Stepping out of depression: Evaluating the effect of unconditional cash transfers on maternal mental health in South Africa

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University of New Brunswick


This paper examines the impact of the Child Support Grant (CSG) on the mental health of mothers between the ages 18 and 44. The CSG is an unconditional cash transfer used by the South African government to provide financial aid to children living in poor households. However, few studies consider the impact on mothers. Using five waves (2008-2018) of the longitudinal National Income Dynamics Survey, the impact of the CSG on maternal depression is estimated using pooled ordinary least squares (OLS), along with fixed effects regression methods and propensity score matching to account for concerns of unobserved heterogeneity and selection bias. Key findings using the latter two methods suggest a significant treatment effect of the CSG on maternal depression. However, the pooled OLS estimate is statistically insignificant, suggesting that sophisticated methods that control for unobserved heterogeneity and selection bias reveal a result that is not reflected in basic regression techniques.