Since 2009, GiveDirectly delivered over $300 million in cash directly into the hands of over 500,000 families living in poverty. GiveDirectly does not impose their preferences, or judgments, on beneficiaries; instead, respects and empowers families to make their own choices, elevating their voices in the global aid debate. Independent reviewers agree that cash is an effective way to help people living in poverty. Yet, people living in extreme poverty rarely get to decide how aid money intended to help them gets spent.
Cash transfers are arguably the most researched anti-poverty intervention. More than 310 studies show cash has a positive impact across a range of direct economic, health, and education outcomes. Direct giving also benefits surrounding communities, leading to a 2.6x fiscal multiplier in local economies and improved outcomes for neighbors who don’t receive cash. GiveDirectly is also constantly testing program design and advancing cash’s research base; they run 13 randomized control trials on their own programs, generating rigorous evidence on key design and implementation questions.
Despite the stereotypes, recipients of cash do not systematically waste or misuse it. Recipients of cash typically end up less poor and put cash towards improving different aspects of their lives. Cash can help drive a range of important, positive changes in people’s lives. While any given change isn’t guaranteed or even likely for any given program, researchers have linked some cash programs with changes in a wide variety of outcomes, including, HIV rates, child mortality, suicide rates, child growth, self-reported health, intimate partner violence, school attendance, stress, and depression, and deforestation.