In response to a post on the Freakonomics blog about how the President of Ireland would not likely be influenced by the latest work from a top researcher, Chris Blattman suggests that development economist should work harder to disseminate their results to the public and policy makers.
So with that in mind and some shameless self promotion. An article I co-authored was recently published in the World Bank Economic Review. The article examines a conditional cash transfer program in Nicaragua. The program paid money to families if they sent their children to school, took children in for regular health checkups, and mothers went to regular health seminars.
Another interesting twist of the program is that mothers received the cash payment, with the idea women were more likely than men to spend money on children’s health and schooling. Previous evaluations had shown the program was extremely effective at increasing schooling and spending on food.
In the paper I wrote I was concerned that even though the mothers physically received the cash payment, husbands might take away the money particularly if the women does not have much power in household decisions. This could result in the program not being as effective for households with dominant husbands, which are also the households where the children need the most help. However, by giving money to women it might help increase their power in the household and improve schooling and spending on food for children.
In short the results I found show the second story. That the program was infact more effective at increasing school enrollment and spending on food for household with less powerful women. So not only was the cash transfer program successful, it had the greatest impacts for those who needed it most.
I doubt that a major policy maker is reading this blog. However, if they do the Nicaraguan program which no longer exists was extremely effective. Luckily Brazil and Mexico have continued with similar programs on a national scale.