Do Conditional Cash Transfers Increase School Enrollment? Evidence from Brazil

Conditional cash transfer programs have been widely deployed across the globe. They seek to bolster human capital by providing benefits contingent upon a variety of actions such as school attendance and regular health checkups. Bolsa Familia is the most extensive conditional cash transfer program, serving 46 million Brazilian citizens. Despite its expansive size, there have been seldom large-scale micro evaluations of the program. Limited data has resulted in small sample sizes drawn from a single point in time. Our study diverges from the rest and utilizes a novel administrative dataset with an overall sample of nearly 60 million and a period of four years. We first examine the impact that Bolsa Familia has on school enrollment by establishing a baseline relationship via a fixed effect linear probability model. Then, we utilize fuzzy regression discontinuity approach that evaluates the school outcomes of families right above and below the income threshold. Initial linear probability regressions find that Bolsa Familia consistently reduces the risk of a child not being in school by around 11% for those currently enrolled. Our fuzzy regression discontinuity approach amplifies these results, suggesting that Bolsa Familia leads to a 53% reduction in dropout. Further, we find reductions in school non-enrollment rates amongst all ages, despite much of the literature only pointing to reductions for older children.