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Jack Lewis

I thought this was a very interesting article on conditional cash transfers, a concept I have never heard of until today. After reading about the results of the study, I was glad to see that these programs have been extended to over 60 countries in the past 20 years. Additionally, I applaud the authors for looking into the long-term effects of these programs, as it seems that their research has contributed greatly to similar literature.
From talking about the impact women's involvement in the economy can have on a country, it was inspring to see how when looking at outcomes for the labor market, household economic wellbeing, and educational attainments, women were positively affected, and more than men in some circumstances. I also felt that I was able to follow along with their empirical strategy relatively well by seeing familiar terms from other economics classes, which helped in my understanding. It would be very helpful to run the same regressions and the same framework but for other countries that have implemented CCT programs. I wonder how Mexico would stack up against other countries and if the effects of CCT programs have been felt more positively or negatively, and why? Would economies worse off than Mexico benefit more from CCT programs?

Tyler Waldman

The dichotomy of the Progresa program’s effects on women and men was one of the key findings of Parker and Vogl’s work. Making policy decisions for a program that undoubtedly benefits one group of people over another presents an interesting dilemma. This relates to Esther Duflo’s paper on literature regarding Women's empowerment in economic development. To advance the role of women in an economy (and therefore promote economic development) there has to be a trade-off of resources for men. It’s also akin to the literature on sustainability in economic development: to preserve resources for the future, we must use fewer resources in the present. All of these examples highlight the difficulty of making trade-offs and underline how economic policy underscores what policymakers truly prioritize. The paper says that one of the secondary goals of the program was to advance gender parity in education. If those with power in the Mexican government want to continue this excellent promotion of the role of women in society, they would increase funding for Progresa and continue the successful program. I couldn’t easily find data on the program’s funding, but it’s safe to say the Covid pandemic could divert attention away from funding a social program like Progresa. I’d be interested to see how Progresa evolves over time and if the effects will compound as consecutive generations have access to education and health care. As of January 2020, Mexican women had the second lowest labor market participation rate of all OECD countries. Will the program continue if Women reach similar levels to men in education and employment?

Patrick Rooney

Reading this paper, exposed to me for the first time the idea of conditional cash transfers (CCT). Previously, I have taken a class on economic development from more of a global macroeconomic perspective, so seeing research on how the role on incentives with CCT can alleviate poverty. This study specifically looks at the Progresa Program in Mexico which provides cash if two conditions are met: the first, children must regularly attend school, the second, family members must visit health clinics for checkups. I would be very curious to see how many unique CCT programs have arisen in different countries. Also, I believe it would be valuable to see which specific programs have been the most successful in economic development. For example, are CCTs which prioritize health and vaccines more effective than those that prioritize education and maintaining a job? Obviously, these questions are extremely difficult to answer for CCT as it takes a prolonged period of time and development to see the full repercussions of these programs. Also, I think it’s important to note that much like IMF policy, there probably isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to CCT programs, as each country has a unique culture and issues they must tackle. But I do find it very positive that these programs are now running in more than 60 countries.
Additionally, I do not find it surprising that there are verifiable results on the positive impact Progresa had on women’s education and labor force participation. In class, we repeatedly emphasize the importance of women’s education and labor force participation in sustainable economic development, so it is great so see how programs like Progresa in Mexico are making this a priority. In my Latin America politics class, we learned about a similar program called Bolsa Familia in Brazil. This program essentially gave families cash if their kids remained in school and the children of the household were up to date on their vaccines. I am eager to do more research on what other Latin American countries have followed suit with similar programs to Mexico and Brazil as well.

Will Kistler

This paper was my first reading about conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs. These programs seem to be highly worthwhile and should perhaps be given more attention on a global scale. Specifically, the Progresa program sounded like a massive success as it covered nearly a quarter of all families in Mexico during its peak around 1995. In the paper, the author states that Progresa “remained largely rural throughout” and that “two-thirds of its household beneficiaries derive from communities with less than 2500 inhabitants”. With that being said, this particular CCT program vaguely reminded me of one of Gary Fields’ Dualistic Development strategies–the traditional-sector enrichment growth typology.
By focusing on the most impoverished communities and helping to decrease inequality in the country, the mission of this program is very similar to the development strategies we have already discussed. Additionally, this effect can be seen on a more micro scale as the economists used a locality-level marginality index to help the households that needed the most help. My only concern with the CCT program is if households are able to handle the financial insecurity of potentially forfeiting their current jobs/time commitments in order to take the leap and spend time on the incentivized programs.

