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Conditional, unconditional and everything in between: a systematic review of the effects of cash transfer programmes on schooling outcomes


  • Sarah Baird
  • Francisco H.G. Ferreira
  • Berk Özler
  • Michael Woolcock


Cash transfer programmes are a popular social protection tool in developing countries that aim, among other things, to improve education outcomes in developing countries. The debate over whether these programmes should include conditions has been at the forefront of recent policy discussions. This systematic review aims to complement the existing evidence on the effectiveness of these programmes in improving schooling outcomes and help inform the debate surrounding the design of cash transfer programmes. Using data from 75 reports that cover 35 different studies, the authors find that both conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) improve the odds of being enrolled in and attending school compared to no cash transfer programme. The effect sizes for enrolment and attendance are always larger for CCTs compared to UCTs, but the difference is not statistically significant. When programmes are categorised as having no schooling conditions, having some conditions with minimal monitoring and enforcement and having explicit conditions that are monitored and enforced, a much clearer pattern emerges whereby programmes that are explicitly conditional, monitor compliance and penalise non-compliance have substantively larger effects (60% improvement in odds of enrolment). Unlike enrolment and attendance, the effectiveness of cash transfer programmes on improving test scores is small at best. More research is needed that examines longer-term outcomes such as test scores and, more generally, evaluating the impacts of UCTs.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarah Baird & Francisco H.G. Ferreira & Berk Özler & Michael Woolcock, 2014. "Conditional, unconditional and everything in between: a systematic review of the effects of cash transfer programmes on schooling outcomes," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 1-43, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevef:v:6:y:2014:i:1:p:1-43
    DOI: 10.1080/19439342.2014.890362

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karen Macours & Norbert Schady & Renos Vakis, 2012. "Cash Transfers, Behavioral Changes, and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 247-273, April.
    2. repec:fpr:ifprib:michelleadato is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Adato, Michelle & Bassett, Lucy, 2012. "Social protection and cash transfers to strengthen familes affected by HIV and AIDS:," IFPRI books, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), number Michelle Adato.
    4. Adato, Michelle & Hoddinott, John (ed.), 2010. "Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America," IFPRI books, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), number 978-0-8018-9498-5.
    5. repec:fpr:resrep:michelleadato is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Dominic Richardson & UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2018. "Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report," Papers inorer948, Innocenti Research Report.
    2. Sebastian Galiani & Nadya Hajj & Pablo Ibarraran & Nandita Krishnaswamy & Patrick J. McEwan, 2016. "Electoral reciprocity in programmatic redistribution: Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 22588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Barr, Abigail & Dekker, Marleen & Janssens, Wendy & Kebede, Bereket & Kramer, Berber, 2017. "Cooperation in polygynous households," IFPRI discussion papers 1625, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Favara, Marta & Porter, Catherine & Woldehanna, Tassew, 2017. "Smarter through Social Protection? Evaluating the Impact of Ethiopia's Safety-Net on Child Cognitive Abilities," IZA Discussion Papers 10972, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. repec:eee:jeborg:v:149:y:2018:i:c:p:372-388 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. De Hoop,Jacobus Joost & Friedman,Jed & Kandpal,Eeshani & Rosati,Furio Camillo, 2017. "Child schooling and child work in the presence of a partial education subsidy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8182, The World Bank.
    7. de Walque, Damien & Valente, Christine, 2018. "Incentivizing School Attendance in the Presence of Parent-Child Information Frictions," IZA Discussion Papers 11637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Cynthia Miller & James Riccio & Nandita Verma & Stephen Nuñez & Nadine Dechausay & Edith Yang, 2015. "Testing a conditional cash transfer program in the U.S.: the effects of the family rewards program in New York City," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-29, December.
    9. Aregawi G. Gebremariam & Elisabetta Lodigiani & Giacomo Pasini, 2017. "The impact of Ethiopian Productive Safety-net Program on children’s educational aspirations," Working Papers 2017:26, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    10. M. Caridad Araujo & Mariano Bosch & Norbert Schady, 2017. "Can Cash Transfers Help Households Escape an Inter-Generational Poverty Trap?," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Poverty Traps National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Jacobus Hoop & Patrick Premand & Furio Rosati & Renos Vakis, 2018. "Women’s economic capacity and children’s human capital accumulation," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 31(2), pages 453-481, April.
    12. Paredes-Torres, Tatiana, 2017. "The impact of exposure to cash transfers on education and labor market outcomes," MPRA Paper 79008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Amin, Sajeda & Asadullah, Niaz & Hossain, Sara & Wahhaj, Zaki, 2016. "Can Conditional Transfers Eradicate Child Marriage?," IZA Policy Papers 118, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Alderman, Harold & Behrman, Jere R. & Tasneem, Afia, 2015. "The contribution of increased equity to the estimated social benefits from a transfer program: An illustration from PROGRESA:," IFPRI discussion papers 1475, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    15. Katherine Eyal & Lindokuhle Njozela, 2016. "What Difference Does A Year Make? The Cumulative Effect of Missing Cash Transfers on Schooling Attainment," SALDRU Working Papers 186, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    16. repec:eee:wdevel:v:99:y:2017:i:c:p:498-517 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:1-12 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Bhalotra, S.; & Karlsson, M.; & Nilsson, T.; & Schwarz, N.;, 2018. "Infant Health, Cognitive Performance and Earnings: Evidence from Inception of the Welfare State in Sweden," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 18/06, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.

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