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Cash transfers and temptation goods: A review of global evidence

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Cash transfers have been demonstrated to improve education and health outcomes and alleviate poverty in various contexts. However, policy makers and others often express concern that poor households will use transfers to buy alcohol, tobacco, or other "temptation goods." The income effect of transfers will increase expenditures if alcohol and tobacco are normal goods, but this may be offset by other effects, including the substitution effect, the effect of social messaging about the appropriate use of transfers, and the effect of shifting dynamics in intra-household bargaining. The net effect is ambiguous. A new paper by David K. Evans and Anna Popova reviews 19 studies with quantitative evidence on the impact of cash transfers on temptation goods, as well as 11 studies that surveyed the number of respondents who reported they used transfers for temptation goods. Almost without exception, studies find either no significant impact or a significant negative impact of transfers on temptation goods. In the only (two, non-experimental) studies with positive significant impacts, the magnitude is small. This result is supported by data from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. A growing number of studies from a range of contexts therefore indicate that concerns about the use of cash transfers for alcohol and tobacco consumption are unfounded.

Read the entire paper here.

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