Do cash transfers reduce domestic violence?

by on December 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm in Economics, Law | Permalink

Here is one set of new results from Ecuador, by Hidrobo M and Fernald L.

Violence against women is a major health and human rights problem yet there is little rigorous evidence as to how to reduce it. We take advantage of the randomized roll-out of Ecuador’s cash transfer program to mothers to investigate how an exogenous increase in a woman’s income affects domestic violence. We find that the effect of a cash transfer depends on a woman’s education and on her education relative to her partner’s. Our results show that for women with greater than primary school education a cash transfer significantly decreases psychological violence from her partner. For women with primary school education or less, however, the effect of a cash transfer depends on her education relative to her partner’s. Specifically, the cash transfer significantly increases emotional violence in households where the woman’s education is equal to or more than her partner’s.

Hat tip goes to @vaughnbell, who is excellent to follow on Twitter.

paul December 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Plausibly unexpected subgroup effects with no adjustments for multiple testing. Significantly reduces credibility.

Tom West December 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

This abstract talks about “psychological” and “emotional” violence. While not well defined in the abstract, it would be interesting to know whether the abuse takes specific forms related to the money.

Claudia December 17, 2012 at 8:43 pm

The ungated version http://i.pacdev.ucdavis.edu/files/conference-schedule/session/papers/Cash_transfers_and_domestic_violence_3.13_12.pdf has the abuse questions in the appendix (p 34) and a regression with each measure separately (p 35). The authors note in the conclusion that the under reporting of physical violence (fear-stigma) may be a reason why they only find effects on psychological violence. There’s a good summary of various models of domestic violence at the beginning of the paper.

Enrique December 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm

My own take is that a lot of allegations of domestic violence involve people acting strategically — e.g. one spouse making a false or exaggerated claim to inflict large costs on the other spouse

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=915929

emi December 17, 2012 at 7:43 pm

When I attended a domestic violence conference in Alaska, some of the DV advocates there were talking about both positive and negative effects of Alaska Permanent Fund payment on DV (i.e. opportunity for victim to escape, or incentive to hold victims hostage). I wonder if anyone has conducted a study on that… It’d be hard to find a control group though.

Jimbino December 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm

So who pays for all these beat-on women? The single men and women? Especially the non-breeders? Ecuador is still messed up. They couldn’t even get Mitad del Mundo in the right place!

So Much For Subtlety December 18, 2012 at 3:15 am

So is the lesson here that we should not let our daughters graduate High School if we want them to have happy marriages?

Or perhaps the men of Ecuador need to discover the SWPL solution – give their girls a non-education in something like Art History. That way no men ever feel threatened while the women can pretend they are equals and everyone lives happily ever after.

Andrew' December 18, 2012 at 5:36 am

Hmmm. We have psychological and emotional ‘violence.’ I’d like to add to the catalog fictional violence, imaginary violence, and mislabeled violence. I know that seems tangential, but is the real result of the study that there is less physical violence than assumed? As in, you go into a study and realize you have to measure something else? As in, as society can we focus on things like getting Georgian Wire Glass doors on the box where we concentrate all our children?

Claudia December 18, 2012 at 6:42 am

Uh-no, Andrew. It seems you did not scan the paper, so I will provide their definitions below. There are many ways to hurt someone, particularly someone who you see every day and with whom you are in an intimate relationship and have young children. Some forms of hurts may be worse than others, but all are worse than support (which of course can be critical). Not saying this is a perfect study, but it’s written in a pretty balanced way….more balanced than some of the comments.

from the paper:

“Domestic violence is a multidimensional and complex issue that is usually categorized into physical violence, psychological violence, and sexual violence. We concentrate on physical and psychological violence because data on sexual violence was not collected. Physical violence is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as: “The intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, injury, or harm. Physical violence includes, but is not limited to scratching, pushing, shoving, throwing, grabbing, biting, choking, shaking, poking, slapping, punching, hitting…”(Ellsberg and Heise 2005 p. 93). In the follow-up survey there are two questions on physical violence. The first question asks whether the mother has ever been pushed, hit or physically harmed by her husband or partner and the second asks whether it occurred frequently or sometimes. We use only the first question to create a physical violence indicator that equals one if a mother reports yes to having been pushed, hit, or physically harmed by her partner.

