16 November 2010

Minimal evidence supporting the paternalistic view in this context…

I’m just going to take this moment to offer a quick “I told you so” and do a little victory dance in the face of my paternalistic friends.

If I had my way huge chunks of aid budgets would be going straight into the hands of poor people.

But they’ll blow it on booze and fags” they say.


This paper uses a randomized controlled trial of a governmental food assistance program to test whether this form of paternalism is necessary, comparing precisely measured consumption and health outcomes under both in-kind food and cash transfers. Importantly, households do not indulge in the consumption of vices when handed cash. Furthermore, there is little evidence that the in-kind food transfer induced more food to be consumed than did an equal-valued cash transfer.

Finally, there were few differences in child nutritional intakes, and no differences in child height, weight, sickness, or anemia prevalence. While other justifications for in-kind transfers may certainly apply, there is minimal evidence
supporting the paternalistic one in this context.

That’s in Mexico.

What about England you say?

What happens when you give £800 to someone who has been homeless for over 4 years?

Of the 13 people who engaged with the scheme, 11 have moved off the streets. The outlay averaged £794 ($1,277) per person (on top of the project’s staff costs). None wanted their money spent on drink, drugs or bets. Several said they co-operated because they were offered control over their lives rather than being “bullied” into hostels. Howard Sinclair of Broadway explains: “We just said, ‘It’s your life and up to you to do what you want with it, but we are here to help if you want.’”

Some estimates suggest the state spends £26,000 annually on each homeless person in health, police and prison bills.

Well who’d a thunk it?


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