Sarah Wittpenn

I thought it was really interesting to read about conditional cash transfers (CTT) programs. I think that these types of programs are something that has been talked about in some of my other classes like POV and Social Issues but I am surprised they are not more widely discussed as solutions and opportunities for countries to improve the wellbeing of their citizens. They seem like they would be a massive success and helpful to incentive people to act in their best interest and then get rewarded for it.

I think that incentivizing and rewarding people for their better behavior and smarter decisions is one of the best ways that programs can help individuals. It is not as effective to just give these households a lump sum of money with no say of how they should spend it.

Likewise, I think that the steady flow of income will help protect these households from the vicious cycle of poverty. This kind of system will help target the roots of these individuals poverty status and allow them to stay on their feet.

Another part that was specifically interesting was the section on women. Given our previous discussions on women it makes sense that there would be benefits with the education and employment of women; however I think another really interesting part of it is them having access to funds and getting the cash transfer. This is huge for women as they will have more bargaining power.

One thing I would like to learn more about is how they decide what to prioritize and what conditions to put on the CTT. Does the criteria change region to region? What is the process for deciding? Do they evolve and change over time as they see the effects and what works and doesn't work.

Chadrack Bantange

One thing I will leave with from this class is that achieving economic development is not a piece of cake. However, investment in gender equality programs such as Mexico's CCT can move a country ahead. Investing in Woman education is therefore a key to progress. But when it comes to education, many tend to forget that some might start but will end up dropping out of school, mostly due to financial hardships, thus comprising the future of many children. So how do we stop this phenomenon? That is where the CCT program comes in.

It was delightful and informative to read this article. The general feeling towards low-income countries is mostly that their governments do not try hard enough to improve the lives of their citizens. Still, reading the article, this argument can be refuted. It is very encouraging for Mexico to have implemented such a program because, as the study mentioned, CCT positively impacted children's futures.

Its large impact on women over men once again reinforced the idea that in most societies, women's education is often neglected and that for development to occur, we need programs such as the CCT to not only alleviate poverty but also empower women.

One thing I was curious about is how the Mexican government managed to fund a program of such magnitude. Did they use their own funds or since the CCT seems to have the same goals as the 5th SDGs(Gender Equality), Mexico received some type of aid from the international committee? Also what happened to countries that tried to implement the CCT? were they as successful as Mexico?

Josh Fingerhut

This was an interesting paper that built upon a lot of what we have been talking about this semester. In particular, I was interested by the researchers' findings related to age. Our last Friday paper "Returns to investment in education" noted that there were greater returns to investment in primary education. This finding was backed by the research of Parker and Vogl when looking at conditional cash transfers in Mexico. They found that once students got to a certain age, the effect was essentially zero. However, if conditional cash transfers were instituted in primary education, they were critical in reducing dropout rate.

In the previous paper, I thought of investments into education primarily as an investment into that student's direct learning. However, this paper made me realize that investments are critical not just in the quality of education a student receives, but also in that they encourage students to continue with their education. If a student drops out, they receive no benefits of education, even if additional dollars are poured in by the government. Therefore, incentives to stay in school through the early years, such as conditional cash transfers, can be crucial. When thinking about marginal dollars invested, it is clear based on the literature we have reviewed in the class that primary education and girls' education should be prioritized.

Chris Ruiz

As I write this blog post, I am seated across from Josh Fingerhut, a dear friend. I pointed out to him something I found to be interesting about the Progresa program; rural communities were targeted and Urban communities were a secondary focus of the program. Much has been made of the idea of rural communities being forgotten and neglected in countries' development efforts. It is said that there is an urban bias, but this program, perhaps insignificant in the grand scheme of the development effort, goes against that narrative. Secondarily, this paper reinforces the importance of primary education. Older kids' educational prospects were not really impacted by the cash transfer program. If they had dropped out of school, the program was ineffective in getting them back on track in their education. This was unfortunate to read, but it is the reality of the situation. Early education will have lifelong impacts. That being said, I was surprised to see that participation in Progresa had no impact on college enrollment. Just ask Josh, there was a pronounced raising of the eyebrows. At least labor market outcomes are bolstered by Progresa! Beyond that, I feel like there should be more leeway to kids who could end up failing a grade twice. Maybe a removal of benefits should be the default, but a system could be put into place where an investigation into the child's circumstances is conducted and, if deemed worthy, the child's family could continue to receive the cash transfer. Life can be unpredictable, sometimes for extended periods of time, indubitably more so for those living in poverty.

