Absence of conflict of interest.
Cardoso, E., & de Souza, A. F. (2009). The impact of cash transfers on child labor and school enrollment in Brazil. In P. F. Orazem, G. Sedlacek, & Z. Tzannatos (Eds.), Child labor and education in Latin America: An Economic perspective. Houndmills, U.K. and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of two Brazilian income transfer programs (Minimum Income and Bolsa Escola) on child labor and school enrollment.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of children ages 10 to 15 that received the conditional cash transfers with those who had not, based on data from the 2000 Brazilian Census. Using several demographic characteristics, they created a matched comparison group of families who had not received the transfers but who had similar characteristics to the treatment group to assess the effectiveness of the cash transfer program.
- The study found that the income transfer programs were significantly associated with an increase in school enrollment but not significantly associated with child labor.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the income transfer programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Income Transfer Programs (Minimum Income Program and Bolsa Escola)
Features of the Intervention
Brazil’s income transfer programs provide grants to children between the ages of 7 and 14 conditional on school attendance. The programs were implemented in 1995 in one district and expanded in 1996 across the country. By 1999, the authors estimate that there were 61 programs implemented across the country, under municipality jurisdiction. Additionally, the Minimum Income Program was developed by the Ministry of Education in 1998 with municipalities with lower per capita income, targeting children ages 7 to 14 in school. The program provided an average of 37 Reais per month for 504,000 families, assisting around one million children in 20 percent of Brazilian municipalities as of December 1999. In 2001, the federal government replaced the Minimum Income Program with Bolsa Escola Federal, which was implemented in 99.7 percent of Brazilian municipalities, and provided cash transfers to benefit five million children. The program paid 15 Reais ($6 USD) for each child in families with a per capita monthly income of below 90 Reais, conditional on school attendance.
Features of the Study
The authors used a nonexperimental design (propensity score matching) to compare the outcomes of children ages 10-15 that received an income transfer with those who had not received it (waitlisted families), based on data from Brazil’s 2000 Census. The Census collected information on whether families received any income transfer or assistance from either the Minimum Income or Bolsa Escola programs, as well as unemployment insurance and handicap assistance. This study was focused on the Minimum Income and Bolsa Escola programs and dropped children from the sample if they had a handicapped member in their family, because the Census question included a handicapped aid transfer with the Bolsa Escola program, and the authors wanted to eliminate the effect of the handicapped transfer. Using several demographic characteristics (child, household, and community level) to assess the effectiveness of the cash transfer programs, the authors created a matched comparison group of families who reported that they had not received any income transfer to compare them to families in the treatment group who reported they had received an income transfer. The authors completed four analyses to include samples of: all families, poor children only, children with employed parents only, and poor children with employed parents only. The authors used a logit model separately for girls and boys to compare the schooling attendance and child labor outcomes of the treatment and control groups.
- The study did not find a significant relationship between the income transfer programs and child labor for boys or girls.
Education (School participation/enrollment)
- The study found that participation in the income transfer programs was significantly associated with a 3-4 percentage point increase in school enrollment for boys and girls.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors created a matched group of non-participating eligible families to compare to income transfer participating families. However, the authors did not account for the outcomes at baseline, such as previous school attendance or child labor. Preexisting differences between the groups—and not the program/intervention— could explain the observed differences in outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the income transfer programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.