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Limiting child labor through behavior-based income transfers: An experimental evaluation of the PETI program in rural Brazil (Yap et al. 2009)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Yap, Y. T., Sedlacek, G., & Orazem, P. F. (2009). Limiting child labor through behavior-based income transfers: An experimental evaluation of the PETI program in rural Brazil. In P. F. Orazem, G. Sedlacek, & Z. Tzannatos (Eds.), Child Labor and Education in Latin America (pp. 147-165). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. doi.org/10.1057/9780230620100_10

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Programa de Erradicacao do Trabalho Infantil (PETI) or Program to Eradicate Child Labor on child labor and hours in school.
  • The authors used an experimental design to compare the outcomes of children ages 7 to 14 residing in municipalities who received income transfers with those residing in municipalities who did not receive income transfers. Based on data from Brazil’s national household survey, the authors used statistical models to assess the impact of the program in each group.
  • The PETI program was significantly associated with an increase in time in school and less time in work for participating children.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because it is a randomized controlled trial with unknown attrition and 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 PETI program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Programa de Erradicacao do Trabalho Infantil (PETI) or Program to Eradicate Child Labor

Features of the Intervention

The Programa de Erradicacao do Trabalho Infantil (PETI) or Program to Eradicate Child Labor was launched in poor rural states in Brazil in 1996. The program offers monthly income transfers to households with a per capita income of below one-half of the minimum wage on the condition that the child(ren) in the household attends school at 80 percent of the time and attends an afterschool program, which doubles the school day. The program requires parents to sign a contract that their children will not work.

Features of the Study

The authors used data from six municipalities in each of three states in Brazil: Bahia, Sergipe, and Pernambuco, where three municipalities were in the treatment and three in control groups. Data were collected on 3,564 households with 6,772 children ages 7 to 14. The authors limited the sample to the poorest household, resulting in 2,864 households and 5,611 children. Each of the three states implemented the program in different time periods, Pernambuco for three years, Sergipe for two years, and Bahia for one year. The model specifications include the impact of PETI on the time in school and time in the labor market for children residing in participating municipalities versus those in control municipalities.

Findings

Employment/Child labor

  • The PETI program was significantly associated with a decrease in time in the labor force for participating children from 5 to 6 percentage points in Pernambuco, 18 percentage points in Bahia, and 4.5 percentage points in Sergipe.

Education (School participation/enrollment)

  • The PETI program was significantly associated with an increase in school attendance for participating children from 40 to 50 percent in Bahia and Pernambuco and 5 to 23 percent in Sergipe.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors used experimental data from a randomized sample of municipalities in Brazil. However, they did not include information on attrition or 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 it is a randomized controlled trial with unknown attrition and 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 PETI; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2018

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