Understanding External Determinants of the Effectiveness of Cash Conditional Transfers-

Lead Research Organisation: RAND Europe Community Interest Company
Department Name: Policy Audit and Governance


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Attanasio O (2015) Building social capital: Conditional cash transfers and cooperation in Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

Description Decreasing resources and a growing number in extreme poverty as a result of the recent financial crisis will require policymakers to find efficient ways to effectively alleviate poverty.

Recently, there has been an exponential increase in the number and scope of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes as a way to provide households with financial resources to meet subsistence needs while encouraging investment in children's human capital.

These programmes have been evaluated extensively, but important questions are outstanding. CCTs have very heterogeneous impacts in different contexts. Understanding how this heterogeneity is explained by institutional factors, the availability of supply-side services and household conditions can help to understand the mechanisms through which CCTs obtain the impacts they do. Without this knowledge, it is difficult to determine the likelihood that CCTs will effectively alleviate poverty in the current economic environment. To answer these questions, this study first involves a review of empirical evidence from pilot programmes, household surveys and evaluations to identify institutional and household variables that have contributed to different impacts.

This study will then involve 5 case studies to analyse these variables in detail, and to investigate the interplay between institutional and household variables, and CCT programme outcomes in specific contexts.

We broadly looked at four different areas related to conditional cash transfer programmes (CCTs) and their effectiveness.

In a first area we looked at how whether conditionalities mattered. In the well-known Oportunidades program in Mexico, it has often been observed that the program has sizeable effects on enrolment in secondary school but virtually no effect on primary school enrolment. An obvious question therefore is whether the program could be made more effective reducing or eliminating the primary school grant (which is effectively unconditional) and using those resources to increase the secondary school grant. However, it is possible that the primary school transfer plays a different role, maybe having an impact on nutrition or health outcomes. If so, while removing the primary school grant may involve substantial budget savings, it may also have undesirable equity and distributional implications. In this paper, we investigate this issue and exploit the randomized nature of the data and baseline household structure to isolate the impact of the primary school grant from the impact of the program package on outcomes. In other words, we look at whether the impact of Oportunidades on the health and nutrition outcomes of small children or the school enrolment of older children is affected by them having siblings entitled to the primary school grant. Our findings suggest no direct effects of the primary school grant on child health, household consumption and secondary school enrolment.

In the case of Familias en Accion, because the program officials wanted to avoid fertility effect of the cash transfer, it was stated at the start of the program that new children would not be registered for the program and, as a consequence, they would not be subject to the conditionalities imposed by it. In particular, parents would not be obliged to take children born after the registration to the program to growth and development check up visits. We therefore compare the visits attended by children born before and after registration. We find that the children born after attend significantly less visits. Moreover, when we use this variation to identify the impact of the visits on the nutritional status of children, we find that conditionalities seem to have a strong impact on hard outcomes such as education and health.

A second area is the impact of CCTs on social capital. We conducted an experimental game on the behaviour of the beneficiaries (and potential beneficiaries) of a CCT program in Colombia. The game allows us to derive a quantitative and precise definition of social capital. We then use the expansion of the CCT program in 2007 to adopt a diff in diff strategy to identify the impact of CCT on social capital. In 2005 the CCT was implemented as a pilot in a neighbourhood of the city of Cartagena. When, in 2007, we played our game in that neighbourhood and in similar neighbourhood where the program had not been implemented, we found that 7% of players exhibited pro-social behaviour in the latter and 35% in the former. Moreover, and most strikingly, when we played the same game in the two neighbourhoods in 2008 a year after the program had been expanded to the second neighbourhood, we found that the share of pro-social behaviour was 36% and 22% (and not statistically different) in the two neighbourhood. In other words, while the share of pro-social behaviour increased by 30% between 2007 and 2008 in the neighbourhood where the program was implemented (a statistically significant change), in the neighbourhood where the program was in place in both years it went from 33 to 22 (a change that was not statistically significant). These results provide credible evidence that the CCT program had a big impact on social capital.

