and Wales at the onset of World War II, demonstrating that higher infant mortality is significantly associated with higher likelihood of disability, a lower probability of employment, and less earned income.

ODI has produced an interesting review of DFID’s results agenda over the past two decades. The conclusions are quite thought-provoking, e.g., “… the results agenda has often failed to create the space for a detailed conversation about what aid can achieve in different places”, and questioned “… the very idea that aid projects can be planned and implemented with certainty about the outcomes”. (For a timeline of events see here).

Some measurement and methods papers: Conforti et al. analyze survey characteristics on the measurement of food consumption from a sample of 81 national surveys, finding a range of regularities that can inform best practices in designing surveys modules. Using survey data from Bangladesh, Sununtnasuk and Fiedler showed that it basically makes no difference for estimating the prevalence of nutrient intakes whether using 24 hour recall or adult male equivalent approaches. And a paper by Swann argues that in the US, income shocks, moving and changes in household size are positively associated with food insecurity and, thereby, SNAP participation.

Finally, if you are looking for an engaging book, I would recommend Yuen Yuen Ang’s “How China Escaped the Poverty Trap” (a few months ago I had highlighted her talk at Harvard, see here). The volume provides a fascinating account of China’s ‘directed improvisation’ efforts in public services, including the establishment of general boundaries within which local officials can innovate. (It is probably in this vein that, in the 1990s, the unconditional cash transfer Dibao was locally-tested for 5 years before going to scale nationally.)