Money and My Mind

Maternal Cash Transfers and Mental Health

Published in: Health Economics, Volume 30, Issue 11, pages 2879–2904 (November 2021). doi: 10.1002/hec.4398

by Edward N. Okeke

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This paper documents important mental health spillovers in the context of a program that offered pregnant women modest cash incentives to use pre- and perinatal health care services. Program participation was randomized and the payments were made after the birth of the child (and after the completion of an endline mental health assessment). I present causal evidence that the program led to improvements in mothers' mental health. The effect size ranges from a 1–3 percentage point reduction in postpartum depression measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. I present suggestive evidence that these beneficial effects on mental health may be related to program-induced improvements in child health. These results provide novel evidence that programs designed to improve birth outcomes may generate unanticipated spillover effects on mental health.

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