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Unconditional government social cash transfer in Africa does not increase fertility


Among policymakers, a common perception surrounding the effects of cash transfer programmes, particularly unconditional programmes targeted to families with children, is that they induce increased fertility. We evaluate the Zambian Child Grant Programme, a government unconditional cash transfer targeted to families with a child under the age of 5 and examine impacts on fertility and household composition. The evaluation was a cluster randomized control trial, with data collected over 4 years from 2010 to 2014. Our results indicate that there are no programme impacts on overall fertility. Our results contribute to a small evidence base demonstrating that there are no unintended incentives related to fertility due to cash transfers.

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  1. In the South African CSG, there is no cap on biological children and a cap after six non-biological children.

  2. According to DHS conducted in 2007 and in 2003, in provinces where study districts were located, modern contraceptive use among currently married/co-habiting women increased from 16.9 to 32.5 % in Northern Province and from 23 to 31.7 % in Western Province. Nationally, modern contraceptive prevalence rates (CPR) increased from 32.7 % in 2007 to 45 % in 2013 among currently married/co-habiting women.

  3. Sample sizes for fertility-related outcomes differ due to missing values for currently pregnant and ever had miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. We calculated ever pregnant based on whether any of the fertility information was provided.


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The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Tia Palermo.

Ethics declarations

Ethical review of this study was obtained by AIR in Washington, DC, and the University of Zambia’s Research Ethics Committee, and informed consent was obtained from all study participants.


The Child Grant impact evaluation was commissioned by the Government of Zambia (GRZ) through the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health to the American Institutes of Research and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and funded by a consortium of donors including DFID, UNICEF, Irish Aid and the Government of Finland. Palermo, Handa and Peterman received additional funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation to the UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti for analysis of the data and drafting of the manuscript.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang

The impact evaluation of the Zambian Child Grant is being implemented by the American Institutes for Research under contract to UNICEF-Zambia. The evaluation is overseen by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, Government of Zambia, with support from UNICEF-Zambia and DFID. The results that appear in this article are the culmination of over 4 years of intellectual, technical, financial and operational efforts of a large and dedicated team, all of whom made important contributions that led to the success of the evaluation. The corresponding authors for this article are Sudhanshu Handa (;, Tia Palermo (, Amber Peterman (, Leah Prencipe (, and David Seidenfeld ( The members of the evaluation team, listed by affiliation and then alphabetically within affiliation, are as follows: American Institutes of Research (Juan Bonilla, Cassandra Jessee); UNICEF-Zambia (Charlotte Harland, Paul Quarles van Ufford),; Government of Zambia (Vandras Luywa, Stanfield Michelo, Manzunzo Zulu); DFID-Zambia (Kelley Toole); Palm Associates (Alefa Banda, Liseteli Ndiyoi, Gelson Tembo, Nathan Tembo); University of North Carolina (Handa) and; UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti (Handa, Palermo, Peterman).


Appendix 1

Table 6 Individual-level attrition analysis

Appendix 2

Table 7 Impact of CGP on women’s total fertility and related outcomes, other women in household

Appendix 3

Table 8 Household-level attrition analysis

Appendix 4

Table 9 Summary statistics of total number of children living in household, by wave and treatment status

Appendix 5

Table 10 Impact of CGP on household-level child counts, ages 0–1 and 2–4 years, by gender, Poisson models

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Palermo, T., Handa, S., Peterman, A. et al. Unconditional government social cash transfer in Africa does not increase fertility. J Popul Econ 29, 1083–1111 (2016).

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  • Fertility
  • Unconditional cash transfers
  • Zambia
  • Africa

JEL Classifications

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  • I1
  • I3