The South African Child Support Grant Impact Assessment

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The Child Support Grant (CSG) is an important instrument of social protection in South Africa, reaching over 10 million South African children each month. This report presents the findings of a research team’s analysis of a specially designed survey fielded in rural and urban areas of five South African provinces, supporting the rigorous impact assessment of how access to the CSG affects key aspects of child and adolescent well-being. The South African Child Support Grant was first introduced in 1998. Over the past 14 years, South Africa’s social grant programme has evolved into one of the most comprehensive social protection systems in the developing world. Expansions to the Child Support Grant’s criteria for eligibility over this same period include an increase in the age limit from seven to eighteen years old, and adjustments to the income threshold to take inflation into account and improve equity.

Three questionnaires were designed to gather information on children, adolescents and their households.
Households with participating adolescents were given the CSG Adolescent Questionnaire and the CSG
Household Questionnaire, while homes with participating young children were given the CSG Young Child
Questionnaire and the CSG Household Questionnaire. The sampling process took place in two stages. First,
a random sample of locations, defined as the catchment areas for specific pay-points, was drawn from SASSA’s administrative database. These locations were sampled from each of five provinces: Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape. Second, children were randomly selected from the identified pay-points in order to identify a group of 10-year-olds who enrolled in the CSG programme shortly after birth, compared to a group enrolled later – at age four or older. In addition, adolescents were selected around the age cut-off for eligibility in 2010, including those receiving and not receiving the CSG. The research team compared the results of the survey with other national household surveys, including the 2008 National Income Dynamics Survey (NIDS) and the 2010 General Household Survey (GHS), and found the sample largely representative of the national populations.

The methodology of this evaluation aims to measure causal programme impacts as the difference between
observed outcomes for the beneficiaries, and what would have been the outcomes if this group had not received the Child Support Grant or received it later versus earlier. The evaluation strategy controls for factors that might lead to an erroneous attribution of causality, including individual and household traits such as poverty status, exposure to shocks, demographic characteristics and other variables. The evaluation employs non-experimental approaches rather than a randomised experiment because there is no practical or legal scope for randomly allocating grants in South Africa, and the single cross-sectional survey, together with the sample variability in terms of timing and receipt of grants, appropriately supports and strengthens the evaluation approaches adopted for this study. The main method adopted for this study matches and compares households receiving the ‘treatment’ (such as the Child Support Grant from shortly after the child’s birth) with a comparison group of households with similar observable characteristics that influence their probability of application for, or receipt of, the Child Support Grant. The study employs extensions of this approach to assess the impact of the duration of Child Support Grant receipt on outcomes of interest.

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