Can Cash Transfers Increase Social Distancing During Covid-19? Evidence from Colombia

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Can Cash Transfers Increase Social Distancing During Covid-19? Evidence from Colombia

February 28, 2022

Governments around the world have used cash transfers to reduce human mobility during the current coronavirus pandemic, yet little is known about the effectiveness of this policy. We evaluate the impact of a large unconditional cash transfer program in Colombia using geolocated cellphone data and administrative records tracking the number of beneficiaries. We find that the program had an average null effect on mobility across the country but significantly reduced it in the largest cities. We test for different explanations and conclude that mobility responds relatively more to cash in places with high civic capital.