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Cash or Condition? Evidence from a Randomized Cash Transfer Program

Conditional Cash Transfers

Abstract: Are the large enrollment effects of conditional cash transfer programs a result of the conditions or simply the cash? This paper presents the first experimental evidence on the effectiveness of conditionality in cash transfer programs for schooling. Using data from an intervention in Malawi that featured randomized conditional and unconditional treatment arms, the authors find that the program reduced the dropout rate by more than 40 percent and substantially increased regular school attendance among the target population of adolescent girls. However, they do not detect a higher impact in the conditional treatment group. This finding contrasts with previous non-experimental studies of conditional cash transfer programs, which found negligible “income” effects and strong “price” effects on schooling. The authors argue that their findings are consistent with the very low level of incomes and the high prevalence of teen marriage in the region. The results indicate that relatively small, unconditional cash transfers can be cost-effective in boosting school enrollment among adolescent girls in similar settings.

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Sarah Baird, Craig McIntosh and Berk Özler, World Bank

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