It might seem counter-intuitive, but in some 45 countries across the globe, it’s working: Governments are handing cash to the poor to use at their own discretion, writes Christopher Werth in Newsweek. Some 110 million families are getting aid, and the World Bank has spent $5.5 billion on “cash-transfer programs"—and evidence shows that recipients “make smart choices, especially on matters of health and education,” Werth notes.
“It changes the dynamics of the way people conceptualize welfare,” says a researcher. “Both parties have rights and responsibilities.” Some examples: In South Africa, one such program has halved the number of kids not attending school. Another program has sliced child malnutrition by 45% in Brazil. These programs aren't a "magic bullet," cautions Werth. "Giving money to poor mothers may increase school attendance, but it has yet to show it can improve dysfunctional schools or actual learning." But "what’s becoming clear is that developing countries can decide what’s best for them, and so can their citizens."