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Leveling the intra-household playing field: Compensation and specialization in child labor allocation (Del Carpio & Macours 2010)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Del Carpio, X. V., & Macours, K. (2010). Leveling the intra-household playing field: Compensation and specialization in child labor allocation. In R. K. Akee, E. V. Edmonds, & K. Tatsiramos (Eds.), Child Labor and the Transition Between School and Work (pp. 259-295). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of Atención a Crisis ("Attention to the Crisis”), a conditional cash transfer program, on the allocation of child labor within poor households with two or more children. This summary focuses on the comparison between all treatment groups and the control group.
  • The study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in northwest Nicaragua. The authors analyzed data from a household survey given at baseline and nine months into the program. The authors compared household allocation of child labor by age and gender of children in households with two or more children.
  • The study found that in treatment households, economic labor significantly decreased for boys but not girls. Boys significantly decreased their hours per week in economic work (including agricultural, livestock, and non-agricultural economic activity) by 1.3 hours compared to girls. Older boys aged, 10-15, showed a larger, significant reduction in economic work by 2.8 hours a week compared to their siblings.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial with low attrition. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Atención a Crisis, and not to other factors.

Features of the Intervention

Atención a Crisis was implemented by the government between November 2005 and December 2006 in six municipalities affected by a severe drought and classified as extremely poor in northwest Nicaragua. The conditional cash transfer program’s goal was to serve as a short-term safety net for families experiencing poverty and reducing "adverse coping mechanisms" such as selling resources or pulling children out of school. It also aimed to promote long-term enhancement of resources and ability to earn income. The program consisted of three packages: 1) a basic conditional cash transfer (CCT) which was a $235 total payment plus an additional $25 per child conditional on regular school and health services attendance; 2) the basic CCT plus a scholarship for a household member to receive occupational training; and 3) the basic CCT plus a grant to the household to start a non-agricultural income-generating project. Households receiving the third package also had to develop a business plan and were provided with technical assistance and training.

Features of the Study

The study was a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a CCT program on labor allocation in households with two or more children aged 6-15. Communities in six targeted municipalities were assigned by lottery to treatment or control groups (56 treatment and 50 control). Municipalities were targeted because they were both drought-affected and had high levels of rural poverty. Baseline data was used to identify eligible households within the communities based on the poverty and vulnerability scores. In the treatment communities, 3,000 households were identified as eligible and were assigned by lottery to one of the three treatment conditions (1,000 each). From a random sample of 1,100 households in the control communities, 1,000 households were also identified as eligible using the same methodology to measure poverty and vulnerability to serve as the control group. During the study period the scholarships were delayed so the first and second treatment conditions consisted of the basic CCT only.

The sample for this study includes all households with at least two children between the ages of 6 and 15 (1,597 households). At baseline, the households are poor with expenditures per family member around $250 USD per year; households included seven members on average of which approximately four were under age 15. Households had very little education (less than three years on average) and most households (90%) were self-employed in agriculture. Boys (6-15) worked 4.5 hours a week in economic activities and girls (6-15) 2.1 hours. Older children (10-15) worked 5.8 hours a week in economic activities, while children 6-10, worked only 1.3 hours in economic activities.

Survey data were collected at baseline and nine months into the program. Child labor outcomes included the number of hours worked per week in economic activities (non-agriculture, agriculture, and livestock), chores, and domestic labor. Using an intent-to-treat approach, the study analyzed the differences in intra-household labor allocations between all treatment households and the control households using statistical models.

Findings

Working children/Child labor

  • The study found that boys in the treatment households significantly reduced participation in economic work by 1.3 hours a week compared to girls.
  • Older boys, aged 10-15, showed a further significant reduction in economic work by 2.8 hours a week compared to their siblings.
  • participation was not significantly related to economic work, chores, or domestic work for girls.
  • Program participation was not significantly related to chores or domestic work for boys.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

After randomization, based on conversations with community leaders, 3.7 percent of households in the treatment communities deemed eligible were moved to non-eligible and 3.7 percent of households deemed non-eligible were moved to eligible. To prevent this from biasing the results, the researchers analyzed the data as "intent-to-treat" and analyzed those households as part of their originally assigned groups. The study includes domestic work and chores 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 economic 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 with low attrition. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Atención a Crisis, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2018

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