Cash Transfers, Microentrepreneurial Activity, and Child Work: Evidence from Malawi and Zambia

Cash transfer programs are rapidly becoming a key component of the social safety net of many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The primary aim of these programs is to help households improve their food security and to smooth consumption during periods of economic duress. However, beneficiary households have also been shown to use these programs to expand their microentrepreneurial activities. Cluster-randomized trials carried out during the rollout of large-scale programs in Malawi and Zambia show that children may increase their work in the household enterprise through such programs. Both programs increased forms of work that may be detrimental to children, such as activities that expose children to hazards in Malawi and excessive working hours in Zambia. However, both programs also induced positive changes in other child well-being domains, such as school attendance and material well-being, leading to a mixed and inconclusive picture of the implications of these programs for children.