Programa Nacional de Educacion, Salud y Alimentacion (PROGRESA) is one of the major programs of the Mexican government aimed at developing the human capital of poor households. Targeting its benefits directly to the population in extreme poverty in rural areas, it aims to alleviate current poverty through monetary and in-kind benefits, as well as reduce future levels of poverty by encouraging investments in education, health, and nutrition. This document summarizes 24 months of extensive research by the International Food Policy Research Institute designed to evaluate whether PROGRESA has been successful at achieving its goals. The evaluation analyzes what has been the impact of PROGRESA on education, health, and nutrition as well as in other areas, such as women’s status and work incentives. The evaluation is based on data collected from seven states that were among the first to receive PROGRESA: Guerrero, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Puebla, Querétero, San Luis Potosi, and Veracruz. A total of 24,000 households from 506 localities in these states were interviewed periodically between November 1997 and November 1999. Focus groups and workshops with beneficiaries, local leaders, PROGRESA officials, health clinic workers, and schoolteachers were also carried out. In the central impact areas of education, health, and nutrition, the results are encouraging. The initial analysis of PROGRESA’s impact on education shows that the program has significantly increased the enrollment of boys and girls, particularly of girls and above all, at the secondary school level. The results imply that children will have, on average, about 0.7 years of extra schooling because of PROGRESA, although this effect may increase if children are more likely to go on to senior high school as a result of PROGRESA. Taking into account that higher schooling is associated with higher levels of income, the estimations imply that children will have lifetime earnings that are 8 percent higher due to the education benefits they have received through PROGRESA. As a result of PROGRESA, both children and adults are experiencing improvements in health. Specifically, children receiving PROGRESA’s benefits have a 12 percent lower incidence of illness and adults report a decrease in 19 percent of sick or disability days. In the area of nutrition, PROGRESA has had a significant effect on reducing the probability of stunting for children aged 12 to 36 months. Finally, PROGRESA has also had important impacts on food consumption. PROGRESA beneficiaries report higher calorie consumption and a more diverse diet, including more fruits, vegetables, and meat. In other areas of the evaluation, the design feature of PROGRESA that gives control of the monetary benefits to women has increased their household decision-making. Women report a greater level of empowerment, defined as increased self-confidence and control over their movements and household resources. Additionally, there is no evidence that adults are working less in response to the monetary benefits. This implies that PROGRESA does not create “dependence” on its benefits through reducing individual’s self-sufficiency efforts.


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