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Effects of a Large-scale Unconditional Cash Transfer Program on Mental Health Outcomes of Young People in Kenya: A cluster randomized trial



This study investigates the causal effect of Kenya's unconditional cash transfer program on mental health outcomes of young people.


Selected locations in Kenya were randomly assigned to receive unconditional cash transfers in the first phase of Kenya's Cash Transfer Program for orphans and Vulnerable Children. In intervention locations, low-income households and those with orphans and vulnerable childrens began receiving monthly cash transfers of $20 in 2007. In 2011, 4 years after program onset, data were collected on the psychosocial status for youth aged 15–24 years from households in intervention and control locations (N = 1960). The primary outcome variable was an indicator of depressive symptoms using the 10-question Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Secondary outcomes include an indicator for hopefulness and physical health measures. Logistic regression models that adjusted for individual and household characteristics were used to determine the effect of the cash transfer program.


The cash transfer reduced the odds of depressive symptoms by 24 percent among young persons living in households that received cash transfers. Further analysis by gender and age revealed that the effects were only significant for young men and were larger among men aged 20–24 years and orphans.


This study provides evidence that poverty-targeted unconditional cash transfer programs, can improve the mental health of young people in low-income countries.


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Publication date: 2016

Author(s): Kelly Kilburn, Harsha Thirumurthy, Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Audrey Pettifor, Sudhanshu Handa

Journal: Journal of Adolescent Health

Volume: 58

No.: 2

Page(S): 223-229

Language: English

Peer reviewed: YES

Related Innocenti Project(s):

Social protection and cash transfers