Empowering women through targeted conditional cash transfers

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Targeting payments of a nationwide conditional cash transfer program to women increased household spending on food by empowering women and enhancing their decision-making power in the household.

Most conditional cash transfers (CCT) target women, in an effort to empower women and deliver better outcomes for children. The underlying assumptions are that men and women prefer to spend their income differently and that giving women extra resources in the household may increase their participation in household decisions by increasing their control over how funds are spent.

Previous studies have shown that providing transfers to a female member of the household leads to shifts in spending, suggesting that gender-targeted transfers may be important. However, it is not clear how targeting women leads to changes in household consumption and whether targeting transfers to men would achieve similar results. Additionally, there is limited evidence on how cash transfers to women impact empowerment within the household, a difficult concept to accurately measure.

To test whether targeting cash transfers to women can play a role in their empowerment and change household consumption, researchers Orazio Attanasio (Yale University, J-PAL affiliate), Ingvild Almås (Stockholm University), Alex Armand (Nova School of Business and Economics), Pedro Carneiro (University College London), and Valérie Lechene (University College London) evaluated a nationwide CCT program for low-income households in the Republic of North Macedonia that randomly allocated transfers to either mothers or fathers.