In 2005, the city of Bogota established the Conditional Subsidies for School Attendance (“Subsidios
Condicionados a la Asistencia Escolar”) program in an effort to improve student retention, lower drop-out rates and reduce child labor. In an effort to improve the program over the basic conditional cash transfer model, the Secretary of Education of the City (Secretaria de Educacion del Distrito, SED) decided to implemented a pilot study in two of the twelve localities in the city. The pilot was to run for a year, and then the results would be used to inform the design of the final program that would operate city-wide. Ultimately, three interventions were chosen for the pilot. First, operating as a reference is a basic intervention similar to that used in PROGRESSA/OPPORTUNIDADES. In this basic model, participants would receive 30,000 pesos (approximately US$ 15) as long as the child attended at least 80 percent of the days that month. The payments made bi-monthly through a dedicated debit card run by one of the major banks in Colombia. Students were removed from the program if they failed twice, failed to reach the attendance target in two successive bi-monthly periods, or were expelled from school. Finally, all payments were based on reports provided to the Secretary of Education by the students’ principals. The two additional treatments were experimental variants of this basic intervention aiming to better reach the goals of the program while keeping the cost of each intervention roughly equivalent to the basic intervention. Based on research that suggests that families may face difficulties saving money for students’ education (either because of intra-household bargaining, personal discounting issues, or simply high costs of savings), the second treatment (Savings Treatment) varied the timing of the distributions to students’ families. Instead of receiving
30,000 pesos a month for reaching the attendance target, students were paid two thirds of this amount on a bi-monthly basis (20,000 pesos or US$10) and the remaining third was held in account. The accumulated funds were then made available to students families during the period in which students enroll and prepare for the next school year. If students reached the attendance target every month, this treatment would make 100,000 pesos (US$ 50) available to them in December.
Rather than manipulate the timing of payments, the third treatment (Tertiary Treatment) changes the outcome students are being incentivized upon. Instead of providing an incentive to attend school, this treatment provides an incentive to graduate and then to matriculate to a higher education institution. Like in the Savings Treatment, in the short term, the monthly subsidy is reduced from 30,000 pesos per month to 20,000 pesos. However, upon graduating the students earn the right to receive a transfer of 600,000 pesos ($US 300), amounting to 73 percent of the average cost of the first year at a vocational school (823,000 pesos or $US 412). If the student graduates and enrolls in a tertiary institution, they receive the transfer immediately; if they fail to enroll, they can only request the transfer after a year has passed.
Due to constraints imposed on us by the SED, the assessment of the treatments was divided into two separate experiments located in two very similar localities in Bogota, San Cristobal and Suba. Both experiments were based on an over-subscription model. The city guaranteed enough funds to provide 10,000 with the subsidies, 7,000 in San Cristobal and 3,000 in Suba, for three years. To participate, a publicly advertised registration process would be held and if there were more interested children than subsidies, then the subsidies would be allocated to children based on a lottery in each locality.
The richness of the available data was one of the major strengths of that study. The data comes from five sources. These include general survey data on all eligible families, data collected specifically for the study, and administrative data collected by the SED. The first source is the original SISBEN surveys from 2003 and 2004 that contain information on all families eligible to register for the lottery. The second source is from the program registration process itself. We collected baseline data from the 68 schools with the largest number of registered children as well. The fourth source is data on students’ attendance through direct observation, the last source is a follow-up survey done in spring of 2006.