The impact of recipient choice on aid effectiveness

World Dev. 2019 Apr:116:137-149. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.10.010.


This study compares the impact of several common development programs (agricultural extension, subsidized agricultural inputs and poultry transfers) to cash transfers equal to the cost of each program. Prior to program delivery, recipients were asked their valuation for each program (i.e., their cash indifference point between cash and the program) as a proxy for their preference between cash and the program. Subsequently, recipients were randomly assigned to receive cash or a program. Six months after delivery of cash and programs, we do not find that individuals who receive the intervention they value most are different from others in terms of consumption, food security, assets, psychological well-being or feelings of autonomy, and can rule out effects of any meaningful size. When comparing cash transfers directly to common development programs, the point estimates indicate no difference in impacts and confidence intervals rule out large differences. We do find that cash transfers increase feelings of autonomy and respect compared to non-cash interventions.

Keywords: Cash transfers; Poverty; Preferences; Willingness to pay.