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Can Conditional Cash Transfers Serve as Safety Nets in Keeping Children at School and from Working

Alain de Janvry, Frederico Finan, Elisabeth Sadoulet, and Renos Vakis. 2006. “Can Conditionnal Cash Transfers Serve as Safety Nets in Keeping Children at School and from Working when Exposed to Shocks?” Journal of Development Economics, 79(2): 349-373.


Income shocks on poor households are known to induce parents to take their children out of school and send them to work when other risk-coping instruments are insufficient. State dependence in school attendance further implies that these responses to short-run shocks have long-term consequences on children’s human capital development. Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, where the condition is on school attendance, have been shown to be effective in increasing educational achievements and reducing child work. We ask the question here of whether or not children who benefit from conditional transfers are protected from the impacts of shocks on school enrollment and work. We develop a model of a household’s decision regarding child school and work under conditions of a school re-entry cost, conditional transfers, and exposure to shocks. We take model predictions to the data using a panel from Mexico’s Progresa experience with randomized treatment. Results show that there is strong state dependence in school enrollment. We find that the conditional transfers helped protect enrollment, but did not refrain parents from increasing child work in response to shocks. These results reveal that CCT programs can provide an additional benefit to recipients in acting as safety nets for the schooling of the poor.

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