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Investing in human capital to escape poverty: evidence from Latin America

Di Maro, V.; (2011) Investing in human capital to escape poverty: evidence from Latin America. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis studies the impact of different types of policy interventions on demand for human capital in Latin America. Chapter 1 focuses on the unintended consequence (spillover effects) of the Oportunidades program in rural Mexico. We show that the program has an indirect effect on cervical cancer screening rates of women who were not eligible for the program but lived in areas where the program was in operation. These effects - health externalities - can dramatically change the assessment of the impacts of a program as well as considerations about its design. In addition to this, we show evidence of the mechanism through which the program operates being the weakening of the social norm of husbands' opposition to their spouses being screened by male doctors. In Chapter 2 we show that Oportunidades is bringing families out of poverty, which is considered here as a necessary condition to allow them to invest in human capital. We also discuss why CCT programs can have perverse incentives on the labor supply of eligible individuals and show that the program is not having this effect. In chapter 3 and 4 we contribute to the evidence on the impact of Early Childhood interventions. In chapter 3 we discuss how conditional cash transfers can increase the caloric intake of very young children and young mothers. This chapter also has some methodological content, in that it shows how to apply a technique for estimating individual caloric intake when only household aggregate data is available to a program evaluation setting. Results show that Oportunidades is successful at increasing the caloric intake of young children and young mothers, while it does not seem to have an effect at other age ranges. Chapter 4 focuses on the evaluation of the impact of a preschool nursery program in Colombia: Hogares Comunitarios. When compared to a CCT program, this program can be thought as a direct attack to children development, as participants (kids age 0 to 6) in the Hogares Comunitarios receive daycare services and food at the house of a community mother. Our evidence shows that this program can have a positive and sizeable effect on child growth, with this result being robust to different instruments for participation into the program and different samples. In chapter 5 we deal with the long-standing debate about in-kind transfers vs. cash transfers and with how this relates to child nutrition. In particular, we study how nutrient intake responds to changes in income in a sample of rural Mexican households. This increase in income can be thought as an unconditional cash transfer to households. Our evidence is mixed: while consumption of some key nutrients (vitamins A and C, heme iron, calcium and fats) responds positively to an increase in income, other nutrients (energy, zinc and protein) seem not to be affected by a change in income, with this supporting the case for conditionalities and/or in-kind transfers.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Investing in human capital to escape poverty: evidence from Latin America
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Economics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1301990
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