New systematic review sheds light on the impact of cash transfers and their role in development programming
A new evidence review, Cash transfers: what does the evidence say? – launched today – is helping plug the knowledge gaps around one of the most popular social protection mechanisms used by governments across the world. A widely-used policy option, cash transfers form the backbone of national poverty reduction and social protection strategies in many low- and middle-income countries.
Despite their popularity, however, evidence around the actual impact of cash transfers on a number of social and economic outcome areas remained fragmented and out of date (the last comprehensive attempt is the widely used DFID, 2011 review). This new review, led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), addresses this by systematically assessing and consolidating evidence from more than 165 cash transfer studies spanning a period of fifteen years (2000-2015). The review team used an innovative methodology (based on this Guidance Note) to assess 56 cash transfer programmes across low- and middle-income countries, looking at impact across six outcome areas – including monetary poverty, education, health and nutrition, savings/investment and production, employment and empowerment. Importantly, the review includes a strong focus on programme design and implementation mediating factors that can influence whether or not a cash programme is likely to have a positive impact.
OPM played a pivotal role in the study – the largest and most comprehensive of its type to date – guiding the development of the overarching Conceptual Framework, contributing to analysis and write-up, and complementing ODI’s expertise with practical know-how on the design and implementation features of cash transfer programmes. A wide range of OPM evaluations were also featured within the study, including: Kenya’s Cash Transfer Programme for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC), Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) Phase 1, Lesotho’s Child Grant Programme (CGP), Uganda’s Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE), Kazakhstan’s BOTA and Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
OPM consultant and contributing author, Valentina Barca, said: ‘By helping to identify those design and implementation features of a cash transfer programme that can play a role in either amplifying – or dampening – its impact, we are providing policymakers and practitioners with the resources they need to help make evidence-based decisions that could ultimately help drive improvements in social protection policy. The evidence-base on these fundamental ties is scarce, but growing, and we call upon forthcoming cash transfer evaluations to shed new light in this direction.’
Read the review, policy brief and accompanying literature here.