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L.191- An Empirically Driven Theory of
Poverty Reduction
Clement Adamba – University of Ghana
Sudhanshu Handa – University...
Project Overview
• Use data from four unconditional cash transfer (UCT) impact evaluations to build
a theory of poverty re...
Transfer Project https://transfer.cpc.unc.edu/
 Created 2009 as an Institutional Partnership between FAO, UNICEF, Univers...
Transfer Project affiliated evaluations to date
Country/Program IE Design Survey years
Ethiopia Tigray (Bolsa) RDD 2012, 2...
Sample sizes and survey years (first year is pre-treatment)
Treatment Control Survey years
Ghana LEAP 1,262 1,235 2015, 20...
Key program features of these UCTs
• Like all TP work, these are government programs implemented by Ministry of
Social Wel...
7
Though all households are ultra-poor, variation in demographic
composition may yield interesting results
0.02.04.06.08.1
D...
Example of impacts in Malawi (left) and Zambia (right)
Total consumption pc [24m]
[36m]
Food security scale (HFIAS) [24m]
...
Step One: Who is a high-flyer?
Livelihood diversification?
Zambia: Top consumption decile at 84m
High flyer: Consumption growth higher than in C group (23% of sample). Tree based on baseline features
High flyers: 29%Low...
Apply latest developments in ML and causal inference:
Athey & Imbens PNAS 2016
• Regression classification tree (CARTs) ba...
Step 2: After we identify the high flyers, want to
understand what they did to become high flyers
• Here we use post-treat...
Step 3: Build the theory!
• If everything goes according to plan…
• We will identify households that are high flyers, conv...
Policy implications
• Cash transfer programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa working on ‘cash+’
approaches to strengthen eco...
Engagement Plan
• All four original impact evaluations were commissioned by government
• Study team is linked to policy pr...
An Empirically Driven Theory of Poverty Reduction
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An Empirically Driven Theory of Poverty Reduction

Ashu Handa's (UNC) presentation at the Centre of Excellence for Development Impact and Learning's (CEDIL) project design clinic held in Oxford (UK) on 26 February 2020.

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An Empirically Driven Theory of Poverty Reduction

