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Essays on conditional cash transfers, targeting and educational outcomes: evidence from Chile

Crespo Rojas, Cristian (2018) Essays on conditional cash transfers, targeting and educational outcomes: evidence from Chile. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis studies key questions located at the intersection of conditional cash transfers (CCTs), targeting mechanisms of CCTs, especially proxy means tests (PMTs) and outcomes in primary and secondary education. The research relies entirely on large and rich administrative datasets from Chile. The thesis is built around three empirical chapters or papers. The first paper contributes to the social policy targeting field. The chapter analyses whether a PMT can identify the poor and future school dropouts effectively. Despite both being key target groups for CCTs, students at risk of dropping out are rarely considered for CCT allocation and in targeting assessments. Using simulations, I compare the PMT with other mechanisms based on a predictive model of school dropout. I build this model using machine learning algorithms, one of their first applications in regard to school dropout outside a developed nation. Using the outputs of the predictive model in conjunction with the PMT increases targeting effectiveness except when the social valuation of the poor and future school dropouts differs to a large extent. The second paper analyses whether it is convenient to reward children for their academic performance. The chapter estimates the impact of a cash for grades programme on future attendance and average grade using a regression discontinuity (RD) design. The main causal estimates for the outcomes are not statistically significantly different from zero. The third paper contributes to the causal inference literature, particularly about RD designs. Despite the rapid development of the RD methodological literature, some threats to internal validity have been overlooked. The chapter elaborates on two threats, administrative sorting and intermediate contamination, in the context of three impact evaluations of CCTs. This thesis contributes to advancing knowledge both methodologically and for policy. Although the study focuses its analysis on one country, its results have implications for multiple contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Cristian Eduardo Crespo Rojas
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Jenkins, Stephen

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