Experimental evaluations

Rigorous, experimental evaluation is rare among nonprofits. GiveDirectly collaborates with a wide range of leading independent researchers to measure the impacts of cash transfers and answer complex design questions through more than a dozen randomized controlled trials. We report the results of our evaluations and also announce studies in progress before the data are in, so that we can be held accountable for the results. We also run smaller, non-experimental tests to learn more about what works best and how different types of recipients spend funds they receive.

Published randomized controlled trial studies

The impact of unconditional cash transfers on poor households in rural Kenya

Researchers: Johannes Haushofer (Princeton) and Jeremy Shapiro (Princeton) with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: Siaya County, Kenya

Overview: The study documented large, positive impacts of cash transfers averaging ~$500 across a wide range of outcomes including assets, earnings, food security, psychological well-being, and domestic violence, an average four months after transfers ended. It also examined a number of design questions such as how to size transfers and whether to give them to men or women. A second endline survey >2 years after the end of transfers found “cash transfers result in sustained increases in assets. Long-term impacts on other dimensions, and potential spillover effects, remain to be substantiated by future work.”

Registration: AEA registry entry

Status: Peer-reviewed paper (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2016); working papers published on psychological well-being for non-recipients (2019), domestic violence (2019) nutrition poverty traps (2019), and second endline survey findings (2018)

Media and blogs: First endline: NPR, The Economist, Forbes, Foreign Affairs, Fast Company; Psychological wellbeing for non-recipients: Vox; Second endline: GiveDirectly, study authors, Berk Ozler, Justin Sandefur; Domestic violence: Fast Company

Benchmarking a traditional nutrition and WASH program to cash

Researchers: Craig McIntosh (UCSD), Andrew Zeitlin (Georgetown) with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: Kayonza and Nyabihu districts, Rwanda

Overview: The study explored the cost-effectiveness (impact per dollar) of unconditional cash transfers and of Gikuriro, an integrated nutrition program. It found that neither the traditional program nor cost-equivalent cash transfers of ~$110 affected the study’s primary outcomes, but a larger cash transfer of ~$532 improved consumption, dietary diversity, and childhood growth 12 months after the baseline survey. For secondary outcomes studied, the smaller cash transfer program decreased debt and increased assets, while the nutrition program increased savings.

Registration: AEA registry entry

Status: Working paper and IPA policy brief published in 2018

Media and blogs: Washington Post, New York Times, Vox, QuartzNPR, Wired, GiveDirectly, study authors, Berk Ozler, The Life You Can Save, Non-Profit Chronicles, Jason Kerwin, Chicago Policy Review, Lee Crawfurd

Transfers to coffee-farming communities

Researchers: IDinsight and GiveDirectly

Location: Iganga district, Uganda

Overview: The study evaluated the impact of $1,000 cash transfers to Ugandan communities where coffee-farming is common. It found that consumption, assets, food security, and earnings all increased for both coffee farmers and households that don’t produce coffee. Coffee farmers increased their investment in coffee farming, as well as in other livelihoods.

Study registration: RIDIE registry entry

Status: Study report published in 2019

Media and blogs: GiveDirectly, IDinsight

Randomized controlled trials in progress

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Researchers: Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Tavneet Suri, (MIT), Alan Krueger (Princeton), Paul Niehaus (UCSD), and Michael Faye (GiveDirectly), with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: Siaya and Bomet counties, Kenya

Overview: The largest study of UBI to date will explore the impact of a long term basic income (12 years of monthly payments equivalent to $0.75 per day), a short term basic income (2 years at $0.75 per day) and a lump sum equivalent to the total value short term basic income. Surveys will cover a broad range of outcome domains: economic, health, social well-being, macroeconomic well-being, and financial preferences. Read more here.

Study registration: AEA registry entry

Status: Baseline survey complete, cash transfers underway, first endline survey scheduled for late 2019.

What are the macroeconomic and long-term impacts of cash?

Researchers: Johannes Haushofer (Princeton), Ted Miguel (UC Berkeley), Paul Niehaus (UCSD), and Michael Walker (UC Berkeley), with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action.

Location: Siaya County, Kenya

Overview: This study is measuring impacts of $1,000 lump sum cash transfers on macroeconomic activity: inflation, business activity, job creation, and public finance. It will also measure household-level impacts over a multi-year horizon, with the first endline around 18 months after baseline (10 months after final transfer).

