I’ve been arguing recentlyÂ that one idea which should be randomly trialled in Indigenous communities in Australia is a cash payment for attending school. Blog reader Brendan Duong points out that I should get some succor from the success of a similar program in Colombia.
Conditional Cash Transfers in Education Design Features, Peer and Sibling Effects Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Colombia
Felipe Barrera-Osorio, Marianne Bertrand, Leigh L. Linden, Francisco Perez-Calle
We evaluate multiple variants of a commonly used intervention to boost education in developing countries — the conditional cash transfer (CCT) — with a student level randomization that allows us to generate intra-family and peer-network variation. We test three treatments: a basic CCT treatment based on school attendance, a savings treatment that postpones a bulk of the cash transfer due to good attendance to just before children have to reenroll, and a tertiary treatment where some of the transfers are conditional on students’ graduation and tertiary enrollment rather than attendance. On average, the combined incentives increase attendance, pass rates, enrollment, graduation rates, and matriculation to tertiary institutions. Changing the timing of the payments does not change attendance rates relative to the basic treatment but does significantly increase enrollment rates at both the secondary and tertiary levels. Incentives for graduation and matriculation are particularly effective, increasing attendance and enrollment at secondary and tertiary levels more than the basic treatment. We find some evidence that the subsidies can cause a reallocation of responsibilities within the household. Siblings (particularly sisters) of treated students work more and attend school less than students in families that received no treatment. We also find that indirect peer influences are relatively strong in attendance decisions with the average magnitude similar to that of the direct effect.
With luck, Columbia University’s Leigh Linden will be presenting this paper at the conference on ‘New Techniques in Development Economics’ that I’m co-organising at ANU on 19-20 June. We’re still sorting out the program, and I’ll post it soon.