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Effect of the Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme on children's schooling, work and health outcomes: A multilevel study using experimental data (Luseno 2012)

Absence of Conflict of Interest.

Citation

Luseno, W. K. (2012). Effect of the Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme on children's schooling, work and health outcomes: A multilevel study using experimental data (Doctoral dissertation). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I (Accession No. 1240627043).

Highlights

  • The objective of the study was to examine the impact of the Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme (SCTPS) on child labor and school outcomes. 
  • The study was a randomized controlled trial conducted in the Mchinji district of Malawi. Within the district, eight villages were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control groups. Using survey data, the author compared the child labor and school outcomes of children ages 6-17 in households that received the cash transfer with those that did not receive the cash transfer.
  • The study found that when compared to the control group, children in the Mchinji SCTPS program had significantly: 1) increased school enrollment; 2) fewer school absences; and 3) worked fewer hours outside of the home. An unexpected finding was that children participating in the Mchinji SCTPS also had significantly higher rates of domestic work when compared to children 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 the estimated effects are attributable to the Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme (SCTPS)

Features of the Intervention

The Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme (SCTPS; the pilot of the Malawi Social Cash Transfer Scheme) was an unconditional cash transfer program geared toward households that were ultra-poor (i.e., in lowest quintile) and labor constrained (i.e., elderly head of household with no working adults aged 19-64, one adult is responsible for three dependent members, or contains a chronically ill or disabled adult). The program's goal was to alleviate poverty, increase school enrollment, and reduce hunger and malnutrition. Participating households received a monthly cash transfer that was dependent on household size and the number of school-aged children in the home. The monthly transfer amount ranged from $4.30 (USD) for a household of one member to $12.85 (USD) for a household with four members. Households received an additional $1.44 (USD) per month for each child in primary school and $2.88 (USD) per month for each child in secondary school.

Features of the Study

The author conducted a randomized controlled trial in the Mchinji district, with eight villages randomly assigned to either the treatment or control conditions. The district provided a roster with all the households who were eligible for the Mchinji SCTPS in the eight villages. The sample included 486 households with 1,193 children aged 6-17 (695 treatment and 498 control). Households in the treatment group received a monthly cash transfer, whereas households in the control group received monetary transfers after the study ended.

Data was collected using a survey with the head of household or other household designee at baseline (March 2007) and follow up (April 2008). For the analysis, the author used a two-level statistical model (children nested in households) to evaluate the effect on child labor and school outcomes. Child labor outcomes included domestic activities (chores inside the home) and economic activities (work outside the home). School outcomes included school enrollment and attendance.

Findings

Employment/Child labor

  • The study found a significant decrease in the number of hours spent in economic activities among children in households receiving the cash transfer compared to the control group. Children in these households worked 21 percent fewer hours in a week than those in the control group. There was no statistically significant difference in the rate of participation in additional economic activities or total number of work activities.
  • Unexpectedly, the study found a significant increase in the number of hours spent in domestic activities among children in households receiving the cash transfer compared to the control group. Children in households receiving the cash transfer worked 19 percent more hours in a week than those in the control group. The rate of participation in domestic activities also significantly increased for those receiving cash transfers, with children participating in 15 percent more domestic activities compared to the control group.

Education (School participation/enrollment)

  • The study found that children in households receiving the cash transfer had significantly greater odds of being enrolled in school at the year one follow-up compared to children in the control group.
  • In addition, the study found that children in households receiving the cash transfer missed significantly fewer days of school than those who did not receive the cash transfer. Children in households receiving the cash transfer missed 59 percent fewer days than those in the control group.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author’s statistical model only included the household and child level to measure effects. However, randomization occurred at the village level. Variation at the village level is not accounted for in the model, so the reported effects and standard errors may not be accurate.

It is also important to note that the treatment was associated with an increase in domestic work activities. CLEAR reviews consider any increases in child labor as an unfavorable 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 Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2018

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