4 years in the making: first cash benchmarking results released

4 years in the making: first cash benchmarking results released

GiveDirectly is excited to share something they’ve been hard at work on for over 4 years: the results from their first experimental benchmarking study, a unique collaboration with USAID, Google.org, and academic and implementing partners set in Rwanda.

Here is a rundown of recent articles covering this important news:

In The Atlantic, GiveDirectly co-founders Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus discuss the study in A/B/ Testing Foreign Aid: For the first time, USAID compared a traditional intervention to a simple cash transfer. They observe that “it was unusual, and quite brave, for USAID to compare cash with a more traditional program.”

NPR’s Goats and Soda coverage can be found in Which Foreign Aid Programs Work? The U.S. Runs A Test — But Won’t Talk About It

In Is Cash Better for Poor People Than Conventional Foreign Aid? The New York Times opinion writer Marc Gunther notes that Amanda Glassman of the Center for Global Development. Glassman said “U.S.A.I.D.’s benchmarking work ‘could transform the organization if we take the results seriously.'” 

In The small study in Rwanda that could change the way the US does foreign aidVox reporter Dylan Matthews says many poverty initiatives sound nice, but that “The problem is that things that sound nice don’t always work.” whereas “Handing out a large amount of cash, though, did.”

Wireds article, Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid, says “tracking the way beneficiaries spend the cash gives researchers a window into what recipients actually need, value, and believe is in their best interest—insights that could add nuance to future aid programs.”

More coverage can be found in Quartz’s Researchers tested conventional foreign aid against cash in Rwanda. Cash won, in The Center For Global Development’s Committing to Cost-Effectiveness: USAID’s New Effort to Benchmark for Greater Impact and in The Washington Post’s  Foreign aid as a cash-only transaction? It’s worth a try.

The study was led by Craig McIntosh and Andrew Zeitlin in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), another highly effective nonprofit recommended by The Life You Can Save. You can find more details about how it was conducted and what the findings were on IPA’s website here.


You can learn more about GiveDirectly here and support their ground-breaking work here.

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GiveDirectly is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. Using cell phone technology, GiveDirectly provides direct cash transfers to recipients living in extreme poverty. Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that these direct transfers drastically improve the lives of GiveDirectly’s participants, their families, and communities.

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The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.