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