Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Essays on child labor and poverty in the context of a conditional cash transfer program in Nicaragua
by Del Carpio, Ximena V., Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2010, 131; 3403726
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation presents the political economy dimension of conditional cash transfer programs. It also delves into the evaluation of one such program implemented in rural Nicaragua and measures the impact of the program on poor households, specifically on how the program affects children’s work. The analysis throughout this dissertation focuses on the impacts of transfer programs on beneficiary wellbeing as well as beneficiary behavior toward their children. In particular, the focus is on the decision of adults to engage children in various labor activities while receiving monetary benefits from the program.

The first chapter in this dissertation presents an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of CCTs, explores the political economy behind their feasibility and their adoption, and studies their implementation experiences in various contexts. The second part of the first chapter introduces a CCT program, designed for a very poor and vulnerable context, using an alternative approach suitable to the development needs and reality of the region. The program presented in this chapter was implemented in the north-central region of Nicaragua. Its design includes traditional CCT components—nutrition, health, and education—as well as components aimed to improve the employability of young adults and diversify the household’s income source. The objective of introducing this program in this chapter is twofold, first, to qualitatively explore the political economy implications of designing, implementing, and evaluating a customized CCT program; and second, to illustrate certain features of the program—mainly its design and evaluability—that can help improve the design of future projects elsewhere.

The second chapter investigates the relationship of household income with child labor. The chapter presents a simple model that relates child labor to household income, beneficiary preferences, and production technology. The chapter also presents an empirical application to test this relationship, expanding the analysis by stratifying the sample by age and gender. Lastly, the chapter investigates the effect of the program on child labor, dividing labor into two types—physically demanding labor and non-physical labor—to reveal the impact of the program.

The third chapter analyzes changes in the allocation of child labor within households in reaction to the CCT program. The chapter starts by formulating a simple model that investigates how children and household characteristics interact to render a specific distribution of tasks among children. Then, the chapter analyzes the data with the purpose of identifying the characteristics that determine the allocation of child labor in the sample of households prior to the implementation of the program. Finally, the chapter evaluates whether the exogenous shocks created by the CCT program resulted in compensation or reinforcement of pre-program differences in child labor allocation and human capital accumulation.

All chapters are motivated through the relevant literature in order to place the chapter into the wider literature and highlight the contribution of this work. The second and third chapters also formulate theoretical models to clarify and motivate basic relationships and offer policy implications and ideas for future research. An essential component of this dissertation is its original data set. Data did not come from secondary sources; it was obtained directly from my work and that of a team of researchers. The data collection exercise was conducted through several field visits that resulted in a two-year panel (2005–2006) of randomly targeted households, providing detailed information on household characteristics—such as assets, income, consumption patterns—and individual education and labor outcomes, including child labor. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nugent, Jeffrey
Commitee: Heikkila, Erik, Wise, Carol
School: University of Southern California
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Economics, Labor economics
Keywords: Child labor, Conditional cash transfers, Impact evaluation, Nicaragua, Rural development, Social safety net
Publication Number: 3403726
ISBN: 978-1-109-77442-9
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