A mixed-method review of cash transfers and intimate partner violence in low and middle-income countries
This paper draws on a mixed method review of studies in low- and middle-income countries on the impact of Cash Transfer (CT) programmes on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
Fourteen quantitative and nine qualitative studies met the quality inclusion criteria, of which eleven and six respectively demonstrated evidence that CTs decrease IPV. The review found little support for increases in IPV, with only two studies showing overall mixed or adverse impacts.
Drawing on these studies, as well as related bodies of evidence, the authors develop a programme theory proposing three pathways through which cash transfers can impact IPV:
1) Economic security and emotional wellbeing
2) intra-household conflict
3) women’s empowerment
According to the programme theory, the economic security and emotional wellbeing pathway is the only one that exclusively reduces IPV; the other two may increase or decrease IPV, depending on whether additional cash aggravates or soothes relationship conflict and/or how men respond to women’s increased empowerment.
How these pathways play out depends on intra-household gender dynamics, which are in turn are affected by local gender regimes and socio-economic inequalities within a setting or beneficiary population. The recipient of the CT is also likely to be a key factor in understanding potential for impacts on IPV.
- Although the review indicates that CT are promising tools to reduce IPV, this relationship is complex and there are still large gaps in our understanding of what programme design components are necessary or beneficial in diverse settings.
Conclusions and implications
- Cash Transfers have the potential to decrease IPV at the margin across large populations of vulnerable groups.
- Cash Transfers may have different impacts of different types of violence – Its appear to reduce physical and/or sexual IPV more consistently that emotional abuse or controlling behaviours (although this may be to do with measurement issues).
- As CTs are primarily a policy tool to respond to poverty and vulnerability, it is unlikely that large-scale institutional programming will be designed with the specific objective of decreasing IPV. However, if small design changes have the potential to decrease IPV, CT programmes have potential to realise significant gains across sectors at lower cost than violence-specific programming.
- Complementary activities, including those with the ability to shift intra-household power relations (e.g, trainings and group meetings) are likely to be important design features for understanding how to maximise and leverage the impact of CTs for reducing IPV, and mitigating potential adverse impacts.
- Future studies should improve IPV measurement, empirical analysis of programme mechanisms, and fill regional gaps.
- Ana Maria Buller
- Amber Peterman
- Meghana Ranganathan
- Alexandra Bleile
- Melissa Hidrobo
- Lori Heise