Cash transfers to households and the Covid-19 pandemic
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We provide an analysis of cash transfers to Italian households, with particular emphasis on the period of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus. After a brief description of the changes in household economic conditions over the last two decades, the paper focuses on the main innovations that affected the system of monetary transfers to households in the years that preceded the pandemic and in 2020-21. The discussion develops reasoning on the variations across time in the relative importance of the numerous monetary transfers which characterize the Italian welfare system through a comparative perspective with other European countries. We also provide a brief synthesis of the characteristics and effects that the emergency measures introduced by the government have had, concluding with some suggestions on the possible legacy left by this exceptional period. The main evidence that emerges is a continuous long-run increase – although far from eye-catching – in the redistributive effect of cash transfers, which is also confirmed by the policies enacted as a reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the evident urgency of state intervention in smoothing the disruptive economic consequences of the recent crises, our interpretation upholds a positive expansion of the Italian welfare state in the last twenty years.