Distributional Impacts of Cash Transfers on the Multidimensional Poverty of Refugees: The ESSN programme in Turkey

This seminar is organised jointly with the Institute for International Economic Policy at George Washington University and the UNDP Human Development Report Office. This seminar will be held online.

Most evaluation exercises of humanitarian cash transfer programmes use traditional metrics of poverty and study average effects of intended outcomes separately. We analyse the impact of the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash programme on the multidimensional poverty of refugees in Turkey, using a purpose-build Refugee Multidimensional Poverty Index. We conduct a nuanced causal analysis of the distributional impacts of the ESSN on the incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty, and decompose effects for separate dimensions of poverty. Results show that the ESSN successfully reached the poor and significantly reduced overall multidimensional poverty among its beneficiaries. Significant reductions are found in the dimensions of food security, living standards and education. Incidence and intensity of poverty are shown to fall across the entire distribution. This supports emerging claims that these types of programmes, still relatively new in humanitarian contexts, can be transformative for their beneficiaries to achieve multiple outcomes simultaneously. Reductions in the intensities for more deprived households stand out as a finding that outcome specific evaluations and multidimensional impact evaluations focusing on estimating average treatment effect would have missed, demonstrating the added value of the proposed methodological innovation to focus on the entire distribution of deprivation in this paper. By learning from the largest humanitarian cash programme in the world, results provide important lessons for cash programmes on multidimensional poverty of refugees elsewhere.