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When the Money Runs Out: Evaluating the longer-term impacts of a two-year cash transfers program


Berk Ozler
Senior Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank


Sebastian Galiani
University of Maryland – College Park


Justin Sandefur
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.

*The CIRF series is an academic research seminar that brings some of the world's leading development scholars to discuss their new research and ideas. The presentations are at times technical, but retain a focus on a mixed audience of researchers and policymakers. There’s more about the series here.

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