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Month: March 2019

SP Links March 15 – social protection and gender, cash and labor effects in Pakistan, transfers and crime in Peru, UBI in the UK and US, social assistance and crises…

A super-rich week for gender-sensitive social protection! A short Innocenti article by Banati et al frames social protection for adolescent girls and provides several links to evidence and resources. Another brief by Jones and Presler-Marshall examines how a gender norms lens can help extend programs for all adolescents. Isimbi et al turn the light on adolescent Congolese refugees In Rwanda. A Quartz piece by Kopf discusses the transformative power of providing cash transfers to women (h/t Amber Peterman). And IFPRI produced a glossy brief on the Hidrobo et al study on how transfers in Northern Ecuador reduced intimate partner violence (the scheme led to a 30% reduction in physical and sexual IPV as well as a 19% reduction in controlling behaviors via decreases in marital conflict, increased family wellbeing, and women’s empowerment). Most of these materials were in preparation for this week’s events at the UN Women CSW in NYC.

“Pakistani policymakers should not be concerned that BISP cash transfers negatively affect labor supply among recipients”. This is the key conclusion of the new IFPRI discussion paper by Ambler and De Brauw. They find no effect of the program on aggregate household labor supply, although BISP appears to have much more of an effect on male labor than female labor. Furthermore, the transfer does not appear to affect child labor, while there is some limited evidence that the poorest women reduced their labor on the intensive margin (receipt of BISP transfers may have led to reducing labor in undesirable jobs held out of economic necessity, which would be welfare enhancing).

A novel way of looking at the effects of cash transfers on crime (h/t Noel Muller). A VoxDev piece by Sviatschi shows that in Peru, individuals exposed to illegal cocaine production and markets during childhood are 30% more likely to be incarcerated as adults. Her analysis reveals that conditional cash transfers reduced drug production and future criminality by increasing the costs of child labor, one of the main inputs. The paper also suggests that CCTs targeted toward suitable coca districts may mitigate the effects of high coca prices, and hence the related business  (see full working paper).

From targeted to universal programs, with news on the basic income front. In the UK, the UBI proposal by the New Economic Foundation – i.e., scrap the tax-free personal allowance and replace it with a flat payment of £48.08 a week for every adult – seems to receive some political backing (h/t Charles Knox-Vydmanov). On the other side of the Atlantic, after Stockton, Jackson, and Chicago, it looks like Newark is joining the American wave of basic income pilots (h/t Scott Santens). In case wondering if pilots are pure or quasi-UBI schemes, I offered some reflections on the matter in a Brookings blog.

Moving to crisis contexts, Cherrier et al produced an excellent EC compendium on what we know, and what not, on humanitarian-social protection linkages (h/t Paul Bance). The issues are nicely organized, clearly framed and explained (e.g., see contrast in objectives and programs on p.12 and 13, respectively), and backed by plenty of examples as well as online resources (including videos). The Annexes are also quite interesting, especially #3 and 4, with a handy set of comparisons of instruments and response options (e.g., see design ‘tweaks’).

Speaking of crises, but economic ones, Breisinger et al simulate the removal on energy subsidies in Egypt – welfare results are mixed, calling for scale-up of social protection programs. Tebaldi has an IPC one-pager on building shock-responsive social protection in MENA. And ending poverty in fragile states may require “thinking like a spy”, according to a post by Bisca.

Nutrition is good for productivity! A study by Tiwasing et al examines the impact of micronutrient intake on the labor productivity of rice-producing households in Thailand. The results show that higher intakes of calcium, vitamin A and iron increase household earnings and farm output (h/t Lawrence Haddad). Abraham launched his new book on connecting agriculture and nutrition. An IFPRI event next week will further discuss the topic.

Let’s talk technology: a thoughtful piece on the Indian Express by Aiyar et al goes beyond the techno-optimists and pessimists divide and offers three pragmatic principles to guide the application of technology to social protection in India. An NBER paper by Bharadwaj et al studies the take up and impacts of one of the most popular digital loan products in the world, M-Shwari in Kenya. While 34% of those eligible for a loan take it up, the loan does not substitute for other credit. But such loans substantially improve household resilience: households are 6.3 percentage points less likely to forego expenses due to negative shocks.

Moving to financing and taxes, Passos explores if taxation be an instrument of social policy in Brazil, while Ebrahim et al review the tax research in South Africa. More globally, the European Parliament’s special committee on tax crimes wants a global tax body to be established within the UN (h/t Magdalena Sepulveda).

BTW, the debate on MMT (Modern Monetary Theory – that is, government shouldn’t worry too much about deficits because they can always create money to finance it) is getting hotter by the day. The issue is particularly important for social protection as MMT is a core proponent of job guarantee schemes (permanent public works that operate on-demand). A Bloomberg piece by Orlik makes the case that “MMT and Lawrence Summers align”, while an opinion poll on MMT looks pretty unfavorable to the idea (h/t Justin Wolfers).

A technical piece: if a policy depends on a threshold (e.g. GPA threshold for repeating a grade), how should policymakers pick the right one? A new paper by Marinescu et al discusses the optimization of thresholds in a regression discontinuity design framework.

Finally, are you interested in the economics of migration? David McKenzie is among the teachers at a summer school on the topic (Paris School of Economics, June 24-28).