Conditional cash transfers are an increasingly popular strategy for poverty reduction programs. The idea behind it is simple - money is provided to households that undertake certain activities, such as taking children for regular health check-ups or sending them to school. But despite a growing body of knowledge related to the use of conditional cash transfers, critical questions remain on how best to design and implement these programs to achieve maximum benefit to ensure sustained poverty reduction. Impact evaluations seek to give policymakers and others information they can use to devise effective programs
Project Title: Conditional and unconditional cash transfers in the Nahouri province of Burkina Faso
The Challenge: To ensure that children under 5 receive regular health checkups and access proper medical care when needed, and that school-age children attend primary school.
The Project: Cash transfers were given to mothers and fathers in about 3,200 households in 75 villages that had a primary school within a five-kilometer radius to encourage parents to take their children for routine healthcare visits.
The Findings: Conditional cash transfers boosted preventive health care visits for children by more than 40% regardless of the gender of the child or which parent received the money. Unconditional cash transfers did not have the same effect. The increase in checkups was greatest for children aged 24 to 59 months.
The Impact: The Government of Burkina Fast is using the findings to craft a new safety net project, which is in the preparatory stages. The findings are also being used to help define safety net programs in Burkina Faso.
Project Title: Tayssir: A conditional cash transfer program to keep rural children in school
The Challenge: How best to provide universal primary education in Morocco.
The Project: The parents of 80,000 students or primary school-aged children were given cash subsidies in return for keeping their children in school. In the first group, the family received money without conditions for each primary school-aged child, whether the child was registered in school or not. In the other three groups, the family received cash if children in grades 3 to 6 attended school, and a higher transfer was provided for girls. The groups were lightly, intensively, or fully monitored. A fifth group got no cash transfers.
The Findings: The cash had a positive impact on enrollment and in reducing the dropout rate and the repetition rate.
The Impact: The Government of Morocco expanded the program geographically and included additional grades, so that the program now reaches 690,000 students in the 434 rural communities covered by the national poverty reduction program.
Project Title: Chile Solidario
The Challenge: Finding the most effective way to boost the incomes of families living in extreme poverty.
The Project: Some 260,000 families in poor areas of Chile were given subsidies for varying lengths of time, and assigned a social worker.
The Findings: There was a 2 to 20 percent rise in living conditions, depending on the level of the subsidy and the length of time the recipient remained in the program. There was no short-term effect on unemployment, but urban, male-headed households assigned to a social worker with a light caseload showed the greatest improvement.
The Impact: The Government of Chile tailored the second phase of the project to more effectively target the appropriate population, and is planning to roll out the next phase in 2013. Changes include increasing the cash transfer amount and introducing new conditions on women seeking employment. In the meantime, beneficiaries of the current program will continue to receive subsidies and guidance until their benefits expire.
Project Title: National Community Empowerment Program
The challenge: To determine the best method to improve maternal and child health and education outcomes by evaluating a large-scale pilot program that gave block grants to villages in rural areas.
The Project: The pilot, called National Community Empowerment, distributed block grants to sub-districts in randomly-selected rural villages based on how well the villages did on 12 health indicators.
The Findings: Cash incentives based on the performance of the village in achieving specific health measurements led to better health outcomes, particularly in poorer areas of the village that had initially shown worse performance. Weight checks for children increased, and there were decreases in malnutrition and stunting. More pregnant women took iron supplements obtained at antenatal care visits.
The Impact: The Government of Indonesia decided to expand the pilot to three additional provinces and to emphasize interventions that curbed stunting, which were highly successful in the pilot project.
Project Title: Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF)
The Challenge: Determining the effectiveness of a conditional cash transfer program delivered through a social fund community-based model in mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS on children and the elderly.
The Project: 5,000 families representing 13,000 beneficiaries were given up to $18 per month, depending on the family size, conditioned on keeping their children enrolled in school, taking children under 7 for regular health checkups, and ensuring that elderly members of the household also went to health clinics on a regular basis.
The Findings: The project had a significant positive impact on children’s health and on household savings and household independence within the community.
The Impact: The Government of Tanzania is scaling up the project to include the country’s 123 districts and two islands. In the first phase, it will cover 250,000 households nationwide and combine the program with a cash-for-work program. The findings from the pilot may also inform the design and application of 13 other social fund programs in the Africa region.
Project Title: Oportunidades
The Challenge: Determining the long term impact of Oportunidades, a program that provides cash transfers to families conditional on children regularly attending school and on family members receiving regular checkups at health clinics.
The Project: Cash was provided to families conditional on children regularly attending school and on family members visiting health clinics for regular checkups. A control group was delayed entry into the program by 1.5 years.
The Findings: An increased number of older children who were enrolled in the program attended school, and there was a reduction in work for younger children, increases in work for older girls, and a shift away from agricultural work to nonagricultural work. The longer a child participated in the program, the more benefits he or she reaped. The evidence suggests the effects of schooling are robust over time. However, it is too early to determine the impact on income and poverty.
The Impact: The Government of Mexico expended the program to five states from an initial two and is creating a manual to guide implementation of the project, particularly counseling services, because the SIEF-funded impact evaluation found that implementation of services was often inadequate or not uniform.
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