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Abstract

The Red de Protección Social (RPS) in Nicaragua is one of a growing number of conditional cash transfer programs that pay households cash stipends in exchange for school attendance and regular visits to health clinics. A key feature of these programs is that the cash is given to the woman head of household. The rationale stems from previous research in the developing world that transfers to women are more likely to be spent on health, nutrition, and education of children and thus to reinforce the goals of these programs. One concern is that less powerful women may not be as impacted by program funds, because males in those household will decrease their contributions in response to the transfers. Utilizing randomized experimental data from RPS, we test for heterogeneous program impacts on school enrollment and spending based on a woman’s power as proxied by her education relative to her husband . Our results confirm previous findings that generally more household resources are devoted toward children when women are more powerful; however, when women’s power greatly exceeds her husband’s additional female power lowers school enrollment., Additionally we find that RPS’ impacts on schooling are substantially larger than expected income effects estimated from the control group, although we do not find evidence that female power alters RPS impacts on school enrollment. In terms of spending effects, RPS increased food and education expenditures in all households, yet this impact is attributable mostly to income effects. Finally, we find RPS had non-income impacts on milk expenditures particularly for less powerful women.

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