Cash Benefits for All? Heterogeneous Effects of a Universal Maternal Cash Transfer in India (Revise & Resubmit)
Based on a triple differences estimation, this paper shows that the impact of a universal cash transfer on maternal and child health outcomes differs by household wealth. In 2011, Odisha state in India introduced a maternal cash transfer program named “Mamata Scheme”. Using a large representative survey dataset, I find that the program reduced child wasting and stunting by 7 and 12 percentage points respectively for eligible children from households in the top four of five household wealth quintiles. This is a 39% and 32% reduction compared to the average prevalence of wasting and stunting in the pre-program period. Eligible children in the poorest households were 13 percentage points more likely to suffer from wasting and 12 percentage points more likely to be stunted than their wealthier counterparts. I also find that eligible mothers in the top four household wealth quintiles experienced higher gains in health services utilization. The results suggest that access to universal cash benefit schemes is important for mothers and children from marginalized households to realize proportionate benefits.
The Role of Income Source and Family Structure in Women’s Control over Household Income in Malawi (Dissertation Paper)
Using nationally representative survey data from Malawi, this paper documents that women are more likely to control transfers than other income sources, and that male spouses constrain women’s control over income to a larger extent that other male relatives. My study draws on the development and behavioral economics literature on why individuals treat transfers differently from other income sources, and extends these ideas to intrahousehold behavior in an LMIC context. I test two hypotheses using data from the Fourth Malawi Integrated Household Survey (IHS-4). First, that men cede more control over transfers than other income sources to women; and second, that men are more likely to constrain women’s control over income when in a spousal relationship. Logistic regression analyses find that women in households with at least one adult man have 79% higher odds of having sole control over a transfer income stream, compared to farm and nonfarm income streams. In female-headed households (FHHs), the presence of a male spouse (as opposed to other men) is associated with a 23 pp. reduction in the fraction of transfers solely controlled by the female household head. This is a substantial reduction, given that on average, female household heads have sole control over 80% of transfer income. The results of this paper are in line with experimental and quasi-experimental evidence that finds that cash and in-kind transfers consistently increase women’s household decision-making power and offers support for designing female-centric transfer programs.
Rainfall Shocks, Household Income, and Women’s Decision-making: Evidence from Malawi (Dissertation Paper)
Covariate shocks such as droughts and floods negatively impact household welfare in LMICs, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is high dependence on rainfed agriculture. Several studies examine the impact of covariate shocks on household outcomes, including food security, consumption, agricultural production and income, and migration. Although weather shocks affect women differently from men, their gender-differentiated effect is relatively less studied. I examine the effect of rainfall shocks on women’s financial decision-making in Malawi, using three rounds of the nationally representative Malawi Integrated Household Panel Survey (IHPS). Employing household-year fixed-effects identification, I test whether female control over household farm, nonfarm, and transfer income changes in response to rainfall shocks. I find that in households with both men and women, a rainfall shock (defined as one standard deviation above or below the historical 30-yr average) is associated with a 46% increase in women’s sole control over farm income (p<0.05) . I find that the effect on women’s sole control over farm income is stronger in matrilineal districts in the Central and Southern part of the country (65% increase). I find that rainfall shocks are also associated with higher sole female farm management (p<0.05). The results suggest that climate shocks alter intra-household decision-making, particularly related to the farm, and highlight the integral role of women in maintaining household resilience in agrarian economies.