Short-Term Impacts of an Unconditional Cash Transfer Program on Child Schooling
Experimental evidence from Malawi
This study analyzes the impact of a positive income shock on child schooling outcomes using experimental data from an unconditional cash transfer program in Malawi. Since households receive the cash and parents are responsible for making spending decisions, we also examine the intervening pathways between cash transfers and child schooling.
Data comes from a cluster-randomized study of Malawi's Social Cash Transfer Program (SCTP). After a baseline survey, households in village clusters were randomly assigned to treatment and control arms with treatment villages receiving transfers immediately and control villages assigned a later entry. We test for treatment impacts on a panel of school-aged children (6–17) using a differences-in-differences model.After a years' worth of transfers, we find the Malawi SCTP both improves enrollment rates and decreases dropouts. The main intervening pathway between the program and schooling is education expenditures, suggesting that the cash improves the demand for education by reducing financial constraints.
- The cash works mainly through an income effect to help children attend school.
- Households are able purchase school related items such as books and stationary.