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  • Individual Author: Fiszbein, Ariel; Schady, Norbert; Ferriera, Francisco H. G.; Grosh, Margaret; Keleher, Niall; Olinto, Pedro; Skoufias, Emmanuel
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2009

    The potential impact of the global financial crisis of 2008 on living standards in the developing world has given renewed emphasis to the importance of social safety net programs. The right policies can be a smart investment in an uncertain world. This report reviews the evidence on conditional cash transfers (CCTs)—safety net programs that have become popular in developing countries over the last decade. It concludes that CCTs generally have been successful in reducing poverty and encouraging parents to invest in the health and education of their children.

    The CCT programs studied in the report span a range of low- and middle-income countries; large and small programs; and those that work at local, regional, and national levels. Although there are important differences between countries and regions in how CCTs are used, they all share one defining characteristic: they transfer cash while asking beneficiaries to make prespecified investments in child education and health.

    The largest CCTs, such as Brazil’s Bolsa Família and Mexico’s Oportunidades, cover millions of...

    The potential impact of the global financial crisis of 2008 on living standards in the developing world has given renewed emphasis to the importance of social safety net programs. The right policies can be a smart investment in an uncertain world. This report reviews the evidence on conditional cash transfers (CCTs)—safety net programs that have become popular in developing countries over the last decade. It concludes that CCTs generally have been successful in reducing poverty and encouraging parents to invest in the health and education of their children.

    The CCT programs studied in the report span a range of low- and middle-income countries; large and small programs; and those that work at local, regional, and national levels. Although there are important differences between countries and regions in how CCTs are used, they all share one defining characteristic: they transfer cash while asking beneficiaries to make prespecified investments in child education and health.

    The largest CCTs, such as Brazil’s Bolsa Família and Mexico’s Oportunidades, cover millions of households. In Chile and Turkey, CCTs are focused more narrowly on extremely poor and socially excluded people, whereas CCTs in Bangladesh and Cambodia have been used to reduce gender disparities in education. Most recently, CCT pilot programs are being implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa to help alleviate the plight of millions of orphans in the wake of the continent’s devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic. CCTs are proven versatile programs, which largely explains why they have become so popular worldwide.

    This report considers the impact that CCTs have had on current poverty, education, health, and nutrition outcomes. It draws heavily on a large number of carefully constructed impact evaluations of CCT programs. As the authors note, it would not have been possible to write this report without the efforts made by the administrators of CCT programs themselves, a number of academics, and staff at international organizations, including the World Bank, to encourage and sustain these evaluations, and to make the results widely available. This clearly is a legacy worth sustaining.

    By and large, CCTs have increased consumption levels among the poor. As a result, they have resulted in sometimes substantial reductions in poverty among beneficiaries—especially when the transfer has been generous, well targeted, and structured in a way that does not discourage recipients from taking other actions to escape poverty. Because CCTs provide a steady stream of income, they have helped buffer poor households from the worst effects of unemployment, catastrophic illness, and other sudden income shocks. And making cash transfers to women, as virtually all CCTs do, may have increased the bargaining power of women (itself an important goal in many contexts).

    In country after country, school enrollment has increased among CCT beneficiaries—especially among the poorest children, whose enrollment rates at the outset were the lowest. CCT beneficiaries also are more likely to have visited health providers for preventive checkups, to have had their children weighed and measured, and to have completed a schedule of immunizations. These are important accomplishments. Nevertheless, the report shows that the evidence of CCT impacts on final outcomes in health and education—achievement and cognitive development rather than school enrollment, child height for age rather than growth monitoring—is more mixed. An important challenge for the future is better understanding what complementary actions are necessary to ensure that CCTs have greater impact on these final outcomes. This report argues that these complementary actions broadly fall into two categories: policies that improve the quality of the supply of health and education services, and policies that help promote healthier and more stimulating environments for children in their homes.

    Even the best-designed CCT program cannot meet all the needs of a social protection system. It is, after all, only one branch of a larger tree that includes workfare, employment, and social pension programs. The report therefore considers where CCTs should fit within a country’s social protection strategy.

