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Comparing Cash and Voucher Transfers in a Humanitarian Context: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo
Last registered on November 18, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Comparing Cash and Voucher Transfers in a Humanitarian Context: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001585
Initial registration date
November 18, 2016
Last updated
November 18, 2016 8:37 AM EST
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Tufts University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2011-08-01
End date
2012-04-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Despite recent calls in support of cash transfers, there is little rigorous evidence of the relative impacts of cash versus in-kind transfers, especially in humanitarian contexts, where a majority of such programs take place. This paper uses data from a randomized experiment in the Democratic Republic of Congo to assess the relative impacts and costs of equivalently-valued cash and voucher transfers. The voucher program distorted households’ purchases along both the extensive and intensive margin as compared with unconstrained cash households. Yet there were no differences in food consumption or other measures of well-being, in part due to the fact that voucher households were able to resell part of what they purchased. As there were no significant benefits to vouchers, cash transfers were the more cost effective modality for both the implementing agency and program recipients in this context.
Registration Citation
Citation
Aker, Jenny. 2016. "Comparing Cash and Voucher Transfers in a Humanitarian Context: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo." AEA RCT Registry. November 18. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1585-1.0.
Former Citation
Aker, Jenny. 2016. "Comparing Cash and Voucher Transfers in a Humanitarian Context: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo." AEA RCT Registry. November 18. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1585/history/11866.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
All internally displaced households (IDPs) living in an informal camp in Eastern Congo were randomly assigned to either a cash or voucher transfer modalities. There was no pure control group. The transfer amounts, frequency, conditions and costs of obtaining the transfer were as similar as possible between the two modalities. The sales prices at the voucher fair were “set” accordingly to local market prices at the market for the previous week.

The two interventions were the following:

1) Unconditional Cash Transfer: An unconditional cash transfer valued at $130 USD was provided in three distributions over a seven-month period.
2) Voucher: An equal-valued voucher was provided in there distributions over a seven-month period. The voucher was a coupon that could be redeemed at an organized “voucher fair”. For the first voucher, program recipients could purchase a variety of food and non-food items (NFIs) at the voucher fair. For the second and third vouchers, program recipients were restricted to purchasing food items.
Intervention Start Date
2011-08-01
Intervention End Date
2012-03-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Uses of the transfer (i.e., items purchased with cash or vouchers, timing and location of purchases); food purchases and expenditures; asset ownership, food security outcomes; savings; risk coping strategies; intra- and inter-household sharing of the transfers; intra-household decision-making
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Most of the outcomes used in the paper are directly taken from the survey or the simple sum of different categories. A detailed description of each outcome variable is provided below.

Food purchases: number of food purchases made, and type of food purchase disaggregated by food type (e.g. staple grains, fish, salt, etc.)
Food expenditures: amount spent on food purchases in the previous week
Asset ownership: sum of categories of assets owned
Non-food item (NFI) expenditures: binary variable for whether the household used the transfer to purchase NFIs, such as clothing, housing materials, education, health, and debt repayment
Food security: household diet diversity scale (HDDS), which is the sum of the different food groups (out of 12) eaten the previous day; number of meals per day
Coping strategies: A "Negative Coping Strategy Index" that includes factors such as total household asset value, amount of money remaining from transfer, poultry ownership, etc.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Prior to the intervention, Concern Worldwide identified 474 internally displaced households living in one informal camp in the Masisi territory of DRC, with a total population of approximately 2,500 individuals. All 474 households were eligible for the intervention. Households were first stratified by neighborhood and then randomly assigned to either the cash or voucher intervention. In all, 237 households were randomly assigned to the cash transfer intervention and 237 were randomly assigned to the voucher intervention. The transfer was primarily provided to a female household member (either the head of household or the spouse of the household head). Optimally, a minimum distance between households assigned to different transfer modalities would be instituted in order to minimize spillovers, however this was not possible.

Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
After the list of household was obtained, the randomization was done in an office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
The randomization unit is the household level.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
No Clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Overall, 474 IDP households participated in the intervention. However, only a subset of these households were serveyed.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Overall, 237 households received the unconditional cash transfer, and 237 households received the voucher. However, only a subset of these households (250) were included in the survey sample.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Tufts University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2011-08-15
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
February 01, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
March 01, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
182 Households (Internally Displaced)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
182 Households (Internally Displaced)
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
89 households unconditional cash transfer, 93 households voucher
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
Abstract
Despite recent calls in support of cash transfers, there is little rigorous evidence of the relative impacts of cash versus in-kind transfers, especially in humanitarian contexts, where a majority of such programs take place. This paper uses data from a randomized experiment in the Democratic Republic of Congo to assess the relative impacts and costs of equivalently-valued cash and voucher transfers. The voucher program distorted households’ purchases along both the extensive and intensive margin as compared with unconstrained cash households. Yet there were no differences in food consumption or other measures of well-being, in part due to the fact that voucher households were able to resell part of what they purchased. As there were no significant benefits to vouchers, cash transfers were the more cost effective modality for both the implementing agency and program recipients in this context.
Citation
Aker, Jenny. "Comparing Cash and Voucher Transfers in a Humanitarian Context: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo" Working paper, 2014.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS