Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Conditional grants program finds unprecedented success in Latin America

The online edition of the New York Times today featured commentary on a program implemented in various forms in 14 Latin American countries and 26 other countries that uses conditional cash transfers to relieve extreme poverty in the present and to break the cycle of poverty for future generations. Poor families who traditionally suffer from malnutrition, disease, and whose children are forced to leave school early to work and support the family are seeing tangible improvements to their living conditions and better prospects for the health and education of their children. Each program functions differently, but the general approach they all take is to provide cash grants to families for ensuring that their children regularly attend school, medical check-ups, and parenting classes focusing on diet and nutrition. The families benefit immediately, but the program also helps the children end of the cycle of poverty through improved nutrition and education. The article reports impressive results:

"Children in Oportunidades [the program in Mexico] repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer.  Child labor has dropped.  In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent.  High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels.  Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer."

Read the full article, "To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor," here.

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