Senior Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank
University of Maryland – College Park
Research Fellow, Center for Global Development
Can short–term unconditional cash transfers (UCT) create longer-term impacts? In a new paper, Berk Özler and co-authors study a group of young women in Malawi, who participated in a two-year cash transfer experiment as adolescents, in order to understand the long-term impacts of these short-term cash transfers. More than two years after the end of transfers, they find that the substantial short-term benefits of the program have largely evaporated. Unconditional cash transfers (UCT) caused short-term reductions in marriage, fertility, and HIV infection, but the cessation of cash transfers is immediately followed by a wave of marriages and pregnancies, accompanied with a catch-up to the control group in HIV prevalence. For those who had already dropped out of school at the outset of the experiment, two years of conditional cash transfers produced a meaningful long-term increase in educational attainment, delays in marriage, declines in fertility, and a more educated pool of husbands; however they see no increase in employment rates, earnings, real-life capabilities, or empowerment, suggesting that schooling itself has not improved the medium-term welfare of young women in this context.
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