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Social protection research centers

Continuing on my SP data kick, I wanted to highlight some of the key research centers and publications that are useful for understanding the contemporary social protection landscape.

The World Bank’s Social Protection Unit: A major funder of SP programs around the world, the WB also offers a wealth of data and analysis. Key publication: Sourcebook on the Foundations of Social Protection Delivery Systems (2020).

ILO Global Flagship Program on Building Social Protection Floors for All: The ILO advocates for social protection floors and offers policy analysis to partner governments. Key publication: World Social Protection Report 2017 – 2019 (2017).

The IADB’s Social Protection Unit: Major funder of SP programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Key publication: The Unequal Burden of the Pandemic: Why the Fallout of Covid-19 Hits the Poor the Hardest (2020).

The Transfer Project: A research center which carries out rigorous evaluations of cash transfer programs around the world. Key publication: A Mixed-Method Review of Cash Transfers and Intimate Partner Violence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (2018).

ODI Equity and Social Policy Unit: Research and commentary on global social protection programs. Key publication: Cash Transfers: What Does the Evidence Say? (2016).

Centre for Social Protection at IDS: A research center which carries out program evaluations and shares commentary on social protection. Key publication: Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: the Role of Rights and Accountability in the ‘Making’ and ‘Shaping’ of Social Protection (2019).

Centre for Social Science Research at UCT: The research center covers a range of topics, but filtering the publication list by “CSSR” brings up a strong focus on social protection in southern Africa. Key publication: The politics of social protection policy reform in Malawi, 2006-2017 (2020).

ERIA’s Social Protection Unit: A research institute focused on SP in East Asia and ASEAN countries. Key publication: Social Protection Goals in East Asia: Strategies and Methods to Generate Fiscal Space (2018).

Maintains: A five-year research program on adaptive social protection in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Key publication: Conceptual framework for studying social protection responses to COVID-19 (2020).

The Political Economy of Social Protection Expansion in Africa at ESID: A research program focused on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Key publication: The Politics of Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa (2019).

Research at GiveDirectly: GD implements programs which are designed to answer pressing questions about the impacts of cash transfers. Key publication: The impact of unconditional cash transfers on poor households in rural Kenya (2016).

SocialProtection.org: Online portal for events, courses, and publications related to social protection. Key publication: Options for rapid delivery (payment) of cash transfers for COVID-19 responses and beyond (2020).

3ie’s Social Protection Unit: Shares impact evaluations, systematic reviews, and evidence gap maps related to social protection. Key publication: Household and economy-wide impacts of a public works programme in Ethiopia (2017).

GDSRC’s Social Protection Unit: Shares impact evaluations and systematic reviews related to social protection, and has a topic guide for people new to the sector. Key publication: Social Protection Topic Guide (2019).

Social protection data sources

I’ve been digging into different data sources on social protection recently and wanted to collate some of them here. There are lots of great public resources available. If you know of any other useful datasets that I’m missing, do let me know!

Atlas of Social Protection: Indicators of Resilience and Equity (ASPIRE)

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 125 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1998 – 2019
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Adequacy of benefits (as a percentage of total monthly consumption), transfer size, income level of beneficiaries, program coverage, cost-benefit ratio, poverty gap reduction
  • Notes: Indicators are broken down by program type, urban vs. rural beneficiaries, and income quintiles

Social Assistance in Low and Middle Income Countries (SALMIC)

  • Data source: University of Manchester
  • Geographic coverage: 110 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2000 – 2015
  • Regularly updated: No
  • Main indicators: Program type, target population, targeting method, transfer value and frequency, transfer modality (cash vs. digital), implementing agency, program budget

World Social Protection Report 2017 – 2019

  • Data source: ILO
  • Geographic coverage: 189 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1995 – 2018
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program coverage, program funding, implementing agency, benefit type
  • Notes: Indicators are broken down by beneficiary type (children, mothers, people with disabilities, unemployed people, the elderly)

Social Security Programs Throughout the World

  • Data source: US Social Security Administration
  • Geographic coverage: 170 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2002 – 2019
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Regulatory framework, target population, source of funding, implementing agency
  • Notes: Individual country case studies are provided for each year. Not available as a single dataset

