DP13165 | Experimental Evidence of Exposure to a Conditional Cash Transfer During Early Teenage Years: Young Women’s Fertility and Labor Market Outcomes

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Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs are one of most popular policy instruments for increasing investment in nutrition, health, and education in developing countries. For teenage girls, CCTs not only provide incentives and means to remain in school longer, but also may affect fertility outcomes through improved nutrition (with implications for the onset of puberty) or provision of reproductive healthcare information. Therefore, examining the fertility mechanism is crucial for understanding long-term impacts, in particular labor market outcomes, as young women’s decisions regarding economic, education, and reproductive activities are closely linked. This paper exploits an experimental design and a survey implemented 10 years after the start of a CCT program in Nicaragua that introduced random variation in program exposure during the early teenage years, ages critical for sexual maturity. Differential exposure to the CCT does not lead to long-term differences in grades attained or learning, but does lead to differential impacts on the age of menarche, young adult BMI, fertility, and subsequent labor market outcomes and income.