Study registration: AEA registry entry

Status: First endline complete and analysis underway. Interim spillover results summarized by GiveWell in 2018. Working paper on taxation impacts published in 2018.

Media and blogs: GiveDirectly, Michael Walker (taxation)

Can a psychological intervention amplify the impact of cash transfers?

Researchers: Kate Orkin (Oxford), Rob Garlick (Duke), Stefan Dercon (Oxford), Richard Sedlmayr (Oxford), Mahreen Mahmud (Oxford) and Johannes Haushofer (Princeton)

Location: Siaya and Homa Bay counties, Kenya

Study description: This study examines whether short, low-cost motivational interventions drawing on social psychology affect psychological outcomes, such as aspirations and sense of control, economic behaviour, and future-oriented investments). It also explores whether receiving such an intervention in combination with a cash transfer enhances the effects of the cash transfer. The intervention consists of a twenty-minute video about people similar to the respondents who have been successful economically, followed by a goal-setting exercise in groups. Similar videos were already tested in Ethiopia and Western Kenya.

Overview: AEA registry for main study; adjunct studies registered separately

Status: Endline complete, analysis underway

Evaluating alternative cash transfer designs in Kenya using behavioral economics

Researchers: Anandi Mani (Warwick), Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard), Paul Niehaus (UCSD), and Anuj Shah (Chicago) in partnership with ideas42 and measurement by GiveDirectly.

Location: Siaya County, Kenya

Overview: This study is measuring the impact of different cash transfer designs, including giving recipients control over timing and giving them information on the performance of investments made by past recipients.

Study registration: AEA registry entry

Status: Endline complete, analysis underway.

Using cash transfers to benchmark the cost-effectiveness of a youth workforce readiness program

Researchers: Craig Mcintosh (UCSD), Andrew Zeitlin (Georgetown), with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: Rwamagana, Nyamagabe, and Muhanga districts, Rwanda

Overview: This study will benchmark the impact of a youth employment education intervention to cash transfers in the Rwandan context. The focus for the study will be on underemployed youth, a high-risk demographic who may display particularly powerful long-term benefits from receiving additional knowledge and resources at a pivotal moment in their transition to adulthood. Cash transfer sizes have been set to span a range around the expected cost per beneficiary the youth employment education intervention (~$410).

Study registration: AEA registry entry

Status: Transfers complete, midline data collection launched late 2019

Benchmarking the impact of cash transfers in Liberia

Researchers: Jonathan Robinson (UCSC), Alan Spearot (UCSC), Jenny Aker (Tufts), and Shilpa Aggrawal (Indian School of Business), with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: Bong and Nimba counties, Liberia

Overview: This study will evaluate the impact of different cash transfers sizes ($250 to $750) on a broad range of outcome measures, for a broad range of recipients. Its findings will provide a benchmark against which the impacts of other potential development interventions in Liberia can be assessed. It will also test whether improving access to agricultural input markets increases the impact of cash transfers.

Study registration: Registration pending

Status: Baseline surveying and cash payments launched in 2018

Benchmarking the impact of cash transfers in Malawi

Researchers: Jonathan Robinson (UCSC), Alan Spearot (UCSC), Jenny Aker (Tufts), and Shilpa Aggrawal (Indian School of Business), with measurement by Innovations for Poverty Action

Location: Machinga and Chiradzulu districts, Malawi

Overview: This study will evaluate the impact of different cash transfers sizes ($250 to $750) on a broad range of outcome measures, for a broad range of recipients. Its findings will provide a benchmark against which the impacts of other potential development interventions in Malawi can be assessed. It will also test whether improving access to agricultural input markets increases the impact of cash transfers.

Study registration: Registration pending

Status: Baseline surveying and cash payments launched in 2019

Benchmarking the impact of cash transfers in DRC delivered to urban youth

Researchers: Jeremy Magruder (UC Berkeley) and Benjamin Krausse (UC Berkeley) with measurement by Marakuja Kivu Research

Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Overview: This study will evaluate the impact of different cash transfers sizes to young people living in an urban environment on a broad range of outcome measures. Its findings will provide a benchmark against which the impacts of other potential development interventions targeting young people in DRC can be assessed. It will also explore the impact of varying transfer timing to inform future cash transfer program design.

