Cash Transfers and Adolescent Welfare: Evidence from a Cluster-Randomized Experiment in Malawi
Interventions targeting adolescent girls are seen as key to breaking 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 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. The program, which transferred cash directly to school-age girls and 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 impacts, the experiment revealed differences in program effects between young women in school at the start of the intervention and those who 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 the lives of adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the heterogeneity of effects under different program designs.
Keywords: adolescent girls, cash transfers, female empowerment, randomized intervention