Fellow 2010-11

Richard Akresh


Akresh imageBurkina Faso: Randomized Evaluation of Conditional and Unconditional Cash Transfers

Conditional cash-transfer programs are the largest and fastest-growing social-assistance programs in developing countries. These programs transfer resources to poor households, on the condition that the families take steps to increase the health and education of their children. Little is currently known about why the programs show large impacts on children’s schooling and health. Most cash-transfer programs (a) are conditional on compliance with certain requirements and (b) provide resources to the mother. It has been impossible to disentangle how much of any observed impact results from the recipient’s gender, from an income effect, or from a change in relative prices associated with a program’s conditionality.

During his Center appointment, Professor Akresh will undertake a research project in rural Burkina Faso to explore this question. He will use a random experimental design to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the following programs targeting poor households: conditional cash transfers given to the father, conditional cash transfers given to the mother, unconditional cash transfers given to the father, and unconditional cash transfers given to the mother. The research design will allow for comparisons across interventions and with a control group and help to determine impacts on children’s health, early childhood development, and schooling. The entire project is expected to last two years.

The Burkina Faso government and the World Bank have committed to using evaluation results from Professor Akresh’s research to select the kind of cash-transfer scheme to expand to the rest of the country. Thus, the project will directly affect the lives of millions of children in Burkina Faso, with worldwide implications stemming from a better understanding of the causal mechanisms underlying the impacts of such programs.