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Household micro-entrepreneurial activity and child work: Evidence from two African unconditional cash transfer programs (de Hoop, et al. 2017)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

de Hoop, J., Groppo, V., & Handa, S. (2017). Household micro-entrepreneurial activity and child work: Evidence from two African unconditional cash transfer programs. Retrieved from https://sites.tufts.edu/neudc2017/files/2017/10/paper_303.pdf

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of unconditional cash transfers on child labor and school attendance in Malawi and Zambia. This summary focuses on the Zambia Multiple Categorical Targeting Group (MCTG) program.
  • The study used a randomized controlled trial to compare outcomes between children in households that received the cash transfer with children in households that did not.
  • The study found that children in the treatment group were significantly more likely than children in the control group to participate in livestock herding and collect water or firewood. However, program participants were significantly more likely to attend school than those in the control group.
  • 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 any estimated effects are attributable to Zambia's Multiple Categorical Targeting Group program and not to other factors.

Features of the Intervention

Zambia has been implementing cash transfer programs since 2004. The latest program, the Zambia Multiple Categorical Targeting Group (MCTG) program, was implemented in 2011. To be eligible for the MCTG program, households needed to fall into one of four categories: (1) a female leads the household and the household has orphans; (2) an individual 60 or older leads the household and the household has orphans; (3) the household has a person with disabilities; or (4) the household has another need such as two older adults who cannot take care of themselves. Eligible households received a cash transfer equivalent to $11 USD (55,000 ZMW) per month regardless of household size.

Features of the Study

The study was a randomized controlled trial. The authors randomly selected 92 villages in the districts of Serenje and Luwingu for inclusion in the study. They randomly assigned half of the villages to the treatment group who could receive the cash transfer, and half to the control group who could only receive the cash transfer after the study was complete.  

Baseline survey data collection occurred between November and December 2011; follow-up survey data were collected November to December 2014. At baseline, the study included 5,109 children, who were 5-14 years old. At the two-year follow-up, the sample size was 4,245. The authors did not provide separate sample sizes for the treatment and control groups. However, they noted the difference in attrition rates, which was not statistically significant.

Child labor outcomes included participation in and the number of hours spent on economic activities (livestock herding, working in the family business, and paid work outside the household) and household chores (collecting water/firewood, taking care of children, cooking, or cleaning). The authors also assessed the program’s effect on excessive hours of work in the week prior (defined as 28 or more hours in household chores or more than one hour spent in an economic activity for children aged 5-11, more than 14 hours spent in an economic activity for children aged 12-14, or more than 43 hours spent in an economic activity for children aged 15-17). The authors used statistical models to assess the impact of the program, controlling for age and gender.  

Findings

Working children/Child labor

  • The study found that children in the treatment group were significantly more likely to participate in livestock herding and collect water or firewood than children in the control group (four percentage points).
  • The study found that the MCTG program significantly increased the time spent livestock herding by 0.1 hours per week and significantly increased the time spent collecting water or firewood by 0.3 hours per week for children in the treatment group versus the control group.
  • Compared to the control group, children in the treatment group were significantly more likely to engage in excessive hours in economic activities or chores (five percentage points).
  • However, the study did not find significant differences between the treatment and control groups in participation in work outside the household and the hours of paid work outside the household.

Education (School participation/enrollment)

  • The study found that children in the MCTG program were significantly more likely to attend school than children in the control group (eight percentage points).

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors noted they did not collect baseline data for the child labor outcomes. Instead they assessed baseline equivalence using demographic household characteristics and education outcomes. They did not have baseline equivalence for the treatment and control groups. They found statistically significant differences in age, which was then used in the regression as a control variable. The groups were also not balanced on the school attendance outcome, so the authors used a difference-in-differences model to analyze the program impact on that outcome

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 Zambia Multiple Categorical Targeting Group (MCTG) program and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2021

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