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Cash transfers in an epidemic context : the interaction of formal and informal support in rural Malawi

  • Strobbe, Francesco
  • Miller, Candace
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    This paper investigates the short-run consumption expenditure dynamics and the interaction of public and private arrangements of ultra-poor and labor-constrained households in Malawi using an original dataset from the Mchinjii social cash transfer pilot project (one of the first experiments of social protection policies based on unconditional cash transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa). The authors exploit the unique source of exogenous variation provided by the randomized component of the program in order to isolate the effect of cash transfers on consumption expenditures as well as the net crowding out effect of cash transfers on private arrangements. They find a statistically significant reduction effect on the level of consumption expenditures for those households receiving cash transfers, thus leading to the rejection of the perfect risk sharing hypothesis. Moreover, by looking at the effects of cash transfers on private arrangements in a context characterized by imperfect enforceability of contracts and by a social fabric heavily compromised by high HIV/AIDS rates, the analysis confirms the presence of crowding out effects on private arrangements when looking at gifts and (to a lesser extent) remittances, while informal loans seem to be completely independent from the cash transfer's reception. From a policy perspective, the paper offers a contribution to the evaluation of the very recent wave of social protection policies based on (unconditional) cash transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that there might be an important role for public interventions aimed at helping households to pool risk more effectively.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5824.

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    Date of creation: 01 Oct 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5824
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    1. Suneetha Kadiyala & Stuart Gillespie, 2006. "Community-level Impacts of AIDS-Related Mortality: Panel Survey Evidence from Zambia ," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 28(3), pages 440-457.
    2. Stefan Dercon & Pramila Krishnan, 1997. "In sickness and in health... risk-sharing within households in rural Ethiopia," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/1997-12, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Dubois, Pierre & Jullien, Bruno & Magnac, Thierry, 2005. "Formal and Informal Risk Sharing in LDCs: Theory and Empirical Evidence," IDEI Working Papers 351, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Dec 2007.
    4. Pedro Albarran & Orazio P. Attanasio, 2003. "Limited Commitment and Crowding out of Private Transfers: Evidence from a Randomised Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(486), pages C77-C85, March.
    5. Donald Cox & Zekeriya Eser & Emmanuel Jimenez, 1996. "Motives for Private Transfers over the Life Cycle: An Analytical Framework and Evidence for Peru," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 327., Boston College Department of Economics.
    6. Ethan Ligon & Jonathan P. Thomas & Tim Worrall, 1997. "Informal Insurance Arrangements in Village Economies," Keele Department of Economics Discussion Papers (1995-2001) 97/08, Department of Economics, Keele University, revised Oct 2000.
    7. Udry, Christopher, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in a Rural Credit Market: An Empirical Investigation in Northern Nigeria," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 495-526, July.
    8. Dercon, Stefan & Krishnan, Pramila, 2002. "Risk Sharing and Public Transfers," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. Thomas, Jonathan & Worrall, Tim, 1988. "Self-enforcing Wage Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(4), pages 541-54, October.
    10. Albarran, Pedro & Attanasio, Orazio P., 2002. "Do Public Transfers Crowd Out Private Transfers? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Mexico," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. Grimard, Franque, 1997. "Household consumption smoothing through ethnic ties: evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 391-422, August.
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