A recent study by the World Bank shows that cash transfers paid directly to teenage girls have a powerful impact in boosting their school attendance.
The study looked at a two-year cash transfer programme in Zomba, Malawi, which paid small amounts of money to teenage girls aged 13-22, as well as slightly larger payments to their parents. The girls received between US $1-$5 a month, and the parents $4-$10 a month.
The study found that thanks to the cash transfers, school drop-outs reduced by about 40 percent – or almost by half.
According to the research report, drop out rates are high among teenage girls in Malawi, because of the high cost of secondary school. In addition to this, girls in Malawi tend to marry young and once they get married, they stop attending school.
The research found that the cash transfers boosted school attendance, whether or not attending school was a condition of receiving the grant.
Interestingly, another research paper on the same cash transfer programme found that girls who participated in the programme, were more likely to delay the onset of sexual activity. Thus, there are likely to be other benefits, such as reduced rate of teenage pregnancy and HIV.
The research was undertaken by Berk Özler, a senior economist with the World Bank’s Development Research Group, Sarah Baird of The George Washington University and Craig McIntosh of the University of California, San Diego.