Payment mechanisms and anti-poverty programs: evidence from a mobile money cash transfer experiment in Niger

Replication paper
Original publication: Economic Development and Cultural Change
Original researchers: Jenny Aker, Rachid Boumnijel, Amanda McClelland, Niall Tierney
Replication researchers: Edmundo Beteta, Giovanna Aguilar, Oliver Elorreaga, Jean Pierre Meneses, Edgar Ventura, César Huaroto
Current status: Completed Replication Study

The Original Study

This study used a randomized experiment to evaluate the effects of using mobile money as a public cash transfer program in Niger. Vulnerable households in 96 villages were selected to receive an unconditional cash transfer through three delivery channels. These different interventions were Cash, Mobile and Zap, each of them with an equal amount of randomly selected villages. All beneficiaries received a cash transfer monthly during five periods. Cash program recipients obtained an individual envelope with money. The Mobile intervention group included the same features as Cash plus a m-transfer-enabled mobile phone. The Zap recipients used the m-transfer system in order to get the cash as well as m-transfer-enabled mobile phone.

The original paper results provide evidence that Zap intervention had a superior impact than Cash and Mobile. Aker and colleagues find an increase in the consumption of beans, fats, and improvements in the diversity of food and nonfood items. These findings are particularly important given the high prevalence of protein-energy malnutrition in Niger.

The Replication

Around the world, there has been an exponential growth in cash-based interventions, especially unconditional cash transfer programs. This context presents an unprecedented opportunity to increase financial inclusion using a new payment channel, which can decrease operating costs, improve security and increase outreach. This replication study will evaluate the original authors’ results through push-button replication and pure replication. In addition, it will expand its analysis in order to evaluate if the impact of Zap intervention on diet diversity is different in younger or more educated beneficiaries.  Finally, the replication study will elaborate on the nutritional evaluation based on stunting and wasting diagnosis for children under 5 defined by the WHO.