Demographic Externalities from Poverty Programs in Developing Countries: Experimental Evidence from Latin America
Conditional cash transfer programs have been shown to be effective development strategies for raising human capital investments in children in many LDCs. In this paper, we use experimental data from cash transfer programs in three Latin America countries to assess the potential, unintended impact of conditional cash transfers programs on childbearing. Because cash transfer programs both affect household resource levels as well as possibly shape parental preferences for quality versus quantity of children, they may prove to have unintended demographic externalities. Our findings show that the program in Honduras, which may have inadvertently been designed to create incentives to have children, may have in fact raised fertility by somewhere between 2-4 percentage points – a non-negligible impact in a country where fertility is relatively high. In the two other countries where the programs did not include the same unintentional incentives, Mexico and Nicaragua, we found no net impact of the programs on fertility. Our analysis also explored the potential mechanisms through which fertility in Honduras may have risen and we find that marriage rates may have increased. Furthermore, there is some indication in the other two countries that contraceptive use rose but this might be simply to counteract the impact of reduced spousal separation – another possible unintentional impact of the poverty programs.
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