Making change with cash? Impact of a conditional cash transfer program on age of marriage in India

Publication Subtitle

A process evaluation

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Priya Nanda, Priya Das, Nitin Datta and Sneha Lamba

Currently, 720 million women alive worldwide were child brides. Child marriage is a violation of human rights and significantly hinders development outcomes for girls. Girls married early are vulnerable to intimate partner violence, sexual coercion, and early childbearing. Beyond the immediate physical and mental health risks, girls who marry early are excluded from education and economic opportunities. These adverse consequences to their health, education, and livelihoods are immense and long-lasting.

Growing recognition of the profound harms of child marriage has prompted many organizations and governments to introduce new strategies to curb the practice. These strategies have ranged from small, community-based prevention efforts to large-scale legal or policy reforms. Because of some success in alleviating poverty and improving educational and health outcomes, researchers and practitioners have recently begun looking at conditional cash transfers (CCTs) as a possible strategy for delaying marriage. CCTs provide cash as an incentive to fulfill certain criteria determined to have a positive social impact, such as greater school attendance or use of health services. The few CCTs that have had the explicit objective of delaying age of marriage and have been evaluated provide mixed evidence of success.

The Impact on Marriage: Program Assessment of Conditional Cash Transfers (IMPACCT) study by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) adds to the existing evidence on CCTs as a possible solution to delay the age of marriage and improve opportunities for girls and women.

This brief provides details on the process of implementing and evaluating the Apni Beti Apna Dhan (Our Daughters Our Wealth) CCT program. ICRW evaluated whether an economic incentive, which provided eligible enrolled daughters a bond to be redeemed at 25,000 rupees if the girl remained unmarried at 18, was successful. ICRW measured whether the girls were more likely to remain unmarried until age 18, whether they were more likely to stay in school longer or to currently be studying, and whether or not the girls’ and parents’ aspirations for their daughters had increased.