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Legal empowerment of the poor, education, Africa, evaluating aid effectiveness
Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Prior to joining CGD, he spent two years as an adviser to Tanzania's national statistics office and worked as a research officer at Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies. His research focuses on a wide range of topics, including education, poverty reduction, legal reform, and democratic governance.
Can short–term unconditional cash transfers (UCT) create longer-term impacts? In a new paper, Berk Özler and co-authors study a group of young women in Malawi, who participated in a two-year cash transfer experiment as adolescents, in order to understand the long-term impacts of these short-term cash transfers. More than two years after the end of transfers, they find that the substantial short-term benefits of the program have largely evaporated. Unconditional cash transfers (UCT) caused short-term reductions in marriage, fertility, and HIV infection, but the cessation of cash transfers is immediately followed by a wave of marriages and pregnancies, accompanied with a catch-up to the control group in HIV prevalence. For those who had already dropped out of school at the outset of the experiment, two years of conditional cash transfers produced a meaningful long-term increase in educational attainment, delays in marriage, declines in fertility, and a more educated pool of husbands; however they see no increase in employment rates, earnings, real-life capabilities, or empowerment, suggesting that schooling itself has not improved the medium-term welfare of young women in this context.
Recent research overturns the standard narrative about refugee crises: that addressing them mainly means curtailing the conflict and poverty that “push” migrants away from home and slashing the excessive generosity that “pull” them into other countries. Instead, pragmatic and self-interested policymakers should consider that they often waste resources when trying to reduce push factors, and they can spark an inhumane and inefficient race to the bottom by acting individually to reduce pull factors. Through broad international cooperation to get people out of camps and into the labor force, though, they can transform refugees from a burden into an investment.
A commission led by the UN's special envoy for education, Gordon Brown, is calling for a doubling of global aid for education, without any clear reform agenda to raise learning levels in the world's failing school systems. That might be ok: bad schools in poor countries still seem to produce big benefits.
Last week, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, completed a $7.5 billion replenishment to fund its work on immunization in the world’s poorest countries between now and 2020. Gavi’s next step is to ensure that the money is used as effectively as possible to save lives and improve health.
Teachers in poor countries earn far more, in relative terms, than teachers in the OECD—and several recent studies suggest their pay isn’t linked to skills or performance. But we also have growing evidence that high-quality teachers generate huge economic returns. The question is how to ensure high pay attracts high quality.