Psychological violence is defined by the WHO as “Any act or omission that damages the self-esteem, identity, or development of the individual. It includes, but is not limited to humiliation, threatening loss of custody of children, forced isolation from family or friends, threatening to harm the individual or someone they care about, repeated yelling or degradation, inducing fear through intimidating words or gestures, controlling behavior,…” (Ellsberg and Heise 2005 p. 93). Operationally, WHO divides this definition of psychological violence into “emotional violence” and “controlling behavior by a partner” (García-Moreno, Jansen et al. 2005). In the follow-up survey there are four questions that can be categorized as “emotional violence”, three that can be categorized as “controlling behavior” and two that can be categorized as “emotional support” (see Table A1 in appendix for questions and categories). Given that the WHO only uses emotional violence and controlling behaviors in their definitions, we concentrate on these 2 categories for the construction of our psychological violence variables. For each of the emotional violence or controlling behavior questions, the survey asks if a husband or partner “frequently”, “sometimes”, or “never” exhibits a specific behavior. We create an indicator for emotional violence that equals one if the respondent answered frequently or sometimes to any of the four emotional violence questions. For controlling behavior, we create an indicator that equals one if the respondent answered “frequently” or “sometimes” to any of the three controlling behavior questions.”

Therapsid December 18, 2012 at 8:57 am

Thanks Claudia for confirming that the study’s authors commit an act of violence upon the word.

The only component of psychological violence which is pertinent here is the threat to harm the individual, which properly speaking belongs in the physical violence category.

JWatts December 18, 2012 at 10:33 am

“Psychological violence is defined by the WHO as “Any act or omission that damages the self-esteem, identity, or development of the individual. It includes, but is not limited to humiliation, threatening loss of custody of children, forced isolation from family or friends, threatening to harm the individual or someone they care about, repeated yelling or degradation, inducing fear through intimidating words or gestures, controlling behavior,…”

That’s a ridiculous definition. Threatening violence is tantamount to violence, but calling somebody names is NOT violence. If I hold a knife to your face and threaten to stab you, I’m violent. If I call you a stupid, mindless baboon, I’m rude. In my opinion, it undermines any value the research is likely to have.

Claudia December 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

“If I call you a stupid, mindless baboon, I’m rude.” Duh. But the rest of what you are depends on her. What if she believes you? Stops trying to educate herself, she’s your stupid wife right? Stops caring for herself? Violence or abuse or pain is not so much about the *intent* but about the *effect.” You can choose to run your mouth, but you have no control over how it impacts other people. Maybe you don’t care, fine but some people do. The study is careful is not undermined by using standard definitions. It measures specific behaviors as well as frequencies. Clearly there’s a difference between “gee hon that was a silly thing to say” and “don’t talk, I don’t want to hear your ideas.” If you read the paper without judgment you might learn something. I read a lot of stuff here that I find kind of odd, but I pick up bits too….I always thought that was the point.

JWatts December 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

“You can choose to run your mouth, but you have no control over how it impacts other people. ”

What someone else says to you only impacts you if you choose to let it. Whereas violence effects you regardless. I’m not arguing that humiliation and name calling between spouses is a good thing, but it’s fundamentally not as bad as actual violence or even threats of violence. Violence is not the same as hurting someones self esteem. Conflating the two makes for a poor argument.

axa December 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

could it be that money after all the hate-speech it has received? could it help to be less stressed and happy? these people worry about not enoug food, or deciding between rent and health. really stressful situations, maybe a little bit of help mitigate the frustations than evolve into psychological violence.

curious about the lenght of the study, could the effects be just temporary? short or long term cash transfers?, I won’t spare 40 usd buying the article.

Paulo Carmona December 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

A very interesting statement, hope domestic violence could reduce with home education.

Basil December 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Interesting study below about the impacts of cable t.v. on the status of women.

Abstract

Cable and satellite television have spread rapidly throughout the developing world. These
media sources expose viewers to new information about the outside world and other ways of life,
which may a ffect attitudes and behaviors. This paper explores the eff ect of the introduction of
cable television on women’s status in rural India. Using a three-year, individual-level panel
dataset, we find that the introduction of cable television is associated with significant decreases in
the reported acceptability of domestic violence towards women and son preference, as well as
increases in women’s autonomy and decreases in fertility. We also fin d suggestive evidence that
exposure to cable increases school enrollment for younger children, perhaps through increased
participation of women in household decision-making. We argue that the results are not driven by
pre-existing differential trends.

http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/emily.oster/papers/tvwomen.pdf

Totio Filipov December 21, 2012 at 7:43 am

Interesting point. Domestic violence is a huge problem and I too think that sometimes it is caused exactly by the lack of cash transfers in one way or another.

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