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Parker Awarded NIH Grant to Research Impact of Cash Transfer Program Rollback

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Susan Parker with a background of Guanajuato, Mexico

University of Maryland School of Public Policy professor, Center for International Security Studies at Maryland Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the Maryland Population Research Center Susan Parker has been awarded an R21 grant for approximately $424,000 over two years from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study effects of the rollback of a successful conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in Mexico. 

Parker, alongside Tom Vogl, University of California San Diego, and Fernanda Marquez-Padilla, El Colegio de México, will carry out the statistical analysis of large publicly available datasets to analyze the effects of the sudden elimination of Prospera, a pioneering CCT that was known for its success in raising education and health among its recipients. 

“CCT programs are commonly thought to protect children’s schooling and health by easing financial constraints and conditioning benefits on school enrollment and health clinic visits, effectively subsidizing investment in school and health,” said Parker. “The rollback might therefore lead to an immediate worsening of school and health outcomes among children, but perhaps beneficiary households are now more knowledgeable about the benefits of education and health and so continue to send their children to school and schedule regular health clinic visits.”

In early 2019, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rolled back the CCT program Prospera, which was established in 1997 to directly provide money to families to send their children to schools and health centers. Ideally, this investment in education and health would allow children to eventually participate in Mexico’s economic growth, reducing poverty in the next generation. The sudden rollback of the program creates a unique opportunity to study the extent to which households can protect the education and health of their most vulnerable members from the sudden loss of a two-decade old anti-poverty program.

Parker, Vogel and Marquez-Padilla look to explore the effects of this rollback on households who have relied on receiving an income transfer contingent on their children attending school and their family attending regular health clinic visits over the past two decades.. The study will provide some of the first evidence on the sustainability of child education and health gains when a CCT program ends. 

“Will children now stop going to school, will the health of their family worsen, or will infant mortality increase?” wonders Parker. “This is a unique opportunity to study whether program impacts can persist after a long term transfer program ends for a population in extreme poverty in a developing country.” 

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