Assessing long-term impacts of conditional cash transfers on children and young adults in rural Nicaragua

Assessing long-term impacts of conditional cash transfers on children and young adults in rural Nicaragua

Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes, which offer families cash grants conditional on attendance at school or preventive health visits, have expanded rapidly over the past decade. Although there is substantial evidence of their positive short-term impacts on education, health and poverty reduction, little is known about their long-term effects on the human capital and labour market outcomes they target to break the inter-generational transmission of poverty.

This report investigates whether a well-implemented programme that led to large improvements in health, nutrition and education in the short run also resulted in improved cognitive functioning, schooling, learning and labour market outcomes 10 years after the programme start. It also also explore the programme's sustainability via analysis of household-level expenditures. Given the research questions and the potential (but unknown) relationship between cognitive development, education and migration, it was paramount to our study to minimise attrition. As such, extensive migrant tracking was a key component of the research design.

The authors find that boys exposed in utero and during the first two years of life, have better cognitive outcomes when they are 10 years old than those exposed in their second year of life or later. These results are important from a policy perspective as they confirm that interventions that improve nutrition and/or health during the first 1,000 days of life can have lasting positive impacts on cognitive development for children. However, there are no differential impacts on anthropometrics, despite short-term differences resulting from the programme, demonstrating that complete catch-up in anthropometrics was possible. It is also found catch-up in physical growth for the same age girls.

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