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Educational and child labour impacts of two food-for-education schemes: Evidence from a randomised trial in rural Burkina Faso (Kazianga et al. 2012)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Kazianga, H., De Walque, D., & Alderman, H. (2012). Educational and child labour impacts of two food-for-education schemes: Evidence from a randomised trial in rural Burkina Faso. Journal of African Economies, 21(5), 723-760. doi:10.1093/jae/ejs010.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of two food-for-education programs (a school meals program and a take home rations program) on education and labor outcomes for children. This summary focuses on the comparison between the school meals treatment group and the control group.
  • The study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted in low-income villages in northern rural Burkina Faso, West Africa. Villages were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups or a control group. Survey data were collected from randomly selected households located close to the schools in the villages. Outcomes were analyzed using difference-in-differences models.
  • The study found that the school meals program significantly increased all labor (productive labor plus domestic labor/household chores) for boys enrolled at the time of survey. However, the study also found that the school meals program significantly increased school enrollment for all children.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the school meals program, and not to other factors.

Features of the Intervention

Households in the Sahel region in northern rural Burkina Faso, West Africa are extremely poor and frequently experience food shortages. Also, the region has very low school participation rates with only 20 percent of children aged 6-16 attending school. The World Food Program (WFP) operates two food-for-education programs in the Sahel region that are conditional on school attendance. This includes canteens which provide meals to children during the school day and a take home rations program. Children in the school meals program received free lunch every school day. The school meals program is conditional on school enrollment and attendance as the children need to be in school to receive lunch. The program was offered to girls and boys. School teachers, in collaboration with the WFP, oversaw the administration of the program.

Features of the Study

The study was a randomized controlled trial. The authors randomly assigned 46 villages (each with a new school that opened in 2005-2006) to the treatment and control groups. Of these 46 villages, 16 were randomly assigned to the school meals intervention, 16 were randomly assigned to the take home rations intervention, and 14 were randomly assigned to the control group. The authors surveyed a random sample of 46 households around each new school. The food-for-education programs were implemented during the 2006-2007 school year. Data were collected from a baseline survey in June 2006 with a follow up survey in June 2007. Due to improper data collection and miscoding at baseline, the study included 15 villages in the school meals group, 15 villages in the take home rations group, and 12 villages in the control group. This resulted in an analysis sample of 2,208 households with 4,236 children (ages 6 to 15). Of these children, 1,493 children were in the school meals group, 1,498 were in the take home rations group, and 1,245 were in the control group. Child labor was measured as time spent in productive labor (e.g., farming, non-farming, and herding), domestic labor (e.g., getting water and/or firewood, household chores, and caring for younger siblings), or all labor (productive and domestic labor). Education outcomes included school enrollment and attendance. The authors used statistical models to compare the outcomes of each of the treatment groups and the control group.

Findings

Working children/Child labor

  • The study did not find significant differences between the school meals treatment group and the control group in time spent in productive labor or domestic labor/household chores.
  • However, the study found that for boys enrolled at the time of the survey, the school meals treatment increased all labor by 9 percent compared to the control group. No significant differences were found for girls.

Education (School participation/enrollment)

  • When compared to the control villages, the study found that participation in the school meals program significantly increased school enrollment by 3.9 percentage points for all children, 3.5 percentage points for girls, and 4.7 percentage points for boys.
  • In addition, the study found that boys in the school meals program villages attended significantly more days of school than those who lived in control villages (.9 days). No significant differences were found for girls.
  • However, for children who were enrolled at the time of the survey, the school meals program significantly decreased school attendance by 1 day for girls only. No significant differences were found for enrolled boys.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Since the school meals program was offered at the village level, the authors estimated the average intent-to-treat and included the program impact on all children in the village (regardless of enrollment status) and for children who were enrolled in school at the time of the survey. The study includes domestic labor as part of the aggregate measure of child labor which are excluded here because they are not part of CLEAR’s definition of child labor. Results reported are for productive labor only.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the school meals program, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

February 2021

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