    As the world navigates a period of deepening crisis, it has become vital to design and implement social protection systems that help vulnerable households weather shocks, while maximizing the efforts of developing countries to invest in children. CCTs are not the only programs appropriate for this purpose, but as the report argues, they surely can be a compelling part of the solution. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Barrera-Osorio, Felipe; Bertrand, Marianne; Linden, Leigh; Perez-Calle, Francisco
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2011

    Using a student level randomization, we compare three education-based conditional cash transfers designs: a standard design, a design where part of the monthly transfers are postponed until children have to re-enroll in school, and a design that lowers the reward for attendance but incentivizes graduation and tertiary enrollment. The two nonstandard designs significantly increase enrollment rates at both the secondary and tertiary levels while delivering the same attendance gains as the standard design. Postponing some of the attendance transfers to the time of re-enrollment appears particularly effective for the most at-risk children. (author abstract)

    Using a student level randomization, we compare three education-based conditional cash transfers designs: a standard design, a design where part of the monthly transfers are postponed until children have to re-enroll in school, and a design that lowers the reward for attendance but incentivizes graduation and tertiary enrollment. The two nonstandard designs significantly increase enrollment rates at both the secondary and tertiary levels while delivering the same attendance gains as the standard design. Postponing some of the attendance transfers to the time of re-enrollment appears particularly effective for the most at-risk children. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Filmer, Deon; Schady, Norbert
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2009

    There is increasing evidence that conditional cash transfer programs can have large impacts on school enrollment, including in very poor countries. However, little is known about which features of program design—including the amount of the cash that is transferred, how frequently conditions are monitored, whether noncomplying households are penalized, and the identity or gender of the cash recipients—account for the observed outcomes. This paper analyzes the impact of one feature of program design—namely, the magnitude of the transfer. The analysis uses data from a program in Cambodia that deliberately altered the transfer amounts received by otherwise comparable households. The findings show clear evidence of diminishing marginal returns to transfer size despite the fact that even the larger transfers represented on average only 3 percent of the consumption of the median recipient households. If applicable to other settings, these results have important implications for other programs that transfer cash with the explicit aim of increasing school enrollment levels in developing...

    There is increasing evidence that conditional cash transfer programs can have large impacts on school enrollment, including in very poor countries. However, little is known about which features of program design—including the amount of the cash that is transferred, how frequently conditions are monitored, whether noncomplying households are penalized, and the identity or gender of the cash recipients—account for the observed outcomes. This paper analyzes the impact of one feature of program design—namely, the magnitude of the transfer. The analysis uses data from a program in Cambodia that deliberately altered the transfer amounts received by otherwise comparable households. The findings show clear evidence of diminishing marginal returns to transfer size despite the fact that even the larger transfers represented on average only 3 percent of the consumption of the median recipient households. If applicable to other settings, these results have important implications for other programs that transfer cash with the explicit aim of increasing school enrollment levels in developing countries. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Lindert, Kathy; Linder, Anja; Hobbs, Jason; de la Brière, Bénédicte
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2007

    This paper is one in a series of World Bank Working Papers that seeks to document the experience of Brazil’s Bolsa Família Program. It highlights the key “nuts and bolts” of designing and implementing the BFP in Brazil’s decentralized context. Like other conditional cash transfers (CCTs), the BFP seeks to help (a) reduce current poverty and inequality, by providing a minimum level of income for extremely poor families; and (b) break the intergenerational transmission of poverty by conditioning these transfers on beneficiary compliance with human capital requirements (school attendance, vaccines, pre-natal visits). The program also seeks to help empower BFP beneficiaries by linking them to other complementary services.

    As the largest conditional cash transfer in the developing world, the BFP has attracted significant attention both in Brazil and beyond. As such, this paper has two key audiences – and two corresponding objectives.

    First, the primary audience is international, given world-wide interest in the Bolsa Família Program. This international target audience...

