A healthier start: The effect of conditional cash transfers on neonatal and infant mortality in rural Mexico
Conditional cash transfer programs seek to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty by building the human capital of poor children. Despite their popularity throughout the developing world, relatively little is known about their effect on children's health outcomes. This paper evaluates the impact of the Mexican conditional cash transfer program, Progresa, on two important health outcomes: infant and neonatal mortality. It exploits the phasing-in of Progresa over time throughout rural Mexico to identify the impact of the program. The paper shows that Progresa led to a large 17% decline in rural infant mortality among the treated, but did not reduce neonatal mortality on average. The benefit-cost ratio is between 1.3 and 3.6. Tests for heterogeneity show larger declines for some groups including those municipalities whose pre-program levels of mortality were above the median, and those that prior to the program had higher illiteracy rates, and less access to electricity.
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