Gabe Miller

This article really demonstrates the effect of a targeted poverty relief program. What I found most interesting was the fact that Progressa was estimated to close 30-50% of the poverty gap between men and women. One thing I thought about was the concept of 'entitlement' discussed by Sen- essentially, that women are generally considered less entitled to things such as education or health care in certain countries because of a flawed estimation of their worth to society. I find it very interesting that this cash transfer program was able to effect women much more than men, admittedly by design, and would be very interested in knowing about the spending patterns of each household- in other words, whether women in each household received an equal cash investment as men or whether these cash transfers gave families the extra income needed to distribute resources to both men and women of the household.

I was also very interested by the educational outcomes. As Josh and some others noted, this paper reinforces the fact that early childhood education is the most important and most effective. While true, I also wonder what the structure of the Mexican School system is- in other words, why couldn't drop out be prevented? This program was able to reduce dropout rates in early education transition periods along with repetition rates- indicating that the program improved students performance in class. Older students did not benefit as much because they had already missed a tremendous amount of education already- education which they needed in order to continue with school. Institutionally, this can sometimes be assuaged with remedial schooling. For example, I worked within inner-city Baton Rouge school systems where it was not uncommon to find a ninth grader at an elementary or middle school reading level- there were remedial classes to keep them from feeling discouraged and dropping out. In one very severe (and isolated case), a school decided to keep a 15 year-old in the eighth grade because they knew he would drop out once he got into high school. Certain institutional practices can have large effects on students decisions to remain or leave school, which combined with a program like Progressa could be even more effective.

Ian Kinney

I thought this article had a lot of interesting information and connected with a lot of what we’ve learned this semester. At first glance, the Progresa program seems well designed, with an emphasis on long-term building of human capital. Throughout the semester, we’ve discussed the importance of investments into health and education, as well as the need to empower women in development initiatives; all these factors are addressed by the program.

It was encouraging to see that Progresa succeeded in boosting female educational achievement and labour market outcomes, despite outcomes for men being more ambiguous. This makes me wonder what the program could have done better, how it could have had an even greater effect. It would be interesting to see some comparative research about the efficacy of various CCT programs.

Progresa served as inspiration to the designers of Brazil's Bolsa Familia, which reached 15 million families and became the largest CCT program in the world. This demonstrates the importance of studying the outcomes of different programs and encouraging the exchange of ideas - what works in one country may provide valuable inspiration to policymakers in another.

Eric Bazile

The studies show that CCT is pretty effective in bringing about economic well-being. However, I am a little skeptical about the design of the CCT program in Mexico. My biggest problem is that families can be disqualified from the program if their student performs too poorly in school. CCT programs have done a pretty good job of targeting the poorest, which is good. However, I think it is contradictory to expect them to do well in school. These households are struggling to provide food and shelter, and CCT adds to the burden by expecting adequate performance in school. For low-income families, there is a clear opportunity cost for sending a student to school. The student could stay home and perform labor, or maybe the indirect costs of schooling are too much. This should be considered when creating a CCT program.

Often in development economics, we forget to consider the underdeveloped parts of America as well. I feel that a CCT program similar to that of Mexico would work wonders in America. But if we were to implement this, we must give students the resources to perform well in public schools, then we can make funds conditional to that.

Sherman Golden

From the first time I heard about CCTs, I found them to be a fascinating idea for reducing poverty. Because individuals/families must meet the conditions, (which themselves have positive effects for reducing poverty) in order to get the cash, these programs seems like an interesting intersection between personal accountability and social policy. This brings up an interesting question though, are CCT programs guilty of survivorship bias? That is to say, are the people who benefit the most from CCT programs bound to have better outcomes than their peers, regardless of the implementation of these programs?

Ryan Messick

I think I share a similar sentiment to most of the other commentary in that I found this paper to be a reinforcement of the concept that education in general is beneficial for the economy as a whole and that allowing for women’s education in countries with significant gender bias is undeniably beneficial. One of the pieces of the paper that I noticed many people comment on is the difference in benefit for CCT programs for women versus men. I wonder if this is somewhat impacted by what we discussed in class with places like Cuba, where people who achieve masters level education are not that much better off financially than people who are not, and if this is because women use this as an opportunity to join the workforce where they might not otherwise be able to, and if the reason this impact is discrepant is because males are less limited in opportunity and do not face the same barriers to entry into occupations that may have equitable financial gain.

