Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Public Policy
This dissertation examines the impacts of a social cash transfer program for poverty alleviation in Malawi on caregiver and child outcomes and whether these impacts can be explained by changes to household behaviors or mindsets. The data for this study comes from a cluster-randomized study of the Government of Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Program that provides unconditional cash payments to ultra-poor, labor-constrained households. After a baseline survey, households in the study were randomly chosen to the treatment group to receive transfers immediately or to the later entry control group. A follow-up survey was then conducted after 12 months of transfers to the treatment group. This dissertation uses this experimental panel data to provide causal evidence on whether Malawi’s program impacts child outcomes and parental behaviors. The goal of this research is to come to a greater understanding of how cash transfers may improve the chances of ending poverty transfers across generations. This dissertation consists of three essays to meet this goal: In the first essay, I show the impacts of the cash transfer program on adult caregiver subjective well-being. In the second and third essays I examine child development outcomes of schooling and mental health respectively and whether parental behaviors mediate the direct impact from the cash transfer.