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Social cash transfers, generational relations and youth poverty trajectories

This three-year collaborative research project has generated evidence about the ways in which social cash transfer (SCT) schemes intervene in and transform the structural power relations that underlie the reproduction of poverty. It has focused on rural youth and draws on qualitative research in two rural communities, one in Malawi, which has recently introduced social cash transfers to ultra-poor labour-constrained households, and the other in Lesotho which operates social pensions and child grants. The research also investigated the policy communities that designed and are implementing the schemes. It was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development.

project report

Cash transfers are viewed by recipients as invaluable for poverty reduction, but their full effects depend on how they intervene in social relations. In-depth research in recipient communities reveals:

  • Schemes that target vulnerable households are based on an inadequate understanding of household dynamics, and as a consequence are perceived as arbitrary and unfair.
  • Cash transfers to the elderly (particularly where they are universal) are perceived to be fairer than those to young adults and may contribute more to community bonds, though young people may invest more in productive activities.
  • Unearned transfers to young adults may promote social isolation; public works schemes are widely viewed as a more legitimate way of assisting young families.

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Builders in Thyolo District, Malawi


Interviewing in the Maluti Mountains

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Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Nicola Ansell
Professor Nicola Ansell - Since I arrived at Brunel in 1999, my interests have focused on social and cultural change in the lives of young people in the Global South (particularly southern Africa). I have researched the impacts of AIDS on young people’s migration; how education sectors are adjusting to the needs of AIDS-affected young people; and the impacts of AIDS on young people’s current livelihoods and future food security. Recently, I have completed two research projects. The first examines the impacts of social cash transfers (for instance old age pensions and child grants) on generational relations in Malawi and Lesotho. The second investigates links between education and aspiration in remote rural areas of Lesotho, Laos and India. I have also authored a book on Children, youth and development (second edition published 2016) and launched an MA programme on Children, Youth and International Development.

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Project last modified 11/08/2021