The COVID-19 pandemic has led to steep drops in employment, income, and access to markets, pushing tens of millions of people in low- and middle-income countries into poverty. Social protection programming has emerged as a critical response to the social and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these programs are social assistance measures, which provide benefits to individuals even if they have not previously paid contributions into the program. Before the pandemic, cash-based social assistance has been shown to successfully reduce poverty and enhance wellbeing along a number of dimensions, across many different countries. But what is known about the extent to which cash transfers have mitigated the worst social, economic, and health impacts of the pandemic? And who has benefitted the most from such assistance?
This review collates the current evidence on cash during the pandemic across a range of outcomes including food security and nutrition, livelihood support, health behaviors, and inequalities. It does so by highlighting rigorous impact evaluations of cash-based programs from countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. These programs include cash transfers (CTs), universal basic income (UBI), and public works programs (PWPs). This review is not exhaustive, but rather examines a variety of cases for which there is rigorous evidence to highlight findings emerging from the use of cash in large-scale crises. The goal of the review is to draw out key policy lessons about the implementation of these programs which can inform policy in the future.
In settings where an individual's labor choices are constrained, the inability to work may generate psychosocial harm. This paper presents a causal estimate of the psychosocial value of employment in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh. We engage 745 individuals in a field experiment with three arms: (1) a control arm, (2) a weekly cash arm, and (3) a gainful employment arm, in which work is o ered and individuals are paid weekly the approximate equivalent of that in the cash arm. We find that employment confers significant psychosocial benefits beyond the impacts of cash alone, with effects concentrated among males. The cash arm does not improve psychosocial wellbeing, despite the provision of cash at a weekly amount that is more than twice the amount held by recipients in savings at baseline. Consistent with these findings, we find that 66% of those in our work treatment are willing to forego cash payments to instead work for free. Our results have implications for social protection policies for the unemployed in low income countries and refugee populations globally.
Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers, practitioners, and funders are faced with competing ideas about the best way to reduce extreme poverty. Innovations for Poverty Action conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impacts of diverse components and variants of the Village Enterprise microenterprise program, an integrated poverty alleviation intervention that provides poor households with a combination of cash transfers, mentorship, business training, and support with the formation of savings groups, over a one-year period.
- Village Enterprise’s microenterprise development program led to increased consumption, assets, and income, as well as improvements in nutrition and subjective well-being.
- Cost-effectiveness appears high: researchers estimate a full cost recovery within three to four years.
- A cost-equivalent cash transfer appeared to have less promising medium-term impacts on poverty reduction and subjective well-being than the microenterprise program, though estimates are more ambiguous.
- Adding a light-touch behavior change component to the cash transfer changed the investment patterns of cash transfer recipients and improved subjective well-being somewhat, but cannot be characterized as a substitute for the much more heavy-touch training and mentorship interventions of the microenterprise program.
- Overall, the results suggest that training and mentorship components of integrated poverty alleviation programs are sensible and cannot simply be removed (or substituted for cash transfers). But as they are complex, more research is needed on the issue of scaling them while maintaining their quality.
La pandemia del COVID-19 ha tenido un impacto económico severo en el mundo. Buscando disminuir la velocidad de propagación del virus, varios gobiernos instauraron medidas de confinamiento desde principios de 2020. Sin embargo, esto ha generado barreras al acceso de alimentos a nivel mundial, sobre todo en los grupos más vulnerables (FAO et al., 2020). La falta de una nutrición adecuada es preocupante pues tiene repercusiones negativas en la salud y el desempeño físico y mental en todas las etapas de la vida, en especial en la primera infancia. En el largo plazo, está asociada incluso con una menor productividad e ingreso de los individuos (World Bank, 2006). Desde el inicio de la pandemia, en la región latinoamericana, en México, Guatemala y Colombia alarma la disminución de los ingresos y el aumento de los precios de los alimentos (RIMISP, 2020).
La crisis social desatada por la pandemia del COVID-19 ha agravado la condición de vulnerabilidad de los migrantes venezolanos. Lo anterior genera la necesidad de identificar mecanismos que favorezcan el bienestar de esta población. En este sentido, este resumen de política pública destaca que las redes de migrantes2 y la posibilidad de acceder a un permiso de permanencia (caso de estudio PEP-RAMV) son mecanismos que facilitan distintas instancias del proceso migratorio en Colombia. En el caso de las redes, los resultados identifican que estas son indispensables para resolver diferentes necesidades, pero cobran especial relevancia en momentos críticos (llegada a Colombia, enfrentando los estragos de la pandemia, entre otros). Mientras que el permiso de permanencia PEP-RAMV otorgó la posibilidad de acceder a mercados formales, salud y educación, lo cual generó una sensación de respaldo por parte del gobierno a una población que de otra forma tendría profundas dificultades para integrarse a la sociedad colombiana.
Para explorar el potencial de estos mecanismos, el siguiente documento describe, de forma general, la importancia de las redes de migrantes y el PEP-RAMV durante los procesos migratorios, luego se señala que ambos son mecanismos diferentes, pero tienen puntos de encuentro y finalmente se describe la situación de ambos en torno a distintas afectaciones en los hogares generados por el COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge that has affected the health and livelihood of billions worldwide. Citizens of low-income countries have been affected by the pandemic in nearly all areas of life, and the impacts have been particularly challenging for those with limited access to social safety nets. Bangladesh is especially susceptible to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic due to its strong ties to the global economy, and these negative demand shocks are likely to persist throughout and after the pandemic.