  1. 1. L.191- An Empirically Driven Theory of Poverty Reduction Clement Adamba – University of Ghana Sudhanshu Handa – University of North Carolina (presenting) Peter Mvula – University of Malawi Gelson Tembo-University of Zambia
  2. 2. Project Overview • Use data from four unconditional cash transfer (UCT) impact evaluations to build a theory of poverty reduction • Use Machine Learning (ML) tools to identify initial household and contextual characteristics that predict heterogeneous treatment effects (‘high flyers’) • Use ML tools to then identify what actions these high flyers took to realize large consumption gains • Based on initial characteristics and subsequent behaviors across these four countries, develop a theory of sustained poverty reduction or ‘graduation’
  3. 3. Transfer Project https://transfer.cpc.unc.edu/  Created 2009 as an Institutional Partnership between FAO, UNICEF, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  Works with sub-Saharan African governments and research partners to: 1. Provide evidence on the effectiveness of cash transfers in achieving impacts for children and households 2. Inform the development and design of cash transfer policy and programs 3. Promote learning across the continent on the design and implementation of cash transfer evaluations and research
  4. 4. Transfer Project affiliated evaluations to date Country/Program IE Design Survey years Ethiopia Tigray (Bolsa) RDD 2012, 2014 Ethiopia Tigray II RDD 2016, 2018, 2020 Ghana LEAP Longitudinal PSM 2010, 2012, 2016 Ghana LEAP Phase 2 RDD 2017, 2019 Ghana LEAP 1000 RDD 2015, 2017 Kenya CT-OVC RCT 2007, 2009, 2011 Lesotho CGP RCT 2011, 2013 Malawi SCTP RCT 2013, 2014, 2015 South Africa CSG PSM 2010 Tanzania PSSN RCT 2015, 2017, 2020 Zambia CGP RCT 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 Zambia MCP RCT 2011, 2013, 2014 Zimbabwe HSCT Longitudinal Ward Matching 2013, 2014, 2017
  5. 5. Sample sizes and survey years (first year is pre-treatment) Treatment Control Survey years Ghana LEAP 1,262 1,235 2015, 2017 Malawi SCTP 1,730 1,800 2013, 2014, 2015 Zambia CGP 1,260 1,252 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 Zimbabwe HSCT 1,029 1,034 2013, 2014, 2017 Total 5,281 5,321
  6. 6. Key program features of these UCTs • Like all TP work, these are government programs implemented by Ministry of Social Welfare or equivalent • Benefit is paid bimonthly in cash • Value ranges from 15 (Ghana) to 25 (Zambia) percent of baseline consumption • Ranges from US$10-25 per family per month • Households are ultra-poor, but demographic composition varies across programs • All programs generated strong impacts on consumption or food security. The larger the transfer size, the larger the transformative impacts of the program
  7. 7. 7
  8. 8. Though all households are ultra-poor, variation in demographic composition may yield interesting results 0.02.04.06.08.1 Density 0 20 40 60 80 100 Age in years 0 .02.04.06 Density 0 20 40 60 80 100 Age in years SCT Eligibles Zambia GCP Malawi SCT
  9. 9. Example of impacts in Malawi (left) and Zambia (right) Total consumption pc [24m] [36m] Food security scale (HFIAS) [24m] [36m] Overall asset index [24m] [36m] Relative poverty index [24m] [36m] Incomes & Revenues index (SD) [24m] [36m] Finance & Debt index (SD) [24m] [36m] Material needs index (5-17)[24m] [36m] Schooling index (11-17) [24m] [36m] Anthropometric index (0-59m) [24m] [36m] -.2 0 .2 .4 .6 .8 Effect size in SDs of the control group Endlines 1 & 2 (24 & 36-months) at a glance Intent-to-Treat effects (CGP) - indices
  10. 10. Step One: Who is a high-flyer?
  11. 11. Livelihood diversification? Zambia: Top consumption decile at 84m
  12. 12. High flyer: Consumption growth higher than in C group (23% of sample). Tree based on baseline features High flyers: 29%Low flyers: 13%
  13. 13. Apply latest developments in ML and causal inference: Athey & Imbens PNAS 2016 • Regression classification tree (CARTs) based on treatment effect heterogeneity • Leafs are identified not based on actual outcome, but on actual outcome relative to potential outcome • Why use CART in the first place? • We have 100+ potential pre-treatment variables that could predict high flyers • We might miss something, or fail to identify interactions • ML built for exactly this scenario, let the data tell us what characteristics and combinations are linked to treatment heterogeneity • Domains include: demographics, financial, productive, human capital, psychological, contextual factors like land-use, soil fertility, temperature, rainfall, climate, infrastructure
  14. 14. Step 2: After we identify the high flyers, want to understand what they did to become high flyers • Here we use post-treatment choices made by households • Types of livestock, types of crop production, non-farm enterprise, migration • These can mix with contextual factors and psychological traits • Again, many, many potential combinations, let the data decide • Apply K-means clustering to the data • ML approach that looks for patterns in the data, puts ‘similar’ units together • Unsupervised: There is no outcome • Clusters are built by minimizing a distance function • Do this with high flyers • Can also do this with low flyers, do we get different behavioral choices? • This is a good check on the theory
  15. 15. Step 3: Build the theory! • If everything goes according to plan… • We will identify households that are high flyers, converted a small cash transfer into large consumption gains • Will be able to describe their characteristics, e.g. more able-bodied members, better educated, live close to roads or markets • Will characterize what they did with the cash transfer to attain large consumption gains • Move into cash cropping, diversify livelihoods, send out migrants • Will contrast these behaviors with those of low flyers • Use this evidence to characterize how households can ‘graduate’ out of poverty
  16. 16. Policy implications • Cash transfer programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa working on ‘cash+’ approaches to strengthen economic effects of programs • Whom to target? What types of complementary interventions or ‘+’ services to provide? • This study can identify households most likely (and least likely) to realize large consumption gains • For low flyer, what do they need to help strengthen their livelihoods. What can we learn from the high flyers?
  17. 17. Engagement Plan • All four original impact evaluations were commissioned by government • Study team is linked to policy process via UNICEF country offices and direct relationships with implementing agencies during original evaluations • Envisage disseminating results directly to implementing agencies ine ach country via national PIs. • Dedicated session at Transfer Project Research Workshop in 2021 or 2022 • Typical workshop attracts ~130 participants from 25+ SSA countries, primarily government staff

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