'What's the worth of a promise? Evaluating the longer-term indirect effects of a programme to reduce early marriage in India'

Shreya Biswas and Upasak Das


One important dimension of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs apart from conditionality is the provision of continuous frequency of payouts. On the contrary, the Apni Beti Apna Dhan program, implemented in the state of Haryana in India from 1994 to 1998 offers a “promised” amount to female beneficiaries redeemable only after attaining 18 years of age if she remains unmarried. This paper examines the long-term indirect effects of this programme on their human capital outcomes. Using multiple large scale datasets in a triple difference framework and exploiting the exogenous variation in the timing of implementation, we found significant improvements in educational attainment but no discernible effect on measures related to labour participation, time allocation, empowerment or intergenerational health indicators. While underage marriage has reduced, the likelihood of marriage after receiving the transfers has increased. We provide suggestive evidence of the CCT money and the associated educational gains being used by brides’ parents to ensure grooms of higher social status. The paper recommends a set of complementary potential policy instruments that include altering gender norms through behavioural interventions skill development and incentives to encourage female work participation.


Education, labour participation, early marriage, conditional cash transfer, dowry, gender

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