Study registration: Registration pending

Status: Planning phase

Do cash transfers enhance the impact of youth employment training in rural DRC?

Researchers: Jeremy Magruder (UC Berkeley) and Benjamin Krausse (UC Berkeley) with measurement by Marakuja Kivu Research

Location: Walungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Overview: This study will evaluate the effects of delivering cash transfers to young people living in rural areas. These youths are also participating in an Integrated Youth Development Activity (comprising Savings and Internal Lending Communities and a range of training opportunities), allowing researchers to test whether and how cash and the development activity complement each other. The study’s findings will provide a benchmark against which the impacts of other potential development interventions targeting urban youth in DRC can be assessed.

Study registration: Registration pending

Status: Planning phase

Evaluating the impact of large cash transfers to refugees and host nationals

Researchers: IDinsight (including measurement)

Location: Kiryandongo, Uganda

Overview: Over 1.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers live in Uganda, many of whom will remain in Uganda long-term given the protracted conflicts they are fleeing. This study will explore three core research questions: (1) What is the impact of $1,000 cash transfers on ​refugee households​ for outcomes such as income, assets, consumption, enterprise, food security and psychological well-being? (2) What do any changes caused by the cash transfers mean for the lives of ​refugee households​ and how did those changes come about? (3) What is the effect of cash transfers on ​host communities, and their relationship with the refugee communities?

Study registration: Registration pending

Status: Research ethics clearance secured, baseline survey due to launch Q4 2019

Non-experimental evaluations at GiveDirectly

Aside from the rigorous randomized control trials described above, we also implement a number of non-experimental projects to learn more about what’s feasible, what recipients prefer, or how different types of recipients spend funds they receive differently.

Are large cash transfers to refugees and host communities feasible?

Location: Kyaka II refugee settlement and surrounding communities, Uganda

Overview: This evaluation comprised recipient surveys and focus group discussions to evaluate the feasibility, reported spending and indicative impact of $660 lump sum cash transfers to long term refugees and host community households. Recipients reported wide-ranging positive impacts soon after receiving and spending their transfers.

Status: Project complete and report published

Blogs: GiveDirectly

Are large cash transfers to very remote communities feasible?

Location: Lamwo District, Uganda

Overview: Poverty levels are often high in remote areas, but the operational challenges that such areas present to implementing organisations have hindered the rollout of cash transfer programs. This evaluation comprised recipient surveys, mobile money agent surveys, and operational data analysis to assess the feasibility of $880 cash transfers to very remote communities in northern Uganda. It found that cash transfers can be delivered safely, securely and efficiently to recipients in very remote areas, suggesting that, mobile money offers a viable and beneficial delivery-channel for cash in this setting.

Status: Project complete and report published

Blogs: GiveDirectly

Cash transfers and disaster response

Location: Houston, USA and Puerto Rico

Overview: Following the 2017 hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico, GiveDirectly delivered nearly $10M in cash transfers to hard-hit, low-income families. An evaluation comprising recipient surveys, focus group discussions, and individual interviews evaluated the feasibility, reported spending, and indicative impact of $1,500 cash transfers to households impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Maria. It found that efficient cash-based response was feasible and recipients greatly valued the flexibility that cash afforded them. The diversity of needs translated to a wide range of reported benefits.

Status: Project complete and report published

Blogs: GiveDirectly

Large cash transfers in Liberia

Location: Grand Bassa, Liberia

Description: Recipient surveys and focus group discussions to evaluate the feasibility, reported spending and indicative impact of $1,000 lump sum cash transfers to households in rural Liberia.

Status: Transfers underway

What is the impact of large cash transfers on young people living in an urban slum?

Location: Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya

Description: Recipient surveys and focus group discussions to evaluate the feasibility and indicative impact of combining digital entrepreneurship tools with $1,200 cash transfers delivered as either lump sums or monthly payments to young people living in an urban slum.

Status: Transfers underway

What is the impact of giving large cash transfers to refugees in Rwanda?

Location: Mugombwa refugee camp, Rwanda

Overview: Recipient surveys to evaluate the feasibility and indicative impact of ~$700 lump sum cash transfers to refugee households.

Status: Program enrollment in progress

Research Funders

research sponsors