Oktober 2016

IZA DP No. 10310: Intra-Household Behavioral Responses to Cash Transfer Programs: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design

This paper investigates the behavioral responses of coupled men and women to a cash transfer program in Uruguay – Asignaciones Familiares-Plan de Equidad (AFAM-PE) –, by analyzing its effect on labor market responses, marital dissolution, and the decision-making process regarding the use of money. The identification strategy exploits both the fact that the monetary transfer is targeted to women and a local random assignment into the AFAM-PE which exogenously changed the intra-household distribution of resources across applicant households. Based on a regression discontinuity design and on a follow-up survey matched with administrative records of applicant households to the program, the insights of this study may be summarized in four broad results. First, while no significant effects are found for men, the program has significant negative effects on the formality choice of women at the eligibility cut-off, but no robust effect on the margin of employment. Secondly, these responses seem to be associated with a decline in women's movement into formal labor from unregistered jobs. These responses do not depend on their partner's labor supply. Third, contrary to findings for various welfare programs in developed countries, no effect on marital dissolution is found. Fourth, we find suggestive evidence that the AFAM-PE results in women taking greater (perceived) responsibility for decisions in specific spheres of household expenditures. In conclusion, considering the overall effects, these results suggest that conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs) do not necessary imply an increase in women's control over household resources, offering suggestive considerations for the ongoing debate in developing countries and suggesting the need to discuss new designs for social assistance.