The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is now part of the development economics tool box. One of the first major applications was the PROGRESA program in Mexico in the mid-1990s, other important programs are Bolsa Familia in Brazil and Familias en Acción in Colombia. These types of programs have spread throughout Latin America and the world. The CCTs are at their core about incentivizing the inputs into education. The common design is that they reward certain behaviors such as school attendance. The evidence on CCTs has been spotty. They do increase attendance but whether that results in higher school achievement has not been proven. They have been shown to reduce family labor income. This can be good in terms of reducing child labor but negative given that the households are already low income. Some evidence has shown shifting in preferences for education between children. This often results in the boys being encouraged while the girls make up for home and market work. Thus, this can exacerbate the gender inequality in education in Latin America. A key problem in Latin America is that:
“Many poor households in developing countries are liquidity-constrained. As a result, they may under-invest in the human capital of their children.” -- Araujo, Bosch, Schady (2016)
We believe that CCTs are an important way to increase educational attainment in Latin America. However, we have three main tenets:
* CCTs should become results orientated.
* All programs must be transparent.
* All programs must be evaluated to the highest standards possible.
Results is our focus because it is the attainment of skills and knowledge and not just the attendance at school that is of interest. Education is commonly thought of as an investment. However, to low income families, and children in particular, the pay off in the future is too distant. To alleviate this we offer a more immediate set of hard incentives.
Tournament and Collaboration: Our incentive scheme is to split the students into groups. We then reward the students based on how they perform against the students in their groups. This individual incentive motivates students to work hard and achieve. We also provide incentives, of the same magnitude, for improvements in scores relative to the other groups. Thus, we have an incentive for the students to work together and improve as a team.
We also provide after school tutoring on top of their regular academic work. This tutoring though not individualized but in a small group, gives the students access to expertise. In the pilot project we have focused on math skills.
Children from lower income neighborhoods, especially ones with a history of violence, may need someone to talk to or express their concerns with. We have also provide life-coaching for the students. These coaches are there to help them focus on their academics. In a perfectly rational world students would now they are investing in their future. Though we believe they are highly rational we still believe they can benefit from having a guiding hand. Finally, we provided after school meals. This is a way to encourage the kids to come to the tutoring.
This is the only CCT program that has used tutoring, results based payments, coaching and after school meals to incentivize the building of math skills.
Our belief in transparency is that we will provide all the details of how the project was carried out in case others would like to replicate. We will also make data available, with appropriate redactions for confidentiality, to others.
We believe in submitting our project to the highest standards of evaluations. We have often stated what we believe. It is our philosophy that our beliefs have to be backed by empirical evidence. There are many theories of education but which work, and which are cost effective need to be empirically tested are. Future projects will update our knowledge and provide new theories to test and ultimately allow us to advice on cost effective policy.
About our research
Edumetria for Development is an initiative launched by a group of professionals in Washington, D.C. with local allies to provide high-quality math courses, test preparation, and vocational counseling for low income students.
Edumetria For Development
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