Explaining the Impact of Cash Transfers on Child Schooling Outcomes: The Role of Parental Mediation in Malawi
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Using experimental data from a cash transfer program in Malawi, this study will analyze the indirect impacts of cash transfers on schooling outcomes because accruing cognitive competencies are crucial for healthy child development and successful transition to adulthood. While the mechanism of parental investment traditionally ties child outcomes to spending decisions, the second pathway of parental psychosocial well-being suggests that if the cash transfer helps to ameliorate the stresses of poverty, improving psychosocial well-being, this will strengthen the capacity of parents to provide better care for their children and improve parenting behaviors. Hence, the goal of this research is to come to a greater understanding of how income from existing poverty alleviation policy can improve child development outcomes to enhance the prospects of ending intergenerational poverty. This is particularly important for understanding unconditional cash transfers since there are no conditions to attribute changes in behavior.
The data for this study comes from an experimental impact evaluation of Malawi’s national Social Cash Transfer Program. After the baseline survey, households were randomly chosen to the treatment group (T) to receive transfers immediately or to the later entry control group (C). A follow-up survey concluded in February 2015 resulting in a panel of 3,369 households (7,192 school-age children). Using a difference-in-difference multivariate statistical model, we will compare the change between baseline and follow-up for T and C groups. Baseline results suggest that these parental behaviors are strong correlated to child schooling outcomes. Using panel data, the cash transfer is having positive impacts on child schooling outcomes including current enrollment, attendance, and temporary withdrawal. Moreover, caregiver psychosocial well-being is improved and families are spending more on their children. This preliminary evidence suggests that these mechanisms could help explain how income poverty alleviation impacts child human capital accumulation and potential for later-life success.