Trip Wright

I was first introduced to conditional cash transfers in POV-101 this past fall, and I am a fan of them as anti-poverty measures. As we mentioned many times already this term, the promotion of health, education, and overall well-being is extremely important to foster among populations in developing countries as a means to increase human capital. Increased human capital can have positive long-run effects on a country's economy, insofar as the "capital" (people) remain in the developed country and do not participate in "brain drain," taking their knowledge, skills, and ideas abroad.

I found the Gender Equality section of the paper to be quite interesting given that my group's final project is focused on an economic evaluation of women's empowerment in four developing countries. The researchers found that the last unexposed cohort (ages 16-18 in 1997) of Mexicans before the dubbed "Progresa generation" the gender gap sat at about 5.5 percentage points between men and women. However, the youngest exposed cohort (ages 9-10 in 1997) to Progresa saw the gender gap falling more than 4 percentage points to 1.2 at the time of the study. Additionally, the labor force participation rate was extremely low for women prior to Progresa being implemented in 1997. The researchers estimate that the effects of female earnings at about 40% compared to the pre-rollout of Progresa. Globally, women have higher levels of academic achievement in the classroom compared to men, and tend to achieve higher levels of education today. Given that women have up until recent history been denied the opportunity to receive a formal education, a CCT program like Progresa may be a sound approach towards unlocking the potential of many women in other developing countries around the world.

One piece that puzzles me regards the amount of success that Progresa seems to have had in Mexico, while the country still lags behind the United States in terms of GDP, size of the economy, etc. The longterm effects of a CCT program are relatively new, yes, so perhaps Mexico will continue to see positive growth. However, in terms of education, Cuba has incredibly high rates of attainment within its population, while mean leave the country to pursue other opportunities given the strict taxation policies and socialist government restricitng capitalist economics from emerging in the country. I look forward to reading future literature about Progresa as time goes on.

Joe Jackson

I found this paper very interesting to read, especially as someone who is particularly interested in Latin America as a region and its development. What most intrigued me and what is something that I would like to learn more about is that the paper pointed out that other studies on similar programs conducted in other Latin American nations found far more mixed results than those that came from Progresa. The paper specifically mentions Ecuador, Honduras, and Nicaragua as other examples in the literature. Ecuador, it seems had mixed impacts on education and no significant impact on labor market outcomes. Without knowing much about the program, other than that it was unconditional cash transfers instead, I am curious if it has something to do with the implementation of the program in Ecuador. Mexico has nearly twice the GDP per capita of Ecuador, so I would think that there is potential for there to be greater returns on investment in the Ecuadorian program. Nicaragua is interesting as well, and I would be curious to see what the results would be if the program was implemented again after the internal conflict is resolved. The political instability I think indicates an institutional failure that may prevent programs like CCTs from being fully realized. Overall, the data in Mexico seems promising, particularly in the case of women, and I would be curious to see a study that examines the hindrances that each of the programs faced in their implementation to try and identify potential issues that need to be addressed before a CCT program can be rolled out effectively.

vic ndhlovu

This paper was pretty interesting because I have come across schemes aimed at improving education levels, but not conditional cash transfers. This approach is effective and interesting and I wonder why it hasn't been used more (If I am not mistaken). At this stage in the course, I wasn't entirely surprised by women/girls benefiting more from the scheme (although I didn't expect that large a divergence). The long term benefits to girls, particulary those not enrolled in the scheme, are striking. This study supports various developmental economists view that female empowerment is a major requisite for economic development. While the financial incentive for the girls enlisted in the scheme is a major reason for them staying in school, an immeasurable variable - hope - seems to be the key. We see nudge theory at play. The participants are 'nudged' to pursue education and participate in the labor force. Young girls now have role models in the form of older schoolgoing girls. The younger girls are inspired to do the same in hope of a "better life" and this breeds a virtous cycle. I wonder what the effects on the quality of education being received were and how this can be estimated.

Andrew Arnold

I was previously not very familiar with conditional cash transfers. I think they are an interesting idea, since they play off of what you talk about all the time, which are using market incentives to drive positive outcomes. CCTs are interesting too because of the fact that they are conditional. I think this opens the door to a great deal of research that can be done because the CCT essentially control for one variable in use. The condition could range from eduction requirements, health requirements, housing, employment... etc. I would love to see what future experiments show for this as a way for developing countries to grow, as well as developed countries to streamline welfare programs.

Ngoc Le

Conditional Cash Transfer is an interesting concept to learn about, and I'm especially glad that the concept has been proven to work. However, I also can't help but feel like this program resembles giving extra credit to students who are already doing above average work. I wonder if the focus should be instead on maximizing people's opportunities (hihger wages, etc.). I'm also interested in thinking about what Sen would say about this program.