A third area looked at particularly at the quality of implementation of a CCT. This research using the example of Bolsa Familia (BF) in Brazil aims to promote a greater understanding of how the 'black box' of implementation in a CCT programme interacts with the quality of implementation. The 'black box' of implementation refers here to programme and external factors that could impact the outcome of the programme such as: the capacity of municipalities; the supply of services; the integration of services; geography; political motivations; levels of poverty; and urban versus rural context. By taking data from federal Brazilian datasets related to these factors and administrative data on the quality of implementation from the BF programme, this paper models associations between the key variables. The findings suggest some nuanced findings on capacity and the nature of poverty in municipalities, which seems to suggest that overall resources are perhaps less important than the approach taken in a municipality to BF implementation. The supply-side appears to matter, both in terms of the quality of services associated with beneficiaries meeting BF conditionalities as well as how they are provided. As a result, the research suggests that those designing CCTs should perhaps invest more in the supply of services.

In this research, we also looked at how transformative a CCT programme is likely to be in terms of redesigning local realities and institutional structures (e.g. how implementation is organised at the local level). This research on the basis of case studies in three Northeastern states of Brazil investigates how this opportunity has been used by actors to reshape municipal service delivery. The findings suggest that change has been mostly incremental and in line with previous practice. As such Bolsa has not been revolutionary and in most cases reinforcing of existing practices of service delivery. For instance, there have not been significant shifts in accountability.

Very few studies have considered the fact that the PROGRESA program in rural Mexico had heterogeneous impact on school enrolment and varying by education level. Most of the impacts at the primary school level are concentrated in the less poor states; whereas more of the impacts at the secondary school level are concentrated amongst the richest states in the evaluation sample. We investigate whether these differences can be explained by the availability of services in the community, including distance to school, and the level of marginality of the community as computed by the government statistical agency (CONAPO). We find that the cash transfer alleviates the monetary constraint that prevented households from sending their children to school - especially at the secondary level. However, a minimum level of community infrastructure (services) is required in order for the effects of the program to be maximised. In other words, there is a supply constraint in less developed or lower capacity areas, which translates in lower program impacts.

A fourth area considered the relationship between the perceptions of beneficiaries and their engagement with a CCT. This research explores the Asignación Universal por Hijo (AUH) programme in Argentina. AUH provides an opportunity for close engagement between the national government and citizens across the country. Interactions go through the social security administrative body. This particular institutional arrangement has implications for programme delivery and efficacy, and how citizens in Argentina experience the state on a daily basis. However, little is known about how this particular institutional arrangement might impact on people's experience and engagement with the programme, as well as their perceptions of the roles and responsibilities of the state, and how these are being fulfilled. This study indicates the likely value of taking a holistic view of the different dimensions of a policy and its implementation, and of the context within which it is experienced, to more accurately interpret how individuals develop attitudes towards that policy. For example, pressing and immediate concerns about employment opportunities strongly affected hesitancy among participants to fully support the programme, which could be perceived as being in tension with support for the programme on humanitarian grounds. Past experiences of other social assistance programmes also informed how individuals' interpreted AUH. While many were dissatisfied with their interactions with individual social security staff, a key reason for maintaining a positive attitude towards programme implementation was that its reliability and transparency were improvements on previous policies, which were implemented through point men and intermediaries.
Exploitation Route We hope to engage more with practitioners going forward
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/conditional-cash-transfers.html
Description We see broadly three main areas for exploitation. In the first instance, our findings contribute to a growing literature on the effectiveness of CCTs. As such, the findings of our research related to conditionalities, the link between the programme and social capital, the quality of implementation, and beneficiary attitudes advance our understanding of how CCTs work and how these programmes can be improved going forward. This links to a second area for exploitation. Policy makers interested in introducing and improving CCTs can take some of these findings and see how they are relevant to the design and implementation of social programmes in their own context. In the past year, we took steps to engage policy makers in shaping the research and disseminating the research. This included engagement with DfID officials, the World Bank, in country programme officials, and conferences. Finally, the research can assist in capacity building in the countries studied. As part of the research we engaged with local officials and local researchers and have advanced their understanding of how the programmes work and research techniques. The outputs of our work can contribute to all three areas. Also, the research can be leveraged to achieve follow-on grants and funding to continue the work in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. Again, this will strengthen collaboration between UK institutions and also researchers globally. We see strong links between this research and the decisions policy makers make in the design and implementation of CCTs. Part of our dissemination activities are focused on policy makers at different levels of government (e.g. Brazil) to improve their understanding of the programmes they are involved in. the aim is to improve their knowledge base and improve the decisions they make regarding the programme.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic