Cash, food, or vouchers? Evidence from a randomized experiment in northern Ecuador

JDE“Cash, food, or vouchers? Evidence from a randomized experiment in northern Ecuador”, a paper by Melissa Hidrobo (IFPRI), John Hoddinott (IFPRI), Amber Peterman (University of North Carolina), Amy Margolies (IFPRI), and Vanessa Moreira (The World Bank), recently published in the Journal of Development Economics, compares the impacts and cost-effectiveness of the three different approaches.

Abstract

The debate over whether to provide food assistance, and the form that this assistance should take, have a long history in economics. Despite the ongoing debate, little rigorous evidence exists that compares food assistance in the form of cash versus in-kind. This paper uses a randomized evaluation to assess the impacts and cost-effectiveness of cash, food vouchers, and food transfers. We find that all three modalities significantly improve the quantity and quality of food consumed. However, differences emerge in the types of food consumed, with food transfers leading to significantly larger increases in calories consumed, and vouchers leading to significantly larger increases in dietary diversity.

Example of a poster on nutrition messaging

Example of a poster on nutrition messaging. WFP poster.

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This is a revised version of the December 2012 IFPRI discussion paper titled, “Cash, Food, or Vouchers?” by the same authors.

This work was co-funded by the Government of Spain (through the World Food Programme) and the CGIAR Research Program on Policy, Institutions, and Markets.

John Hoddinott leads PIM's research on Social Protection.