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Evaluating the Benefits of Integrated Child Development Program in Rural India


India suffers from widespread child malnutrition, childcare constraints on maternal employment, and gender education gap. In my dissertation I examine the impact of India's biggest child development program - Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) - on each of these aspects. The program provides various services to children below six years, including supplementary nutrition, preschooling, immunization and health check-ups. In the first paper I look at the ``direct'' program impact on nutritional status of young children, and in the second and third, I analyze the ``indirect'' program impact on maternal employment and education of older siblings respectively. For all three papers I use data from recent demographic health survey 2005-6 for India, and for two I also substantiate my results with time use information of mothers and older siblings from another dataset.

In my first paper, using matching and difference-in-difference estimators, I find that girls 0-2 years old receiving supplementary feeding intensely are at least 1cm (0.4 z-score) taller than those not receiving it in rural India. The estimates are similar for boys 0-2 but less robust. Although the program's focus is on children ages 3-5, I find no positive effect on their growth. In the second paper, using probit, covariate matching and conditional logit (village fixed-effects), I find that the mother, whose child is receiving highly correlated services of regular preschooling or daily supplementary feeding, is 12\% more likely to work in rural India. Using similar estimation strategy (including mother fixed-effects), in my third paper I find that the girl 6-14 years, having a younger sibling below 5 years receiving any of the ICDS services intensely, is at least 9\% more likely to be in school in rural India. The effect on boys 6-14 years is positive, but not robust. Because of various program services, the ``indirect'' benefits can accrue through several pathways: time saving because of release from child supervision, improvement in health of young children and implicit income subsidy. For maternal employment it seems that the effect seems to be driven mainly by the daycare implicit in preschooling, and for the girl's education by health benefits of vaccinations of younger children.

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