Should We Just Give People Cash?
September 29, 2015Science of Delivery

Over the past decade or so, we have witnessed an impressive growth in the number, volume, and types of social protection programs in developing countries. This successful growth has been accompanied by a shift in focus from the programs’ traditional role of mitigating risk to changing the earnings trajectory of poor households to promote their escape from poverty.

Experimental and quasi-experimental evidence has been accumulating rapidly over the past few years on the relative merits of different approaches and program designs. However, instead of simplifying matters, the rapid accumulation of new evidence has contributed to greater confusion: should governments just give people cash with no strings attached or should they offer them multi-faceted “graduation” programs—recognizing that these are diametrically opposed approaches to poverty reduction? And what are the pros and cons of attaching conditions or labels to cash transfer programs?

A quick review of the evidence that speaks to these questions may—at first glance—lead to apparently contradictory policy implications. However, the evidence is highly nuanced, as the programs that have been studied vary greatly with respect to their scale and costs, their target populations, and their aims, all of which makes drawing general conclusions difficult. In this talk, Berk Özler will sift through this vast literature, trying to make sense of the evidence and draw out policy implications. In the process, he will aim to temper the hype and overenthusiasm that accompany some recent studies. Partly drawing from his own research, he will conclude by proposing future directions for research at the World Bank. 

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2015

  • Image

    Berk Özler, Senior Economist, Research Department

    Berk Özler is a senior economist in the Development Research Group on the poverty and inequality team. He received his B.Sc. in Mathematics from Bosphorous University in 1991, and his Ph.D in Economics from Cornell University in 2001. After working on poverty and inequality measurement, poverty mapping, and the 2006 World Development Report on Equity and Development earlier, he decided to combine his interests in cash transfer programs and HIV risks facing young women in Africa by designing a field experiment in Malawi. He has since been involved in a number of cluster-randomized field experiments. He is a co-founder of and a regular contributor to the Development Impact blog.
  • Image

    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Director of Research

    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt is the Director of Research in the World Bank. After joining the Bank in 1989 as a Young Economist, she has held different positions, including Director of Development Policy, Chief Economist of Financial and Private Sector Development Network, and Senior Research Manager, doing research and advising on financial sector and private sector development issues.
  • Image

    Keith Hansen, Vice President, Human Development

    Keith Hansen is the Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group, overseeing the Global Practices for education; health, nutrition, and population; and social protection and labor. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Hansen was one of the co-vice presidents for all of the Global Practices responsible for the setup and oversight of the Bank Group’s new operating model, which aimed at bringing together the best expertise from across the institution and from partners to help tackle countries’ most complex development challenges. In that role, he was also responsible for the oversight of the Cross-Cutting Solution Areas, which focus the WBG's efforts and resources on achieving ambitious targets in key priority areas such as gender and jobs

The Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the research department and their implications for World Bank operations. The goal of the monthly event is to facilitate a dialogue between researchers and operational staff, so that we can challenge and contribute to the World Bank's intellectual climate and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practices.  Read More »

Event Details
  • Date: September 29, 2015
  • Time: 12:30 - 2:00 PM
  • Location: MC13-121
  • Recording: Video
  • Presentation: PDF
  • CONTACT: Tourya Tourougui