Social Science & Medicine, September 2015, vol. 141, pp. 36-45.
There is promising evidence that poverty-targeted cash transfer programs can have positive impacts on adolescent transitions to adulthood in resource poor settings, however existing research is typically from small scale programs in diverse geographic and cultural settings. We provide estimates of the impact of a national unconditional cash transfer program, the Kenya Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, on pregnancy and early marriage among females aged 12 to 24, four years after program initiation. The evaluation was designed as a clustered randomized controlled trial and ran from 2007 to 2011, capitalizing on the existence of a control group, which was delayed entry to the program due to budget constraints. Findings indicate that, among 1549 females included in the study, while the program reduced the likelihood of pregnancy by five percentage points, there was no significant impact on likelihood of early marriage. Program impacts on pregnancy appear to work through increasing the enrollment of young women in school, financial stability of the household and delayed age at first sex. The Kenyan program is similar in design to most other major national cash transfer programs in Eastern and Southern Africa, suggesting a degree of generalizability of the results reported here. Although the objective of the program is primarily poverty alleviation, it appears to have an important impact on facilitating the successful transition of adolescent girls into adulthood.