In many conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes worldwide— including Brazil’s Bolsa Família—cash transfers are preferentially made to women. This feature was motivated by earlier research showing that greater control over resources among women is linked to an increase in their decision-making power and improved outcomes among children (e.g. Quisumbing, 2003). However, there is little quantitative evidence demonstrating that CCT programmes with female beneficiaries trigger increases in women’s decision-making power.
Previous research does not find consensus on the issue, and, further, it is largely drawn from CCTs in rural Mexico, giving little insight into how impacts might differ in different contexts. It is also important to note that transferring cash to women does not guarantee that women’s control over resources will increase. For example, women’s spouses or other household members could take control over the cash once it is transferred.
Therefore, empirical evidence is required to assess whether CCTs can be effective in increasing women’s decision-making power, and under what circumstances. Given the growing popularity of CCTs and widespread interest in increasing women’s empowerment worldwide, the question has become increasingly compelling.