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Does money matter ? The effects of cash transfers on child health and development in rural Ecuador

  • Paxson, Christina
  • Schady, Norbert

The authors examine how a government-run cash transfer program targeted to poor mothers in rural Ecuador influenced the health and development of their children. This program is of particular interest because, unlike other transfer programs that have been implemented recently in Latin America, receipt of the cash transfers was not conditioned on specific parental actions, such as taking children to health clinics or sending them to school. This feature of the program makes it possible to assess whether conditionality is necessary for programs to have beneficial effects on children. The authors use random assignment at the parish level to identify the program's effects. They find that the cash transfer program had positive effects on the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development of children, and the treatment effects were substantially larger for the poorer children than for less poor children. Among the poorest children in the sample, those whose mothers were eligible for transfers had outcomes that were on average more than 20 percent of a standard deviation higher than those for comparable children in the control group. Treatment effects are somewhat larger for girls and for children with more highly-educated mothers. The authors examine three mechanisms-better nutrition, greater use of health care, and better parenting-through which the transfers might influence child development. The program appeared to improve children's nutrition and increased the chance they were treated for helminth infections. But children in the treatment group were not more likely to visit health clinics for growth monitoring, and the mental health and parenting of their mothers did not improve.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4226.

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Date of creation: 01 May 2007
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4226
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  1. Jorge M. Aguero & Michael R. Carter & Ingrid Woolard, 2006. "The Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers on Nutrition: The South African Child Support Grant," SALDRU Working Papers 8, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  2. Lundberg, S.J. & Pollak, R.A. & Wales, T.J., 1994. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from U.K. Child Benefit," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 94-6, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  3. Paxson, Christina & Schady, Norbert, 2005. "Cognitive development among young children in Ecuador : the roles of wealth, health and parenting," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3605, The World Bank.
  4. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, 01.
  5. Maluccio, John A. & Flores, Rafael, 2004. "Impact evaluation of a conditional cash transfer program," FCND discussion papers 184, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  6. Jalan, Jyotsna & Ravallion, Martin, 2003. "Does piped water reduce diarrhea for children in rural India?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 153-173, January.
  7. Abhijit Banerjee & Angus Deaton & Esther Duflo, 2004. "Wealth, Health, and Health Services in Rural Rajasthan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 326-330, May.
  8. Donald Robertson & James Symons, 2003. "Do Peer Groups Matter? Peer Group versus Schooling Effects on Academic Attainment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 70(277), pages 31-53, February.
  9. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2006. "Addressing Absence," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 117-132, Winter.
  10. Hanan G. Jacoby, 2002. "Is There an Intrahousehold "Flypaper Effect"? Evidence From a School Feeding Programme," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 196-221, January.
  11. Jere R. Behrman & John Hoddinott, 2005. "Programme Evaluation with Unobserved Heterogeneity and Selective Implementation: The Mexican "PROGRESA" Impact on Child Nutrition," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 67(4), pages 547-569, 08.
  12. Sonalde Desai & Soumya Alva, 1998. "Maternal education and child health: Is there a strong causal relationship?," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 71-81, February.
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