2020
Language:
English

Can conditional cash transfers improve maternal health care? Evidence from El Salvador's Comunidades Solidarias Rurales program

There is growing evidence on positive human capital impacts of large, poverty‐focused cash transfer programs. However, evidence is inconclusive on whether cash transfer programs affect maternal health outcomes, and if so, through which pathways. We use a regression discontinuity design with an implicit threshold to evaluate the impact of Comunidades Solidarias Rurales in El Salvador on four maternal health service utilization outcomes: (a) prenatal care; (b) skilled attendance at birth; (c) birth in health facilities; and (d) postnatal care. We find robust impacts on outcomes at the time of birth but not on prenatal and postnatal care. In addition to income effects, supply‐side health service improvements and gains in women's agency may have played a role in realizing these gains. With growing inequalities in maternal health outcomes globally, results contribute to an understanding of how financial incentives can address health systems and financial barriers that prevent poor women from seeking and receiving care at critical periods for both maternal and infant health.