Social protection and resilience: The case of the productive safety net program in Ethiopia
Improving household resilience is becoming one of the key focus and target of social protection programs in Africa. However, there is surprisingly little direct evidence of the impacts of social protection programs on household resilience measures. We use five rounds of panel data to examine rural households’ resilience outcomes associated with participation in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP). Following Cissé and Barrett (2018), we employ a probabilistic moment-based approach for measuring resilience and evaluate the role of PSNP transfers and duration of participation on households’ resilience. We document four important findings. First, although PSNP transfers are positively associated with resilience, PSNP transfers below the median are less likely to generate meaningful improvements in resilience. Second, continuous participation in the PSNP is associated with higher resilience. Third, combining safety nets with income generating or asset building initiatives may be particularly efficacious at building poor households’ resilience. Fourth, our evaluation of both short-term welfare (consumption) and longer-term outcomes (resilience) suggests that these outcomes are likely to be driven by different factors, suggesting that optimizing intervention designs for improving short term welfare impacts may not necessarily improve households’ resilience, and vice versa. Together, our findings imply that effectively boosting household resilience may require significant transfers over multiple years. National safety nets programs that transfer small amounts to beneficiaries over limited time horizons may not be very effective.