Long-term impacts of a cash plus program on marriage, fertility, and education after six years in pastoralist Kenya: A cluster randomized trial

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: Preventing early marriage by increasing girls education has shown promise. We assessed the effects of a two-year cash plus program on marriage and fertility in a pastoralist setting in Northeastern Kenya, six years after it began. Methods: A prospective 80-cluster randomized trial followed 2,147 girls 11–14 years old starting in 2015, re-interviewing 94.2% in 2021. Interventions included community dialogues (violence prevention), a conditional cash transfer (education), health and life skills training (health), and financial literacy (wealth creation). Villages were randomized to one of four study arms: (1) violence prevention only (V-only); (2) + education (VE); (3) + health (VEH); or (4) + wealth creation (VEHW). We used analysis of covariance to estimate intent-to-treat impacts of each study arm with an education component, as well as a pooled (weighted average) study arm combining VE, VEH and VEHW, in reference to V-only, four years after the intervention ended when girls were 17–20 years old. Findings: Base specification estimates show reductions in the primary outcomes, though none statistically significant in the full sample. Estimates with extended controls are larger and the pooled study arm had significantly lower marriage and pregnancy. There are considerably larger statistically significant effects for the baseline out-ofschool subsample. Pooled estimates indicate 18.2 percentage point lower marriage compared to V-only and 15.1 percentage point lower pregnancy. For the same group pooled estimates indicate a 27.9 percentage point increase in current enrollment (compared to 7.1% in V-only) and a 1.8 grades increase (compared to 1.2 in V-only). Conclusion: This study shows the potential for interventions in early adolescence with an education component to delay marriage and fertility into late adolescence and early adulthood in a marginalized and socially conservative setting with low education and high rates of child marriage.