Partnership for Economic Inclusion (PEI) Data Portal

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 75 countries
  • Temporal coverage: Not stated, but the portal launched in 2020, so the data is recent
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program objectives, program components, cost of program components, target population, implementing partners
  • Notes: Focuses on economic inclusion programs, a.k.a. graduation programs, which offer bundled interventions (such as cash transfers + asset transfers + training) to vulnerable populations. Data can be accessed through their portal but not downloaded

HelpAge Social Pensions Database

  • Data source: HelpAge
  • Geographic coverage: 111 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1890 – 2016
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Benefit levels, targeting, population coverage, program cost

Global Social Protection COVID-19 Response Database

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 212 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2020 (obviously!)
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program type, number of beneficiaries (planned & actual), program budget, adequacy of benefits (as a percentage of total monthly consumption)
  • Notes: Updated versions of this database and accompanying paper are regularly published through Ugo Gentilini’s website

Non-Contributory Social Programs Database for Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Data source: UN
  • Geographic coverage: 21 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1919 – 2019
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Target population, targeting method, payment modality, transfer value, implementing agency, legal framework, program budget
  • Notes: Data is provided for multiple years, not just the most recent year. Individual country case studies and datasets are provided, but there isn’t a single dataset for the entire region.

Realizing the Full Potential of Social Safety Nets in Africa

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 48 countries
  • Temporal coverage: Snapshot of country programs in 2017
  • Regularly updated: No
  • Main indicators: Poverty headcount, national social protection strategy, implementing agency, program type, targeting method, program coverage, program expenditure (as % of GDP and government revenue), funding sources, administrative costs, transfer value
  • Notes: Data is provided in the tables in appendices C – J of this book. It’s not available for download as a separate dataset

Social Cash Transfer Payment Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Data source: UCT
  • Geographic coverage: 44 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1927 – 2020
  • Regularly updated: No
  • Main indicators: Targeting method, program coverage, payment value, payment frequency, payment modality
  • Notes: Data is provided in the tables in the appendix of this paper. It’s not available for download as a separate dataset.

Social Protection Indicators for Asia and the Pacific

  • Data source: ADB
  • Geographic coverage: 42 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2005 – 2015
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program coverage, program expenditures, adequacy of benefits
  • Notes: Data can be viewed through their interactive portal and downloaded as a separate dataset for each indicator

World Social Protection Data Dashboards

  • Data source: ILO
  • Geographic coverage: 220 countries
  • Temporal coverage: Snapshot of country programs in most recent year for which data is available
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program coverage (by total population and also by different categories of vulnerable people), expenditure as % of GDP

“Tuna Haki Pia / We Also Have Rights”: living with disability in Nairobi

The Mathare Social Justice Centre has a new report out on the experiences of people with disabilities in Nairobi’s poor neighborhoods. The summary findings from a survey of 82 disabled people are stark:

  • 90% of respondents who require sign language and braille training did not have access to it
  • Despite many respondents living with physical disabilities, 0% had access to a disabled toilet
  • 78% required some form of supportive equipment – of these:
    • 96% did not have all the equipment they require
    • 59% need mobility equipment (e.g. wheelchair) which they do not have
  • For those of working age, 53% were unemployed and 13% relied on begging for an income
  • 54% were aware of the PWD card, yet only 40% had one. Of those who had a card, very few received any benefit from it

The full report offers a rich portrayal of individual stories, interviews with government officials, building audits, and a review of the legal environment for supporting disabled people. It closes with a moving reflection:

To us, disability is not a point of individual or social tragedy, but a natural and necessary part of human diversity.  The tragedy of disability is not our minds and bodies but oppression, exclusion and marginalization.  we do not need to be cured.  We do not need charity.  We need respect, equality and access.  moving forward, the same way we have police stations everywhere, we should have centres for people with disabilities.

Interesting academic articles for September 2020

After a bit of a blogging hiatus, I’m back! Here are the recent articles that I’m looking forward to reading.

James Habyarimana, Ken Ochieng’ Opalo, and Youdi Schipper. 2020. “The Cyclical Electoral Impacts of Programmatic Policies: Evidence from Education Reforms in Tanzania.” RISE Programme working paper 20/051.