Kit Lombard

This article was interesting because the results were not as I expected. The benefits of the program are not universal and I find that a little concerning. However, this article reveals the importance of considering multiple components of a cash transfer program, especially on the importance of the region's opportunities. Some rural communities are subject to a low-skill trap, in which people are discouraged from investing in improving their skill levels due to the lack of jobs requiring higher skills. Progresa may not be enticing individuals into university because the community has a preconceived notion that a college degree would not be necessary for the available jobs near them. Also, in regards to the effects of Progresa being greater for women, this could be attributed to spending habits. Women may be more likely to invest in long-term programs that can help them achieve dreams that others may deem unrealistic. Men, however, could be utilized CTC programs to target more practical means or direct means of survival. I wonder after families become enrolled in a CTC program, are they given guidance as to how to spend the funds? Also, the system at hand needs to make sure that money is the issue that is affecting people from receiving social benefits. Otherwise, money alone will not be able to help people overcome hurdles deeply enrooted in the system at hand.

Will Fearey

I had never heard of CCT programs before reading this article, but upon reading it they sound like they are very beneficial to not just individuals, but entire countries. As we have discussed in past classes, one of the main things that countries can do to improve their economies is focus on providing more educational opportunities for women. With the noticeable improvement in the time girls spend in school, not only will their own economic conditions benefit, but their involvement and participation in the greater economy (and politics) will follow. I hope that programs like Progresa continue to support the lives of the poor, and that they are able to accurately target proper conditions to benefit children as early as they can. I wonder what the impact of such programs in impoverished areas of the United States would be? Would we see similar results, or would there be more similarities in the benefits observed by both men and women due to the United States’s better circumstance regarding female social status?

Natalie McCaffery

As this was my first introduction to Conditional Cash Transfer programs, I am a bit surprised by the contrasting effects a program like this has on women vs. men. I think that men, from an early age, showing less benefit from a program like this further emphasizes the gap in gender roles that appears especially in rural, low-income communities. I think that the targeting of roll-out is effective, but I wonder how the continuation of this program’s effects can be monitored if migration is considered, as once an individual has the means and motivation to move to a better community, they will (and those communities aren’t necessarily in the target demographic). Would the program have a different effect on men if the conditions to be met were specific for men and women? For example, if a condition for a man is that he mustn’t be affiliated with a gang, then that could do one of two things: reward non-violence, or target members affiliated in violence (providing better tracking and containment of such). That might be a bit of a stretch for a gender-specific condition, but the point would be to meet the population where they’re at, in terms of gender roles, and create motivating conditions from there.

Kyle Lutz

Similar to some of my peers, this is the first time I have heard about conditional cash transfers. Simply based on Progresa's positive effect on education levels of children on recipients and the increase of women in the labor force, CCTs seem to be quite effective. I agree with Natalie in the fact that this program really emphasizes a gender gap in low-income commmunities in Mexico. We have seen this trend across many low-income areas around the world, so it also makes sense that we may find it here. So, the fact that Progresa plays a part in narrowing this gap is a good thing, and I would be curious to see if this trend is consistent across other CCT programs, albeit it is.

I am really curious as to what the conditions are to be able to meet the expectations of the CCT. Are they consistent throughout all people? Regardless, it seems to be an effective approach to help mitigate some issues low-income families face.

Renan Silva

The success of Conditional Cash Transfers does not surprise me as it intelligently incentivizes families to invest in their children. Poor families often have their children working for them in order to raise money to cover expenses, making education costly. CCTs proposal of paying families to send their kids to school generates long term investment on their human capital (as proven by the research conducted in the article) and takes care of the potential cost of not sending them to labor through cash transfers. It also does not surprise me that CCTs show impressive outcomes on women’s education. Many countries, especially in their lower class, have patriarchal familial systems and do not prioritize investments on women’s human capital. Furthermore, as discussed in class various times throughout the semester, investments on women’s education always result in economic development.

Brazil’s CCT program “Bolsa Familia” was extremely popular during Lula’s last presidency in the 2010’s. It lowered poverty rates and, per one of its conditions, increased school attendance and literacy among the lower class. Brazil’s economy was booming during Lula’s last presidency, and I wonder if it will reach back to those levels once he returns to office next year. The country is extremely polarized politically, with about half supporting him and the other half wanting him out of office. I hope that a successful four years of economic development through programs like Bolsa Familia reunifies what once was a united nation.

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