Girl Power: Cash Transfers and Adolescent Welfare. Evidence from a Cluster-Randomized Experiment in Malawi
NBER Working Paper No. 19479
Interventions targeting adolescent girls are seen as a key component in the fight to break the cycle of poverty in developing countries. Policies that enable them to reach their full potential can have a strong impact not only on their own wellbeing, but also on that of future generations. This paper summarizes the short-term impacts of a cash transfer program on the empowerment of adolescent girls in Malawi during and immediately after the two-year intervention. We find that the program, which transferred cash directly to school-age girls as well as their parents, had effects on a broad range of important domains – including increased access to financial resources, improved schooling outcomes, decreased teen pregnancies and early marriages, better health – and generally enabled beneficiaries to improve their agency within their households. Underlying these overall impacts, the experiment revealed important differences in program effects between young women who were in school at the start of the intervention and those that were not, as well as between young women who received cash transfers conditional on regular school attendance and those who received cash unconditionally. The results point to the potential role that cash transfer programs can play in improving the lives of adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the heterogeneity of effects under different program designs.
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