    This paper is one in a series of World Bank Working Papers that seeks to document the experience of Brazil’s Bolsa Família Program. It highlights the key “nuts and bolts” of designing and implementing the BFP in Brazil’s decentralized context. Like other conditional cash transfers (CCTs), the BFP seeks to help (a) reduce current poverty and inequality, by providing a minimum level of income for extremely poor families; and (b) break the intergenerational transmission of poverty by conditioning these transfers on beneficiary compliance with human capital requirements (school attendance, vaccines, pre-natal visits). The program also seeks to help empower BFP beneficiaries by linking them to other complementary services.

    As the largest conditional cash transfer in the developing world, the BFP has attracted significant attention both in Brazil and beyond. As such, this paper has two key audiences – and two corresponding objectives.

    First, the primary audience is international, given world-wide interest in the Bolsa Família Program. This international target audience thus includes: policy makers, practitioners, and potential future practitioners of CCTs working in other countries who are interested in learning more about Brazil’s experience with the BFP, particularly given its decentralized context. For this audience, the paper highlights some of the key features of the program including:

    • The program as a reform program, which consolidated four pre-reform programs into one, building on Brazil’s decade of experience with CCTs;
    • The size and rapid expansion of the program, now reaching 11.1 million families (over 46 million people), making it the largest program of this type in the world;
    • The very impressive targeting accuracy of the program, and the recently demonstrated impacts on reducing poverty and inequality;
    • The implementation of the BFP in Brazil’s decentralized context and the development and use of innovative performance-based management mechanisms to promote incentives for quality implementation in this context so as to overcome the “principal-agent” dilemma;
    • The role of the BFP as a unifying force in social policy, integrating social policy both horizontally across sectors and vertically across levels of government; and
    • The “natural laboratory for innovation” that has emerged in Brazil’s decentralized context, for experimenting with exit policies and graduation approaches.

    Second, the topic is clearly of interest to audiences in Brazil. As such, we seek to document the evolution of the design and implementation of the BFP under the first Lula Administration, taking stock of the main advances and highlighting key priorities for the future, including:

    • Priority actions for further strengthening of the “basic architecture” of the program: strengthening conditionalities monitoring, fine-tuning targeting, expanding coverage to reduce errors of exclusion, and enhancing oversight and controls; and
    • Possible innovations for the graduation agenda, including: (a) enhancing educational conditionalities (via bonuses for grade completion and graduation and incentives for older children to attend school); and (b) linking BFP beneficiaries to complementary services. (author abstract)
  • Individual Author: Ponce, Juan; Bedi, Arjun
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2010

    Throughout Latin America, conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs play an important role in social policy. These programs aim to influence the accumulation of human capital, as well as reduce poverty. In terms of educational outcomes, a number of impact evaluation studies have shown that such programs have led to an increase in school enrollment, ensured regular school attendance and led to a reduction in child labor. Theoretically, such cash transfer programs may also be expected to exert a positive impact on students’ test scores, but related empirical evidence is scarce. Accordingly, this paper evaluates the impact of a cash transfer program, the Bono de Desarrollo Humano of Ecuador, on students’ cognitive achievements. The paper uses a regression discontinuity strategy to identify the impact of the program on second grade cognitive achievement. Regardless of the specification and sample used, we find no impact of the program on test scores, suggesting that attempts at building human capital, as measured by cognitive achievement, require additional and alternative...

    Throughout Latin America, conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs play an important role in social policy. These programs aim to influence the accumulation of human capital, as well as reduce poverty. In terms of educational outcomes, a number of impact evaluation studies have shown that such programs have led to an increase in school enrollment, ensured regular school attendance and led to a reduction in child labor. Theoretically, such cash transfer programs may also be expected to exert a positive impact on students’ test scores, but related empirical evidence is scarce. Accordingly, this paper evaluates the impact of a cash transfer program, the Bono de Desarrollo Humano of Ecuador, on students’ cognitive achievements. The paper uses a regression discontinuity strategy to identify the impact of the program on second grade cognitive achievement. Regardless of the specification and sample used, we find no impact of the program on test scores, suggesting that attempts at building human capital, as measured by cognitive achievement, require additional and alternative interventions. (author abstract)

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