Replication Researchers: Hongmei Wang
Original Paper Title: The short-term impact of unconditional cash transfers to the poor: evidence from Kenya
Original Researchers: Johannes Haushofer and Jeremy Shapiro
Original publication: The Quarterly Journal of Economics
Replication Plan: Wang’s Replication Plan
Current Status: Pure Replication Completed
The Original Study
Haushofer and Shapiro examine the effects of a large unconditional cash transfer (UCT) on economic outcomes and psychological wellbeing of poor households in rural Kenya. The study uses a randomized controlled trial to examine overall effects of the UCT and the differential effects of UCT by recipient gender, transfer frequency, and transfer magnitude on indices in eight domains. The authors found that households received UCT had significantly higher household consumption, asset holdings, monthly income, food security index, and psychological wellbeing index, but no significant improvement in health, education, or female empowerment was found. The results comparing different treatment arms suggested that monthly payments were more likely than lump-sum transfers to increase food security while lump-sum transfers led to higher levels of asset holdings. Compared to small cash transfers, larger transfers increased asset holdings and improved the psychological wellbeing of household members. There was little evidence that providing cash transfers to women vs. men differentially affects outcomes.
Impact evaluations are needed to study the influence of UCTs on various economic and welfare measures to inform policy and program design especially in low-income countries. A replication of this study will help understand the important findings on impacts of UCT and provide policy makers with solid evidence to select the most effective and efficient policies to fight poverty. Pure replication of the study is conducted to examine whether the published findings can be reproduced using the same data and methods. Robustness checks are also conducted to study the impacts of UCT on indices of economic outcomes, food security, health, and psychological wellbeing by examining the model assumptions, applying alternative statistical models, and conducting multi-level models. We also extend the study by examining the composition of the indices and conducting multivariate analysis to examine the short-term impacts of the UCT on different indices in Kenya.