Research Article

Economic empowerment or cash-dependency for orphans and vulnerable children in Kenya: Evidence from an alternative to cash-only models


Michael L. Goodman, Stanley Gitari, Philip H. Keiser, Lauren Raimer-Goodman


Goodman, M. L., Gitari, S., Keiser, P. H., & Raimer‐Goodman, L. (2017). Economic empowerment or cash‐dependency for orphans and vulnerable children in Kenya: Evidence from an alternative to cash‐only models. International Journal of Social Welfare, 26(1), 37-48.

Publication Date

Jan 1 2017

Publication Year




Orphan and vulnerable children (OVC) often have worse educational, developmental, nutritional, and behavioral outcomes than non-OVC. Much of these disparities come from reduced household earnings due to the loss of parental income.

The present study used conditional process analysis to evaluate income and savings among OVC households, using cross-sectional data from 1,060 OVC in a 3-year Kenyan empowerment program that combined elements of cash transfer, psychosocial support, and small business entrepreneurship. Higher monthly earnings were significantly associated with program participation in a graded fashion. Approximately one-third of the association was mediated by material inputs, indicating that a substantial portion may be explained by other unobserved program elements. Eighty-five percent of increased rates of saving money in the past year were mediated by improved monthly income, cash transferred and improved food consumption. Data analysis highlights the need for multisectoral approaches and the need for more research to understand how to improve household economic stability among OVC. Key Practitioner Message:

• Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are at risk of greater poverty, leading to multiple developmental and health challenges;

• Current policy in Kenya to offset costs of caring for OVC utilizes monthly cash transfers to households providing care for OVC;

• The present study found that increases in monthly income in an OVC multisectoral empowerment program were largely due to factors beyond the material inputs.