Poverty Targeted Cash Transfers & Attitudes Towards Redistribution

with R. R. Jamil

Does long-term exposure to a cash transfer program targeted at low-income women change their preferences for redistribution? Do cash transfer programs, implemented in high poverty settings, crowd out preferences for traditional types of welfare, such as public schools and hospitals? We study these questions by analyzing the impacts of Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), one of the largest unconditional cash transfer programs targeted at women. We use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the impacts of the BISP cash transfer on women’s attitudes towards a range of re-distributive polices. Compatibly with theories of redistribution, we find that female recipients of the cash transfer program reduce their preferences for redistributive social policies. However, we provide evidence that this shift in preferences is not the result of an income effect. We propose a mechanism that draws attention to variation in women’s intra-household agency and we suggest that, in households in which women’s agency is not challenged by senior household members, female beneficiaries see greater utility of a cash transfers compared to traditional welfare provision.

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