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?


Boredinpostconflict said...

Errr, I was actually more concerned about the security risk factor. If not executed well, you would more or less be announcing to the community that almost everyone has just come across a stack of money, therefore making them a target for criminals. But yeah, smug it up you smug face smug smug

Lee said...

You're missing the point man, how about some optimism for human nature huh?

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering to what extent the fact that people are aware that they are being studied affects their behaviour? Especially in the second study, there's the possibility that you might get different outcomes if you just give the money and leave (but of course, then you don't have any data to check what happened), rather than enrolling people in this project that seems to include interviews, surveys, and who knows what else that could affect behaviour...

Lee said...

That's true but its not like there haven't been other attempts to get homeless people off the streets. Not that this really constitutes a proper evaluation.

Anonymous said...

Take that Nick Kristof!

Boredinpostconflict said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boredinpostconflict said...

Optimism for human nature?! Hah! You are a strong supporter of evidence based.....well, anything. Now I can't see enough evidence to lead me to have optimism for human nature. Better be safe than have an alley filled with dead homeless guys and one wealthy crackhead. (typo in the last comment post)

Anonymous said...

To Roving Bandit: nice post. I wish I had the time and energy to respond properly. As for the discussion that followed in comments, the paternal attitude is inexcusable whether the reasons for it are valid or not. Hope that makes sense... Throwing money at problems is rarely a solution in and of itself, for anything. But that doesn't mean you should treat people who need help like they're little children.

Unknown said...

You told them so? Harrumph. Read my JAM assessment of Sept. 2005.
First section is:
"Why not give away the $8 billion?"
It was published in Forced Migration Review.
The reply was World Bank politically correct version of paternalism...

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