17 November 2011

What do cash transfers do to social relations?

My colleagues Ian MacAuslan and Nils Riemenschneider have a new paper in the IDS Bulletin [ungated version here]
Cash transfers are an increasingly important component of social protection systems in most countries. Usually, cash transfers are evaluated against their effects on poverty or human capital, with their impact on social relations within and between households relegated to discrete comments on ‘stigma’, ‘resentment’ and sharing, including reduction of remittances and other support. Using evidence from Oxford Policy Management's evaluations of cash transfer programmes in Malawi and Zimbabwe, we suggest reconceptualising cash transfers as ongoing processes of intervention in a complex system of social relations. Cash transfer interventions operate through and affect this system at each stage: awareness-raising, targeting, payment, case management and monitoring and evaluation. We conclude that the impact of cash transfers on social relations is large and often negative. We argue that this is intrinsically important for wellbeing, but can also have negative consequences for material aspects of wellbeing, such as livelihoods.
Which sounds to me like it could be construed as a pretty good argument for making transfers universal, perhaps starting like South Africa with support for children, pensions, and disabled people.

On a bit of a tangent - who knows what the lessons are for developing countries from the history of social protection in the West?

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