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The Impact of Cash Transfers: A Review of the Evidence from Low- and Middle-income Countries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2018

Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ, United Kingdom email:
Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ, United Kingdom email:
Save the Children, 1 St John's Lane, London EC1M 4AR email:
Oxford Policy Management, Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom email:
Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ, United Kingdom email:
Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ, United Kingdom email:


This article presents the findings of a review of the impact of non-contributory cash transfers on individuals and households in low- and middle-income countries, covering the literature of 15 years, from 2000 to 2015. Based on evidence extracted from 165 studies, retrieved through a systematic search and screening process, this article discusses the impact of cash transfers on 35 indicators covering six outcome areas: monetary poverty; education; health and nutrition; savings, investment and production; work; and empowerment. For most of the studies, cash transfers contributed to progress in the selected indicators in the direction intended by policymakers. Despite variations in the size and strength of the underlying evidence base by outcome and indicator, this finding is consistent across all outcome areas. The article also investigates unintended effects of cash transfer receipt, such as potential reductions in adult work effort and increased fertility, finding limited evidence for such unintended effects. Finally, the article highlights gaps in the evidence base and areas which would benefit from additional future research.

© Cambridge University Press 2018 

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