How Income Growth Shapes the State: A Village-Level Randomized Controlled Trial on Unconditional Cash Transfers, Community Engagement, and Local Politician Responses in Kenya
Unconditional cash transfers to poor households are one of the most important innovations in poverty reduction in the last quarter-century. We build on two studies which randomly allocate the rollout of an unconditional cash transfer program, run by GiveDirectly, a foreign NGO, across 1,041 villages in Western Kenya, with variation in the proximity of rollout to the August 2017 election. We propose collection of community-level data on public goods provision, engagement with citizens by politicians, and citizen civic participation, combined with consolidation of administrative data on these issues. We study how political processes and politicians respond to changes in village wealth, and, because transfers are not state provided, we can conduct a clean test of whether, as modernization theory predicts, increases in income increase civic participation and levels of social capital. In addition, the large scale of the cash transfer program offers a unique opportunity to study politician responses.