How effective are conditional cash transfers? Evidence from Colombia

Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes are becoming an extremely popular tool for improving the education and health outcomes of poor children in developing countries. An incomplete list of countries in which they are being implemented under the support of the World Bank and other international financial institutions includes Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, Turkey and Mozambique. While the implementation details vary from country to country, many are modelled on the Mexican PROGRESA. In a typical CCT, mothers from poor backgrounds receive cash conditional on their promoting certain activities on behalf of their children. For their youngest children – usually those below the age of 6 – the conditionality involves visits to preventive healthcare centres in which their growth is monitored. School attendance is the most common stipulation for receipt of cash transfers for older children – usually those between 7 and 17 years old. This targeting of health and education of children is at the essence of the long-term poverty alleviation objective of CCT programmes. Such transfer programmes are also aimed at the short-term reduction of poverty, through the provision of immediate funds to indigent households. In this Briefing Note, we will focus on the programme Familias en Acción (FA), the CCT implemented by the Colombian government from 2001/02. In particular, we will provide estimates of how the programme has influenced key welfare indicators such as school attendance, child nutrition and health status, as well as household consumption.