BREAD Working Paper No. 610, August 2022

Social Protection and Social Distancing During the Pandemic: Mobile Money Transfers in Ghana

Dean Karlan, Matt Lowe, Robert Osei, Isaac Osei-Akoto, Benjamin N. Roth and Christopher Udry



We study the impact of mobile money transfers to a representative sample of low-income
Ghanaians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement of the upcoming transfers
affects neither consumption, well-being, nor social distancing. Once disbursed, transfers
increase food expenditure by 8%, income by 20%, and a social distancing index by 0.08
standard deviations. Over 40% of the transfers were spent on food. The positive effects on
income mostly persist at final measurement, eight months after the last transfer. Together,
we learn that cash transfers can support households economically while also promoting
adherence to public health protocols during a pandemic.

JEL codes: O12, H51, H84

Download Paper in PDF Format