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Cash for Women’s Empowerment? A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Program

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  • Bonilla, Juan
  • Zarzur, Rosa Castro
  • Handa, Sudhanshu
  • Nowlin, Claire
  • Peterman, Amber
  • Ring, Hannah
  • Seidenfeld, David

Abstract

The empowerment of women, broadly defined, is an often-cited objective and benefit of social cash transfer programs in developing countries. Despite the promise and potential of cash transfers to empower women, the evidence supporting this outcome is mixed. In addition, there is little evidence from programs at scale in sub-Saharan Africa. We conducted a mixed-methods evaluation of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Program, a poverty-targeted, unconditional transfer given to mothers or primary caregivers of young children aged zero to five. The quantitative component was a four-year longitudinal clustered-randomized control trial in three rural districts, and the qualitative component was a one-time data collection involving in-depth interviews with women and their partners stratified on marital status and program participation. Our study found that women in beneficiary households were making more sole or joint decisions (across five out of nine domains); however, impacts translated into relatively modest increases in the number of decision domains a woman is involved in, on average by 0.34 (or a 6% increase over a baseline mean of 5.3). Qualitatively, we found that changes in intrahousehold relationships were limited by entrenched gender norms, which indicate men as heads of household and primary decision makers. However, women’s narratives showed the transfer increased financial empowerment as they were able to retain control over transfers for household investment and savings for emergencies. We highlight methodological challenges in using intrahousehold decision making as the primary indicator to measure empowerment. Results show potential for unconditional cash transfer programs to improve the financial and intrahousehold status of female beneficiaries, however it is likely additional design components are need for transformational change.

Suggested Citation

  • Bonilla, Juan & Zarzur, Rosa Castro & Handa, Sudhanshu & Nowlin, Claire & Peterman, Amber & Ring, Hannah & Seidenfeld, David, 2017. "Cash for Women’s Empowerment? A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Program," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 55-72.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:95:y:2017:i:c:p:55-72
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.02.017
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ingvild Almås & Alex Armand & Orazio Attanasio & Pedro Carneiro, 2018. "Measuring and Changing Control: Women's Empowerment and Targeted Transfers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(612), pages 609-639, July.
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    6. Peterman, Amber & Schwab, Benjamin & Roy, Shalini & Hidrobo, Melissa & Gilligan, Daniel, 2015. "Measuring women’s decisionmaking: Indicator choice and survey design experiments from cash and food transfer evaluations in Ecuador, Uganda, and Yemen:," IFPRI discussion papers 1453, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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    Cited by:

    1. Sudhanshu Handa & Silvio Daidone & Amber Peterman & Benjamin Davis & Audrey Pereira & Tia Palermo & Jennifer Yablonski, 2018. "Myth-Busting? Confronting Six Common Perceptions about Unconditional Cash Transfers as a Poverty Reduction Strategy in Africa," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 33(2), pages 259-298.
    2. Bergolo, Marcelo & Galván, Estefanía, 2018. "Intra-household Behavioral Responses to Cash Transfer Programs. Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 100-118.
    3. Seymour, Greg & Peterman, Amber, 2018. "Context and measurement: An analysis of the relationship between intrahousehold decision making and autonomy," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 97-112.
    4. Fouksman, E. & Klein, E., 2019. "Radical transformation or technological intervention? Two paths for universal basic income," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 492-500.
    5. Chloé van Biljon & Dieter von Fintel & Atika Pasha, 2018. "Bargaining to work: the effect of female autonomy on female labour supply," Working Papers 04/2018, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    cash transfers; women’s empowerment; decision making; Zambia; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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