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The impact of economic resource transfers to women versus men: a systematic review

What do we want to know?

This systematic review examined the question: 'what is the evidence of the impact on family well-being of giving economic resources to women relative to the impact of giving them to men?'

Who wants to know and why?

This review is of interest to policy-makers and funders in developed and developing countries, given the recent growth in the number of poverty alleviation transfer programs that implicitly or explicitly designate women as transfer recipients.

What did we find?

  • The gender of the transfer recipient affects the outcomes of some programmes 
  • Targeting transfers to women can improve children’s well-being - in particular in the form of investments in children’s health and education.
  • Increasing female control of transfers does not guarantee positive outcomes.
  • Findings for micro-credit remain highly controversial and inconclusive.
  • Outcomes may be dependent on the type of programme offered.

What are the implications?

The review highlights a number of focus areas for future research. Focusing on gender effects for unconditional transfer programmes may be valuable, although some evidence already exists for old-age pensions. In the case of micro-credit programmes, much controversy remains to be resolved. Important under-studied regions of the developing world include sub-Saharan Africa, the Asia Pacific (outside South Asia), and the MENA region. Overall, a substantive body of research that carefully considers issues of selection and attribution is still a crucial missing part of developing gender-mainstreaming in transfer programmes; given the sustained popularity and importance of such as a poverty alleviation tool across the developing world, a fundamental need exists to further develop the evidence base on which these programmes are based.

How did we get these results?

We conducted the search through eight electronic databases, ten organizational websites and Google Scholar, as well as bibliographic back-searching and input from reviewers, covering peer-reviewed published studies as well as grey literature and Ph.D. dissertations. In total, we located 5,774 potentially relevant studies. Most were excluded, as they did not match the systematic review topic. The final count of included studies was 15, some of which reviewed multiple programmes. Statistical meta-analysis was considered but not possible due to the diversity of interventions among a small number of papers as well as the diversity of the outcome measurements. We thus conducted a narrative synthesis.

The EPPI Centre reference number for this report is 2001.

This report should be cited as: Yoong J, Rabinovich L, Diepeveen S (2012) The impact of economic resource transfers to women versus men: a systematic review. Technical report. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.
ISBN: 978-1-907345-22-7

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