Let’s kick off with two practical toolkits. One comes from the OPM shock-responsive social protection collection. The toolkit by O’Brien et al complements previous extensive lit reviews and case studies, and digs more into how to connect disaster risk management and humanitarian assistance, including in a step-by-step fashion (h/t Heather Kindness). Another toolkit was released by WRC, this one dedicated to making cash transfers more sensitive to gender-based violence (GBV). Materials include focus group discussion/interview tools, accompanying guidance to assess and mitigate potential risks, post-distribution monitoring forms, protocols to assess and address GBV survivors’ needs, case management services, and more. Three case studies on Jordan, Niger, Somalia provide insights on practical applications of the materials. Bonus: the journal Disasters has a special issue on “Gender, sexuality, and violence in humanitarian crises”. Edited by Hilhorst et al, it sets out 8 articles covering gender analysis in refugee settings and other crises in contexts like South Sudan, Uganda and DRC.
New papers on graduation! Banerjee et al are back with a new NBER paper on the classic model (a package of assets, training, coaching, and savings). They explore two variants: whether the transfer of assets only would generate similar impacts, and whether access to a savings account and a deposit collection service would generate comparable impacts. Neither outperforms the holistic package. Similarly, a CSAE paper by Sedlmayr et al assesses graduation variants in Uganda–the full package of transfers and training, only the transfers, transfers with only a light-touch training and just attempting to boost savings. They find that cash only was less effective than the more integrated interventions. On a related issue, the JPAL/MIT team was probably among the target of Pritchett’s video talk, “The Debate about RCTs in Development is over. We won. They lost” (h/t David McKenzie)
From a package approach to pure cash. The latest European Social Survey (ESS) included a question about UBI. An analysis by Vlandas reveals that the largest number of respondents, or about 45%, are in favor of the scheme while 15% are strongly against it (h/t Ian Orton). There are new results from the third year of the Give Directly cash transfer scheme in Kenya: a paper by Haushofer and Shapiro compare recipient households to non-recipients in distant villages and found that transfer recipients have 40% more assets (USD 422 PPP) than control households, equivalent to 60% of the initial transfer (USD 709 PPP).
Speaking of Africa, Ngo and Christiaensen have an interesting paper on measurement and targeting-related issues. Using multiple rounds of Living Standards Measurement Study surveys from Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Ghana, they construct indices with different item subcategories and perform a meta-analysis comparing the indices to per capita consumption. The results show that standard asset indices, which are derived from durable ownership and housing characteristic indicators, perform well in urban settings. Yet, in rural samples and when identifying the extreme poor, they argue that household rankings and poverty classification accuracy can be meaningfully improved by adding indicators of food and semi-durable consumption.
A couple of interesting human development papers (h/t Noel Muller). In a JEE article, Adelman et propose an intriguing model predicting children at risk of school drop-out in Guatemala and Honduras. These models correctly identify 80% of sixth grade students who will drop out within the following year. In another JPE piece, Arteaga found that in Colombia a reform of higher education (which eliminated some key courses) reduced the pool of jobs to which graduates could apply. A s result, the overall probability of graduates being hired declined by 17 percentage points.
One of the most fascinating and underexplored question in social protection is how history and political regimes influence the shape of welfare models. Hickey et al have a great WIDER paper exploring the issue in Africa. They show that countries with the highest levels of commitment to social assistance are driven more by domestic political imperatives, and in some cases ‘neighbourhood’ effects, than by external pressure. Importantly, this process has been strongly informed by the particular long-standing ideas around deservingness and the role of the state.
To round up this week’s edition, Tim Ogden reviews the new book from Virginia Eubanks, “Automating inequality: how high-tech tools profile, police and punish the poor”. To cut to the chase, he praises the book, but also argues that it plays up the technology angle well beyond its relevance.