Education policies typically ignore that parents and children may not have the same objectives regarding the child’s school attendance, and that parents may not perfectly observe whether the child attends school. Cash transfers conditional on an attendance target may therefore increase school attendance in part due to the information they transmit to parents about their child’s attendance.
In this seminar we discuss isolating experimentally and for the first time this information effect through an “information only” treatment and find that it accounts for as much as 75 percent of the effect on attendance of a conditional transfer program incentivizing parents. We also find that directly incentivizing children to attain an attendance target is at least as effective as incentivizing parents––and importantly, not because parents were able to appropriate conditional transfers made to children. Like most evaluations of conditional cash transfers, we find that gains in attendance achieved by incentivizing parents financially do not translate into gains in test scores. But we find that both the information only treatment and a conditional transfers program directly incentivizing children to attend improve math test scores by 8.5 to 9.4% of the control group’s mean.
Our results are consistent with parents being more likely to take actions that have a positive effect on attendance but a negative effect on learning when attendance, but not learning, is rewarded.