A large literature documents the electoral benefits of clientelistic and programmatic policies in low-income states. We extend this literature by showing the cyclical electoral responses to a large programmatic intervention to expand access to secondary education in Tanzania over multiple electoral periods. Using a difference-in- difference approach, we find that the incumbent party’s vote share increased by 2 percentage points in the election following the policy’s announcement as a campaign promise (2005), but decreased by -1.4 percentage points in the election following implementation (2010). We find no discernible electoral impact of the policy in 2015, two electoral cycles later. We attribute the electoral penalty in 2010 to how the secondary school expansion policy was implemented. Our findings shed light on the temporally-contingent electoral impacts of programmatic policies, and highlight the need for more research on how policy implementation structures public opinion and vote choice in low-income states.

Alesha Porisky. 2020. “The distributional politics of social transfers in Kenya.” Effective States in International Development working paper no. 155.

This paper examines the politics of distributing social transfers across four diverse counties in Kenya – Homa Bay, Marsabit, Nakuru and Nyeri – with a focus on three of the nationwide social transfer programmes: the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC); the Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme (OPCT); and the Inua Jamii Pension. The paper presents two key findings. First, it finds that state infrastructural power plays a central role in mediating the implementation of social transfer programmes. Where state infrastructural power is high, formal programme guidelines tend to be closely followed. However, where state infrastructural power is low, bureaucrats compensate by relying on local authorities – including administrative chiefs, village elders and clan leaders – to assist with programme functions that are outside of their formal roles within the social transfer programmes. Second, the paper finds that there is less political interference in the local distribution of social transfers than the extant literature predicts. Strong formal programme rules and guidelines, combined with significant central oversight over programme implementation, limit the influence that local politicians have over the distribution of social transfer programme benefits.

Sudhanshu Handa, David Seidenfeld and Gelson Tembo. 2020. “The Impact of a Large-Scale Poverty-Targeted Cash Transfer Program on Intertemporal Choice.” Economic Development and Cultural Change.

We use a social experiment to test whether the government of Zambia’s cash transfer program affects intertemporal choice. A cash transfer program may also alter expectations about future quality of life and make one happier, two conditions that can affect intertemporal decision-making and the desire to invest in the future. We find that the program affects time discounting and that psychological states are also strongly associated with time discounting, but psychological states do not mediate the effect of the cash transfer on time discounting.

Noam Angrist, Peter Bergman, Caton Brewster, and Moitshepi Matsheng. 2020. “Stemming Learning Loss During the Pandemic: A Rapid Randomized Trial of a Low-Tech Intervention in Botswana.” CSAE working paper WPS/2020-13.

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools for over 1.6 billion children, with potentially long- term consequences. This paper provides some of the first experimental evidence on strategies to minimize the fallout of the pandemic on education outcomes. We evaluate two low-technology interventions to substitute schooling during this period: SMS text messages and direct phone calls. We conduct a rapid trial in Botswana to inform real-time policy responses collecting data at four- to six-week intervals. We present results from the first wave. We find early evidence that both interventions result in cost-effective learning gains of 0.16 to 0.29 standard deviations. This trans- lates to a reduction in innumeracy of up to 52 percent. We show these results broadly hold with a series of robustness tests that account for differential attrition. We find increased parental engagement in their child’s education and more accurate parent perceptions of their child’s learning. In a second wave of the trial, we provide targeted instruction, customizing text messages to the child’s learning level using data from the first wave. The low-tech interventions tested have immediate policy relevance and could have long-run implications for the role of technology and parents as substitutes or complements to the traditional education system.

Andrew Agyei-Holmes, Niklas Buehren, Markus Goldstein, Robert Osei, Isaac Osei-Akoto, and Christopher Udry. 2020. “The Effects of Land Title Registration on Tenure Security, Investment and the Allocation of Productive Resources: Evidence from Ghana.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 9376.

Smallholder farmers’ investment decisions and the efficiency of resource allocation depend on the security of land tenure. This paper develops a simple model that captures essential institutional features of rural land markets in Ghana, including the dependence of future rights over land on current cultivation and land rental decisions. The model predictions guide the evaluation of a pilot land titling intervention that took place in an urbanizing area located in the Central Region of Ghana. The evaluation is based on a regression discontinuity design combined with three rounds of household survey data collected over a period of six years. The analysis finds strong markers for the program’s success in registering land in the targeted program area. However, land registration does not translate into agricultural investments or increased credit taking. Instead, treated households decrease their amount of agricultural labor, accompanied by only a small reduction of agricultural production and no changes in productivity. In line with this result, households decrease their landholdings amid a surge in land valuations. The analysis uncovers important within-household differences in how women and men respond differentially to the program. There appears to be a general shift to nonfarm economic activities, and women’s business profits increased considerably.

