Absence of conflict of interest.
Datt, G., & Uhe, L. (2014). A little help may be no help at all: Child labor and scholarships in Nepal. Monash Business School Department of Economics Discussion Paper, 50/14.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of school scholarships in Nepal on child labor.
- Using the 2010 Nepal Living Standards Survey III, the authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the labor outcomes of scholarship recipients to those who did not receive scholarships.
- The study found that scholarship receipt was significantly related to an increase in extended-economic work for girls. However, higher scholarship values were significantly related to a reduction in the number of hours spent in economic and extended-economic work for girls.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in the study is low because the authors did not control for pre-intervention outcomes. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the scholarship program; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Features of the Intervention
Nepal’s scholarship programs began in the 1970s to increase access and bring equity to schooling for girls, ethnic minorities, and disadvantaged communities. In order to be eligible for a scholarship, public schools provide data on the type of students enrolled and the Nepal Department of Education determines scholarship distribution and allocations. Receipt of the scholarship is not conditional on any factors, which distinguishes the program from a conditional cash transfer program. In 2010, around one-fifth of children ages 8 to 16 years old were receiving a scholarship, which are in three main categories: scholarships for girls; scholarships for Dalits (caste); and scholarships for "poor and talented."
Features of the Study
The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the labor outcomes of children ages 8 to 16 who received the scholarship with those who did not receive it, using data from the 2010 Nepal Living Standards Survey III. The authors created a matched comparison group based on child characteristics (e.g., age), parent characteristics (e.g., maternal education), household characteristics (e.g., household size), access to resources (e.g., access to schooling); and durable goods ownership (e.g., owning a fridge). The sample included 3,354 girls (812 treatment and 2,542 comparison) and 3,268 boys (322 treatments and 2,946 comparison). Child work was measured as the total hours of work per week, hours in economic work, hours in extended economic work, and hours in domestic work. Authors estimated the program effects separately for boys and girls.
Working children/Child labor
- The study found that receipt of a scholarship was significantly related to an increase in extended economic work for girls; as girls’ extended economic work increased by under one hour per week when they were awarded a scholarship.
- Alternatively, the study found that scholarships valued at 4 and 5% of the poverty line were significantly related to a decrease in girls' economic work.
- Scholarships valued at 3, 4, and 5% of the poverty line were also significantly related to a decrease in girls' extended economic work, whereas scholarships valued at 0% of the poverty line were significantly related to increases in extended economic work for girls.
- The authors also combined economic and extended economic work, and the study found that a decrease in girls’ work was significantly related to scholarships valued at 3%, 4%, or 5% of the poverty line.
- The receipt of scholarships or scholarship value were not significantly related to child labor for boys.
- The receipt of scholarships or scholarship value were not significantly related to domestic work for boys or girls.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups in child labor outcomes before scholarship receipt. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the scholarship—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. Additionally, the type of scholarship is not distinguished in the results, and, therefore, it is not clear if a particular type of scholarship may lead to increases or decreases in child labor.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in the study is low because the authors did not control for pre-intervention outcomes. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the scholarship program; other factors are likely to have contributed.