Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version

9-2-2022

Funding

This study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD R21 HD097576) project entitled “Foundational cognitive skills in low- and middle-income countries: early-life nutritional, climatic and policy determinants and impacts on adolescent education, socio-emotional competencies and risky behaviors.” The funder had no role in the design, interpretation or writing-up of the study or in the decision to submit the study for consideration for publication. Thanks also to the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for funding Young Lives at Work and enabling this research. Additional funding was also provided by the Old Dart Foundation. Special thanks to Margaret Sheridan, Marta Favara, Catherine Porter, Richard Freund, ‪Annina Hittmeyer, Nicolás Pazos Navarro and Santiago Cueto for very useful comments and feedback.

Abstract

This paper studies the relationship between the age of enrolment in Peru’s conditional cash transfer programme, JUNTOS, and the foundational cognitive skills of a sample of children aged between 5 and 12 years old. Using a difference-in-differences approach and exploiting within-household variation, we show that younger siblings in recipient households display significantly higher levels of inhibitory control than their older counterparts (0.11 standard deviations), having benefited from the programme for the first time at a relatively earlier age. In high-income countries, this behavioural trait has been linked to later-life outcomes such as job success, physical health, and even reduced risk of criminality. Conversely, we find little evidence that enrolment age is associated with long-term memory, working memory, or implicit learning. Employing a threshold estimator, we show that relative gains in inhibitory control are most clearly defined where a child benefits from the programme before they reach 80 months of age (6.7 years). In an extension to our main results, we then conduct mediation analysis, demonstrating that a small but meaningful proportion of this benefit (6.5%) operates through changes in the probability of the child’s timely entry into primary school.

Keywords

Cognitive skills; JUNTOS; Conditional cash transfer; Peru; Inhibitory control, Cash transfers, Development, Behavior, Intergenerational poverty, Later-life outcome, Lifecourse, Young Lives longitudinal study, Niños del Milenio in Peru

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Date Posted: 06 September 2022