The effects of conditional cash transfers on education: Evidence from 42 programs in 15 countries

We meta-analyze enrollment, attendance and dropout impact and cost-effectiveness estimates from forty-two CCT program evaluations in fifteen developing countries.

Average impacts and cost-effectiveness estimates for all outcomes in primary and secondary schooling are statistically different from zero, with considerable heterogeneity.

CCT programs are, all else constant, most impactful and cost-effective for programs that, in addition to transfers to families, also provide supply-side complements — such as infrastructure or additional teachers. Impacts are also larger in programs with infrequent payments and more stringent schooling conditions, which aligns with previous single program evidence.

Impact and cost-effectiveness estimates from randomized research designs are smaller than those from observational studies.

A new paper from Saavedra and Garcia.

In 2008 I predicted that the randomized revolution was going to disappoint, and that meta-analyses like this one would prove inconclusive, mostly because differences in context and program choices would outweigh any systematic effect of the programs. Looks like I was wrong (at least in the CCT domain).

Some are still skeptical. I’m curious how Sandefur and Pritchett will react.