Social Protection and Social Distancing During the Pandemic: Mobile Money Transfers in Ghana

41 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2022 Last revised: 26 Oct 2022

See all articles by Dean Karlan

Dean Karlan

Northwestern University

Matt Lowe

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Robert Darko Osei

University of Ghana - Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER)

Isaac Osei-Akoto

University of Ghana - Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER)

Benjamin Roth

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Christopher Udry

Northwestern University

Date Written: July 2022

Abstract

We study the impact of mobile money transfers to a representative sample of low-income Ghanaians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement of the upcoming transfers affects neither consumption, well-being, nor social distancing. Once disbursed, transfers increase food expenditure by 8%, income by 20%, and a social distancing index by 0.08 standard deviations. Over 40% of the transfers were spent on food. The positive effects on income mostly persist at final measurement, eight months after the last transfer. Together, we learn that cash transfers can support households economically while also promoting adherence to public health protocols during a pandemic.

Suggested Citation

Karlan, Dean and Lowe, Matt and Osei, Robert Darko and Osei-Akoto, Isaac and Roth, Benjamin and Udry, Christopher, Social Protection and Social Distancing During the Pandemic: Mobile Money Transfers in Ghana (July 2022). NBER Working Paper No. w30309, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4177556

Dean Karlan (Contact Author)

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Matt Lowe

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Robert Darko Osei

University of Ghana - Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) ( email )

P.O BOX LG 74
Legon
Ghana

Isaac Osei-Akoto

University of Ghana - Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) ( email )

P.O BOX LG 74
Legon
Ghana

Benjamin Roth

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Christopher Udry

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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