Cash transfer programs and child health and family economic outcomes: a systematic review

Anne E Fuller, Nusrat Zaffar, Eyal Cohen, Maximilian Pentland, Arjumand Siddiqi, Ashley Vandermorris, Meta Van Den Heuvel, Catherine S Birken, Astrid Guttmann, Claire de Oliveira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Family income is an important determinant of child and parental health. In Canada, cash transfer programs to families with children have existed since 1945. This systematic review aimed to examine the association between cash transfer programs to families with children and health outcomes in Canadian children (ages 0 to 18) as well as family economic outcomes.

METHODS: We reviewed academic and grey literature published up to November 2021. Additional studies were identified through reference review. We included any study that examined children 0-18 years old and/or their parents, took place in Canada and reported Canada-specific data, and reported child, youth and/or parental health outcomes, as well as family economic outcomes. Risk of bias was assessed by two reviewers using a modified Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

SYNTHESIS: Our search yielded 23 studies meeting the inclusion criteria out of 7052 identified. Eight studies in total measured child health outcomes, including birth outcomes, child overall health, and developmental and behavioural outcomes, and four directly addressed parental health, including mental health, injuries, and obesity. Most studies reported generally positive associations, though some findings were specific to certain subgroups. Some studies also examined fertility and labour force participation outcomes, which described varying effects.

CONCLUSION: Cash transfer programs to families with children in Canada are associated with better child and parental health outcomes. Additional research is needed to evaluate the mechanisms of effects, and to identify which types and levels of government transfers are most effective, and target populations, to optimize the positive effects of these benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-445
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health-Revue Canadienne De Sante Publique
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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© The Author(s) under exclusive license to The Canadian Public Health Association 2022. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

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