Precipitated by rapid globalization, rising inequality, population growth, and longevity gains, social protection programs have been on the rise in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the last three decades. However, the introduction of public benefits could displace informal mechanisms for risk-protection, which are especially prevalent in LMICs. If the displacement of private transfers is considerably large, the expansion of social protection programs could even lead to social welfare loss. In this paper, we critically survey the recent empirical literature on crowd-out effects in response to public policies, specifically in the context of LMICs. We review and synthesize patterns from the behavioral response to various types of social protection programs. Furthermore, we specifically examine for heterogeneous treatment effects by important socioeconomic characteristics. We conclude by drawing on lessons from our synthesis of studies. If poverty reduction objectives are considered, along with careful program targeting that accounts for potential crowd-out effects, there may well be a net social gain.
Aging populations in developing countries have spurred the introduction of public pension programs to preserve the standard of living for the elderly. The often-overlooked mechanism of intergenerational transfers, however, can dampen these intended policy effects, as adult children who make income contributions to their parents could adjust their behavior in response to changes in their parents’ income. Exploiting a unique policy intervention in China, we examine using a difference-in-difference-in-differences (DDD) approach how a new pension program impacts inter vivos transfers. We show that pension benefits lower the propensity of adult children to transfer income to elderly parents in the context of a large middle-income country, and we also estimate a small crowd-out effect. Taken together, these estimates fit the pattern of previous research in high-income countries, although our estimates of the crowd-out effect are significantly smaller than previous studies in both middle- and high-income countries.
Productivity improvements among microenterprises are important, especially for low-income countries where market imperfections are pervasive and resources are scarce. Relaxing credit constraints can influence input choice of microenterprises and the efficiency of transforming inputs into output. Using a field experiment among agricultural microenterprises in Bangladesh, we estimate the impact of expanding credit access on productivity of rice farmers and disentangle the total effect into technological change (frontier shift) and efficiency change. We find that, relative to the baseline rice output per decimal, credit access resulted, on average, in approximately 13 percent increase in yield. The effect is doubled on modern hybrid rice and almost zero on traditional rice types. Approximately 9 percent of the output effect comes from change in technology and 3 percent increase in output is attributed to improvement in technical efficiency, on average. Within the treatment group, the effect is larger among pure tenant and mixed tenant microenterprise households than microenterprises who cultivate only their own lands.
This paper examines the impact of the New Rural Pension Scheme (NRPS) in China. Exploiting the staggered implementation of an NRPS policy expansion that began in 2009, we use a difference-in-difference approach to study the effects of the introduction of pension benefits on the health status, health behaviors, and healthcare utilization of rural Chinese adults age 60 and above. The results point to three main conclusions. First, in addition to improvements in self-reported health, older adults with access to the pension program experienced significant improvements in several important measures of health, including mobility, self-care, usual activities, and vision. Second, regarding the functional domains of mobility and self-care, we found that the females in the study group led in improvements over their male counterparts. Third, in our search for the mechanisms that drive positive retirement program results, we find evidence that changes in individual health behaviors, such as a reduction in drinking and smoking, and improved sleep habits, play an important role. Our findings point to the potential benefits of retirement programs resulting from social spillover effects. In addition, these programs may lessen the morbidity burden among the retired population
This study investigates a potential mechanism to promote coordination. With theoretical guidance using a belief-based learning model, we conduct a multi-period, binary-choice, and weakest-link laboratory coordination experiment to study the effect of gradualism – increasing the required levels (stakes) of contributions slowly over time rather than requiring a high level of contribution immediately – on group coordination performance. We randomly assign subjects to three treatments: starting and continuing at a high stake, starting at a low stake but jumping to a high stake after a few periods, and starting at a low stake while gradually increasing the stakes over time (the Gradualism treatment). We find that relative to the other two treatments, groups coordinate most successfully at high stakes in the Gradualism treatment. We also find evidence that supports the belief-based learning model. These findings point to a simple mechanism for promoting successful voluntary coordination.
Lack of skills is arguably one of the most important determinants of high levels of unemployment and poverty. In response, policymakers often initiate vocational training programs in efforts to enhance skill formation among the youth. Using a regression-discontinuity design, we examine a large youth training intervention in Nepal. We find, twelve months after the start of the training program, that the intervention generated an increase in non-farm employment of 10 percentage points (ITT estimates) and up to 31 percentage points for program compliers (LATE estimates). We also detect sizable gains in monthly earnings largely driven by women who start self-employment activities inside their homes. We argue that low baseline educational attainment levels, low levels of non-farm employment levels, and Nepal’s social norms towards women contribute to the large program impacts.
Evidence on educational returns and the factors that determine the demand for schooling in developing countries is extremely scarce. Building on previous studies that show individuals underestimating the returns to schooling, we use two surveys from Tanzania to estimate both the actual and perceived schooling returns and subsequently examine what factors drive individual misperceptions regarding actual returns. Using OLS and instrumental variable methods, we find that each additional year of schooling in Tanzania increases earnings, on average, by 9 to 11%. We find that on average individuals underestimate returns to schooling by 74 to 79% and three factors are associated with these misperceptions: income, asset, poverty and educational attainment. Shedding light on what factors relate to individual beliefs about educational returns can inform policy on how to structure effective interventions in order to correct individual misperceptions.
Attitudes toward risk underlie virtually every important economic decision an individual makes. In this experimental study, I examine how introducing a time delay into the execution of an investment plan influences individuals’ risk preferences. The field experiment proceeded in three stages: a decision stage, an execution stage and a payout stage. At the outset, in the Decision Stage (Stage 1), each subject was asked to make an investment plan by splitting a monetary investment amount between a risky asset and a safe asset. Subjects were informed that the investment plans they made in the Decision Stage are binding and will be executed during the Execution Stage (Stage 2). The Payout Stage (Stage 3) was the payout date. The timing of the Decision Stage and Payout Stage was the same for each subject, but the timing of the Execution Stage varied experimentally. I find that individuals who were assigned to execute their investment plans later (i.e., for whom there was a greater delay prior to the Execution Stage) invested a greater amount in the risky asset during the Decision Stage.