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Weekly Social Protection Links Posts

September 8, 2017 (links edition #25)

An interesting set of papers examine alternative benefit structures in cash transfers, basically showing that cash distribution frequency and size matter. In Nigeria, Bastian et al. show that quarterly transfers cost half as much as monthly transfers to administer, but with no difference in outcomes. What happens when benefits under a CCT are partial? According to an RCT by De Hoop et al. in the Philippines, child labor doesn’t drop under such model since programs don’t fully offset schooling costs. In other words, some children who were in neither school nor work before the program then increased participation in school and work after the program. This contrasts with full-benefit CCTs where child work declines. Bonus on cash payments: Riley and Kulathunga have a fascinating new book on “bringing e-money to the poor’ (courtesy of Pip O’Keefe) which discusses key issues in the journey toward a cash-lite society. The volume includes case studies on Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, with interesting lessons on the role of governments and regulators, common platforms and interoperability, outreach by retail institutions, and accessibility for the poor.

A lot of resilience-related materials. OPM has updated its extensive shock-responsive lit review, as well as publishing a new case study on Pakistan (I love section 5 with very clear, program-specific lessons from the past 10 years). A brief is also available here. As countries and states cope with the ongoing, devastating storming season, some lessons are coming up from other recent experiences. For instance, last year Haiti was struck by a category 5 hurricane, the strongest such storm in over 50 years. The Brazilian Igarape` institute published a review of the severe impact of the storm (hundreds were killed and over 1.4 million people made homeless), including with a gender focus. The survey also showed that more than 50% of the respondents were not aware that the storm was coming, and less than 6% evacuated beforehand. Skoufias et al have developed a novel set of damage indices at the district level for Indonesia, including for different disaster events such as floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and more. Finally, Devereux et al. have compiled 10 lessons on famines – all very central to social protection, with lesson #7 on ex-ante safety nets in particular.

Some interesting papers on violence and displacement. ODI/HPN’s Humanitarian Exchange had its summer edition dedicated to the humanitarian consequences of violence in Central America. The features 11 articles cover all the waterfront, from assessments of needs to response. I particularly enjoyed Muggah’s piece on fragile cities, but the whole edition is quite juicy. A new paper by Long and Sabates-Wheeler (courtesy of Paul Bance) investigate the links between social protection and forced displacement, including the vulnerabilities that groups face (at origin, during journeys and at destination), and sets out a framework for understanding and engaging with mobile populations (largely drawing form the classic Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler 2004 IDS paper). The refugee crisis in Myanmar: about 15,000 Muslim ethnic minorities are fleeing the country and pouring into Bangladesh every day, raising fears of border camp crisis. ODI’s Wake has a good piece on tracing the events that led to this point.

More on a different kind of mobility. Mensah and O’Sullivan examine the significant benefits of migration in Uganda: using longitudinal data from 2005 through 2012, they find a significant welfare gain of 58 percentage points (pp) due to mobility, which increases to 65 pp when moving to urban areas (migrating to another rural area yields a 56 pp increase). Talking of Africa, a handy paper on the state of the region’s institutional architecture for nutrition (the multidisciplinary “Malabo Montpellier Panel’), with country programmatic commitments nicely summarized in the table on p.18.

The IMF’s IEO recently released its report on the IMF’s work on social protection. The evaluation sets out 5 recommendations, including the devise of a strategic framework, conduct country-specific macro analysis, be more realistic in assessing implementation constraints, communicate externally more clearly, and enhance interagency cooperation. I also found the two accompanying background papers quite informative, including one on food and fuel subsidy reforms and another on pensions. But that’s not all: the proceedings from the Board’s discussion reveal another forthcoming paper which should delineate “… the scope, objectives, and boundaries of the Fund engagement in social protection”.

Some jobs resources. In a new NBER paper, Faberman et al document new facts about job search efforts and outcomes in the US for both employed and non-employed workers. They found that the former fare better than the latter in job search. Moreover, among the employed, there is a strong correlation of search outcomes and effort, with those searching having 5 times higher chance of receiving at least one offer over the period of a month. Almedia et al. have a paper on Brazil showing that digital technology adoption leads to a reduction in employment in local labor markets. The decrease in employment is larger for routine tasks, thereby shifting the composition of the workforce toward nonroutine, cognitive skills.

Finally, the journal Review of Income and Wealth has a special issue honoring the late Tony Atkinson. The opening article has 17 co-authors unpacking his stunning legacy in poverty and inequality thinking.