Skip to main content

Conditional cash transfers in education: Design features, peer and sibling effects. Evidence from a randomized experiment in Columbia (Berrera-Osorio et al. 2008)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Barrera-Osorio, F., Bertrand, M., Linden, L.L., & Perze-Calle, F. (2008). Conditional cash transfers in education: Design features, peer and sibling effects. Evidence from a randomized experiment in Columbia (World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4580). Washington, DC: World Bank.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of Subsidios Condicionados a la Asistencia Escolar, a conditional cash transfer program (CCT), on school participation and child labor. This summary focuses on the comparison between the savings treatment group and the control group in San Cristobal.
  • The study was a randomized controlled trial in two districts in Columbia (San Cristobal and Suba). The authors compared the differential effects of receiving the cash transfer on outcomes for those in the treatment group versus those in the control group.
  • The study did not find any significant differences in child labor, school attendance, or school enrollment between students receiving the savings treatment and the control group.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because there was compromised randomization but the authors ensured that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Subsidios Condicionados a la Asistencia Escolar, but other factors might also have contributed. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.

Intervention Examined

Subsidios Condicionados a la Asistencia Escolar (Conditional Subsidies for School Attendance)

Features of the Intervention

The city of Bogota in Columbia initiated a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, Subsidios Condicionados a la Asistencia Escolar (Conditional Subsidies for School Attendance), in two districts (San Cristobal and Suba). The program included three variations of the cash transfer. The first CCT was a “basic” treatment that provided $30,000 pesos (USD $15) for 80 percent school attendance in a month. Students were removed from the program if they did not pass their grade level, did not make the attendance requirement for two consecutive months, or were expelled. The second CCT was a “savings” treatment that provided a payment of $20,000 pesos on a bimonthly basis, and $10,000 pesos deposited into a savings account that was available when students were preparing for the next school year, if they reached the attendance target. Students who met the attendance requirement each month also received an additional $100,000 pesos at the end of the school year. The third CCT, “tertiary,” was conditional on graduation and moving on to higher education and not school attendance. Students received a monthly subsidy of $20,000 pesos and also received $600,000 pesos upon graduation and enrollment in a tertiary institution. The basic and savings treatments were available to students in San Cristobal while the basic and tertiary treatments were available to students in Suba.

Features of the Study

The study used a randomized controlled trial and stratified children on locality (San Cristobal and Suba), gender, type of school (private or public), and grade level. The inclusion criteria for the study included the completion of at least grade 5 but not yet completed grade 11, and the students’ family must have been from the two bottom categories of the poverty index in Columbia, the System of Identification for Social Assistance Beneficiaries (SISBEN). The students from San Cristobal were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups (basic or savings), or the control group. The treatment group consisted of 6,875 students and the control group consisted of 4,072 students. In Suba, students were assigned to one of two treatment conditions (basic or tertiary), or the control group. Specifically, children who had completed grades 6-8 were assigned the basic treatment, and those in grades 9-11 were assigned to the tertiary treatment. The treatment group consisted of 2,857 students and the control group consisted of 3,505 students. However, due to budgetary constraints, the study authors chose to collect data only in the 68 schools that had the largest number of registered children, which reduced the total possible sample to 9,768 students.

Child labor outcomes included the number of hours worked in the previous week and the allocation of time between work and school. School participation outcomes included school enrollment and school attendance. Data sources included SISBEN surveys, program registration information, administrative records from the Secretary of Education for enrollment information, baseline and follow-up student surveys, and observation data for attendance. The data were analyzed by comparing the treatment groups to one another, as well as to the control by study site.

Findings

Employment/Child labor

  • The study did not find any significant differences in the number of hours worked between students receiving the savings treatment and the control group.

Education (School participation/enrollment)

  • The study did not find any significant differences in school attendance or school enrollment between students receiving the savings treatment and the control group.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors note that due to budget constraints they only collected data from the 68 schools with the largest registered numbers of children, occurring after randomization. This data collection process may have created systematic differences between the treatment and control groups, thereby compromising the randomization.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because there was compromised randomization but the authors ensured that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Subsidios Condicionados a la Asistencia Escolar, but other factors might also have contributed. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.

Reviewed by CLEAR

November 2018

Topic Area