Syndicate content

unconditional cash transfers

Pushing the Envelope

Laura Ralston's picture

Giving Cash Unconditionally in Fragile States

2012 Spring Mtgs - Close the Gap There have been many recent press articles, a couple of potentially seminal journal papers, and some great blogs from leading economists at the World Bank on the topic of Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCTs). It remains a widely debated subject, and one with perhaps a couple of myths associated with it. For example, what is cash from UCTs used for? Do the transfers lead to permanent increases in income? Does it matter how the transfers are labelled or promoted? I am particularly interested in whether UCTs could be a useful instrument in countries with low institutional capacity, such as fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS).

Why UCTs in FCS? UCTs present a new approach to reducing poverty, stimulating growth and improving social welfare, that may be the most efficient and feasible mechanism in FCS. A recent evaluation of the World Bank’s work on FCS recognized, “where government responsiveness to citizens has been relatively weak, finding the right modality for reaching people with services is vital to avoiding further fragility and conflict”. Plus there is always the risk of desperately needed finances being “spirited away” when channeled through central governments. UCTs may present a mechanism for stimulating the provision of quality services, which are often lacking, while directly reducing poverty at the same time. As Shanta Devarajan’s blog puts it, “But when they (the poor) are given cash with which to “buy” these services, poor people can demand quality—and the provider must meet it or he won’t get paid.” We should explore more about this approach to tackling poverty: where and when it has worked, what made it work, and whether we can predict whether it will work in different contexts.

Defining Conditional Cash Transfer Programs: An Unconditional Mess

Berk Ozler's picture
Many policymakers are interested in the role of conditions in cash transfer programs. Do they improve outcomes of interest more than money alone? Are there trade-offs? Is there a role for conditions for political rather than technocratic reasons? It’s easy to extend the list of questions for a good while. However, before one can get to these questions, there is a much more basic question that needs to be answered (for any policymaker contemplating running one of these programs at any level): “What do you mean by a conditional (or unconditional) cash transfer program?”

Conditions work! But are they a good thing? (Part II)

Berk Ozler's picture

Yesterday, in Part I of this post, we argued the extant empirical evidence suggests that the conditions cause a substantial amount of the desired behavior change intended by CCT programs. In other words: the “substitution effect” due to the condition may well be larger than the “income effect” of the transfers. For example, in the case of the Malawi experiment, the income effect was responsible for less than half of the total impact on school enrollment.

Conditions work! But are they a good thing? (Part I)

Berk Ozler's picture

One of the questions discussed at the recent World Bank workshop on the "Second Generation of CCT Evaluations" (website, complete with at least some of the presentations, here) was the role of the first C in the performance of the CCT: how important is the condition in accounting for the outcomes of conditional cash transfer programs?