Nico Ravanilla, Dotan Haim, and Allen Hicken. 2020. “Brokers, Social Networks, Reciprocity, and Clientelism.” Working paper.

Although canonical models of clientelism argue that brokers use dense social networks to monitor and enforce vote buying, recent evidence suggests that brokers can instead target intrinsically reciprocal voters and reduce the need for active monitoring
and enforcement. Combining a trove of survey data on brokers and voters in the Philippines with an experiment-based measure of reciprocity, and relying on local naming conventions to build social networks, we demonstrate that brokers employ both strategies conditional on the underlying social network structure. We show that brokers are chosen for their central position in networks and are knowledgeable about voters, including their reciprocity levels. We then show that, where village social networks are dense, brokers prefer to target voters that have many ties in the network because their votes are easiest to monitor. Where networks are sparse, brokers target intrinsically reciprocal voters whose behavior they need not monitor.

Elena Gadjanova. 2020. “Status-quo or Grievance Coalitions: The Logic of Cross-ethnic Campaign Appeals in Africa’s Highly Diverse States.” Comparative Political Studies.

This paper explains how presidential candidates in Africa’s highly diverse states appeal across ethnic lines when ethnic identities are salient, but broader support is needed to win elections. I argue that election campaigns are much more bottom-up and salience-oriented than current theories allow and draw on the analysis of custom data of campaign appeals in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as interviews with party strategists and campaign operatives in Ghana and Kenya to demonstrate clear patterns in presidential candidates’ cross-ethnic outreach. Where ethnic salience is high, incumbents offer material incentives and targeted transfers to placate supporters, challengers fan grievances to split incumbents’ coalitions, and also-rans stress unity and valence issues in the hope of joining the winner. The research contributes to our understanding of parties’ mobilization strategies in Africa and further clarifies where and how ethnic divisions are politicized in elections in plural societies.

Obie Porteous. 2020. “Research Deserts and Oases: Evidence from 27 Thousand Economics Journal Articles on Africa.” Working paper.

The first two decades of the 21st century have seen an increasing number of peer- reviewed journal articles on the 54 countries of Africa by both African and non-African economists. I document that the distribution of research across African countries is highly uneven: 45% of all economics journal articles and 65% of articles in the top five economics journals are about five countries accounting for just 16% of the continent’s population. I show that 91% of the variation in the number of articles across countries can be explained by a peacefulness index, the number of international tourist arrivals, having English as an official language, and population. The majority of research is context-specific, so the continued lack of research on many African countries means that the evidence base for local policy-makers is much smaller in these countries.


The Mawazo Institute’s statement on systematic racism

The Mawazo Institute has recently released a statement on the need to address intersectional and structural violence against black Americans, Africans, and women around the world. I’m so proud of the work that our phenomenal team, lead by Kenyan women, is doing to level the playing field by supporting other East African women.

[Image text:

The Mawazo Institute is an African and woman-led organization that exists to support voices that are too often marginalised. Over the last few weeks, we have felt tremendous grief at the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police.  We have also taken the opportunity to reflect on how this act of violence is a brutal example of the systemic racism that exists not just in the US but around the world.

As actors in the higher education sector, we know of the racism that Black researchers face in academic spaces. As an organisation whose employees are Black, we know, firsthand, about racism. These experiences have helped inform our desire to build the capacities of African researchers in their own countries, communities, and homes.

As we reflect on this moment of global outrage, we are however encouraged by the movement for change that George Floyd has inspired. Proudly, the Mawazo Institute joins voices across the world in declaring that Black Lives Matter. This includes African lives. This includes Kenyan lives. This includes women’s lives. We take this opportunity to stand in solidarity with all those who oppose police and state brutality, and those working to put an end to gender-based violence, which has seen a sharp rise during the pandemic. We are allies in envisioning a world in which every individual is given the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential.

In Solidarity,

The Mawazo Team

#BlackLivesMatter #EndPoliceBrutalityKE #EndGBV]