DT 03 - 23 Transferencias públicas, diversificación de la dieta y gasto de los hogares. El caso de la Tarjeta Uruguay Social

Several Latin American countries’ social protection systems are increasingly adopting prepaid magnetic cards as a means to promote food consumption and other essential goods. However, little is known about how these transfers affect household spending and consumption patterns or their advantages over cash options in high- and middle-income countries. To contribute to the ongoing discussion, this paper analyzes the effects of Tarjeta Uruguay Social (TUS) on food consumption, dietary diversity, and non-food spending, based on information from the 2016/17-second follow-up survey gathered for the evaluation of Asignaciones Familiares Plan de Equidad (AFAM-PE) and TUS. Based on a fuzzy regression discontinuity design identification strategy, we assess the effects of TUS on food consumption patterns, food expenditure, and a diet diversity index (DDI). We also analyze non-food spending and its components, and three potential explanatory channels: the infra /extra-marginality of the transfer; labour market attachment of the beneficiaries; and self-reported consumption decisions within the household. We find scarce effects regarding food expenditure and the DDI, which could be mainly associated with the infra-marginality of the transfer concerning household food expenditure.
However, the analysis of heterogeneous effects indicates that, although weak, in those poorer households that receive doubled TUS amounts, positive changes are registered in the DDI and fruits and legumes consumption. At the same time, there are no major changes in the rest of the consumption items, although there is an increase in expenditure in housing, personal hygiene and cleaning material and an imprecise effect on education and recreation expenses, as well as a decrease in indebtedness. The above elements suggest that the TUS behaves like a purely monetary transfer.