Researchers conducted two rounds of phone surveys in July 2020 and December 2020 with 3,125 vulnerable households with children across seven regions of Bangladesh. Across the two rounds of surveys, we find that the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19pandemic have persisted at least six months after the lifting of the general economic lockdown at the end of May 2020. Collectively, these findings point to several areas of need for vulnerable households, particularly in the area of education, mental health, and gender-based violence.
¿Cómo apoyan las transferencias monetarias a las poblaciones vulnerables recientemente designadas y trabajadores informales durante una crisis económica? Para ayudar a responder estas preguntas, los investigadores están estudiando el efecto de Ingreso Solidario, una nueva transferencia monetaria no condicionada en Colombia que se puso en marcha en respuesta a la pandemia del COVID-19. Ingreso Solidario atenderá a hasta 2,6 millones de hogares de renta media baja que no estaban inscritos en otros programas de asistencia social existentes, ampliando así la cobertura de la protección social a las poblaciones de renta media baja. Los investigadores están evaluando los efectos de la transferencia en los ingresos de los beneficiarios, el gasto alimentario y no alimentario, la participación en el mercado laboral y la adopción y uso de productos financieros digitales.
Founded in 2019, IPA Nigeria develops applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into critical issues that affect the lives of the Nigerian poor.
Researchers study the impact of money on households during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, Colombia rolled out a new unconditional cash transfer (UCT) to one million households in poverty worth $19 (PPP $55.6) and paid every 5-8 weeks. Using an RCT and linked administrative and survey data, they find the UCT had positive (albeit modest) effects on measures of household well-being (e.g., financial health, food access). Moreover, the UCT boosted support for emergency assistance to households and firms during the crisis and promoted social cooperation. Finally, they explore the bottlenecks in expanding mobile money during a pandemic.
Amidst the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emerging economic recovery, cash transfers can provide timely lifelines and economic assistance to households in need. The Philippines government rapidly moved to institute a number of emergency assistance programs when the pandemic struck, including the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) launched in early April 2020. These programs have been able to help cushion Filipinos from immediate economic fallouts from lockdowns and slowed commercial activity.
Understanding how Filipinos have fared over the past few months, and what challenges they continue to face, is critical for the government’s design and delivery of social assistance programs moving forward. IPA partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to develop questions focused on employment and economic activity to help guide decisions and shape social assistance policies with data. The RECOVR survey, conducted from June 18-July 1, reached 1,389 respondents. This brief summarizes survey findings on the scale and extent of economic vulnerability in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic and makes recommendations for cash transfers and social assistance program design.
This presentation summarizes findings related to the impact of COVID-19 on food security and hunger, based on Round 1 of the RECOVR Survey. Countries surveyed: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines.
The expansion of social protection programs has an important role to play in pandemic response. Cash transfers are an especially promising avenue, as they are effective at improving a number of development outcomes. These include raising individuals’ incomes and asset ownership, improving their nutritional status and mental health, and lowering their risk of experiencing illness or intimate partner violence (IPV). Digital payments can offer the opportunity to distribute cash transfers in a manner compliant with social distancing.
How should policymakers decide what type of support to provide to vulnerable citizens during the pandemic, and which individuals should benefit? This policy brief outlines four key decisions in social protection program design. These choices relate to topics like determining funding requirements, selecting beneficiaries, and deciding whether beneficiaries should receive cash payments, digital payments, or in-kind transfers of food or other goods.
Evidence can help to guide these decisions. This brief shares the latest evidence on these topics, as well as ongoing studies which are examining social protection in the time of COVID-19 at IPA’s Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) hub. It also identifies important areas for future research on this topic.
We use a randomized experiment to compare a workforce training program to cash transfers in Rwanda. Conducted in a sample of poor and underemployed youth, this study measures the impact of the training program not only relative to a control group but relative to the counterfactual of simply disbursing the cost of the program directly to beneficiaries. While the training program was successful in improving a number of core outcomes (productive hours, assets, savings, and subjective well-being), cost-equivalent cash transfers move all these outcomes as well as consumption, income, and wealth. In the head-to-head costing comparison cash proves superior across a number of economic outcomes, while training outperforms cash only in the production of business knowledge. We find little evidence of complementarity between human and physical capital interventions, and no signs of heterogeneity or spillover effects.
We examine some effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) during the COVID-19 pandemic using a large-scale experiment in rural Kenya. Transfers significantly improved well-being on common measures such as hunger, sickness and depression in spite of the pandemic, but with modest effect sizes. They may have had public health benefits, as they reduced hospital visits and decreased social (but not commercial) interactions that influence contagion rates. During the pandemic (and contemporaneous agricultural lean season) recipients lost the income gains from starting new non-agricultural enterprises that they had initially obtained, but also suffered smaller increases in hunger. This pattern is consistent with the idea that UBI induced recipients to take on more income risk in part by mitigating the most harmful consequences of adverse shocks.
Se ha demostrado que en situaciones de emergencia la asistencia de dinero ayuda a los beneficiarios a mitigar las consecuencias económicas resultantes, por ejemplo, mediante el aumento de la seguridad alimentaria. La Devolución del IVA, una nueva transferencia de dinero incondicional en Colombia, asistirá a 1 millón de hogares de bajos ingresos en atravesar la crisis económica a causa de la pandemia del COVID-19. A través de una evaluación aleatoria, los investigadores podrán medir los efectos de la transferencia en la salud física y mental de los beneficiarios, la seguridad alimentaria, la seguridad financiera y el aprendizaje de los niños, entre otros.