Conditional Cash Transfers and Child Body Weight in Colombia: Causing Obesity or Preventing Undernutrition?

Sandra Liliana Lopez Arana, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam
Ian Forde, OECD, Paris
Frank Van Lenthe, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam
Alex Burdorf, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam

Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs aim to relieve poverty by offering cash assistance to disadvantaged families in low-and middle-income countries. We examine the impact of Familias en Accion (FA), a large CCT program in Colombia, on the body mass index (BMI) and weight trajectories of young children. 1,301 children from treatment municipalities assigned to receive conditional cash transfers in 2002 were compared to 1,584 children from control municipalities. Height and weight were measured in 2002 and during follow-ups in 2003 and 2005/6. Based on a difference-in-differences approach, we find that CCT treatment was associated with a significant increase in BMI z-scores as compared to the control group. CCT treatment was associated with reduced odds of thinness, but no increase in child overweight or obesity. Our study suggests that conditional cash transfers are a potential intervention to reduce malnutrition in children from poor households in low-and middle-income countries.

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Presented in Poster Session 7: Health and Mortality of Women, Children and Families