Increasing Savings Among Cash Transfer Recipients in Tanzania


  • Behavioral interventions such as providing a place to keep savings and setting savings goals, in combination with those that target social norms and identity, are effective at increasing saving and productive investments among cash transfer recipients.
  • Behavioral interventions were approximately 1.5 times more effective at getting recipients to save than simply giving them the equivalent cash amount used to implement them.

The Challenge

Almost half of Tanzania’s population lives below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day, often lacking access to basic needs and opportunities to improve their livelihoods. The Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) program provides bi-monthly cash transfers to households to help increase access to income-generating opportunities. However, PSSN recipients faced difficulties in using their cash to invest in income-generating activities due to the higher and more salient cost of their pressing, immediate needs that make the investment goals feel unattainable.

Our Approach

We worked closely with the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) to conduct in-depth focus groups, allowing us to understand recipients’ goals for the program and why they faced challenges in saving their cash and investing in income-generating activities. We designed and implemented a suite of behaviorally informed interventions, that include a self-affirmation activity, a poster of descriptive norms, a goal-setting and plan-making activity, and a money pouch, to help recipients save and invest.


We tested these behavioral interventions through a randomized controlled trial with over 2,600 recipients across 64 villages in Tanzania. Recipients who received the intervention were 65% more likely to have saved, 30% more likely to have participated in a savings group, and 22% more likely to have made a productive investment in the past month. These interventions are also cost-effective; they were approximately 1.5 times more effective at getting recipients to save than simply giving them the equivalent cash amount used to implement them.


Our findings highlight the benefits that behavioral designs can have on cash transfer programs, including the PSSN program. By identifying and targeting key behavioral barriers to saving and investment amongst cash transfer recipients in Tanzania, recipients received more support towards achieving their saving and investing goals, and, therefore, were more likely to do so. The positive impacts of these interventions have prompted TASAF to scale these behaviorally designed interventions throughout their program, with plans to scale designs to 500,000-600,000 households throughout the country. This work provides further evidence that behavioral interventions are an impactful, cost-effective tool that should be used to enhance outcomes for cash transfer programs and promote better livelihoods at scale.

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