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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

Kelly Kilburn, Harsha Thirumurthy, Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Audrey Pettifor, Sudhanshu Handa

Published: 2016


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.

Impact of the Kenya Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children on Early Pregnancy and Marriage of Adolescent Girls

Sudhanshu Handa, Amber Peterman, C. Huang, C. Halpern, A. Pettifor, H. Thirumurthy

Published: 2015
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.
Cite this publication | No. of pages: 36-45 | Tags: cash transfers, orphans
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