The role of aspirations in facilitating movement out of poverty is a subject of increasing research in development economics. Previous work finds positive impacts from international child sponsorship on educational attainment, employment, and adult income. This paper seeks to ascertain whether the impacts of child sponsorship on educational outcomes may occur through elevated aspirations among sponsored children. Using an age-eligibility rule applied during program rollout to identify causal effects, we study whether international child sponsorship increases educational and vocational aspirations among a sample of 2022 children in Kenya, Indonesia, and Mexico. While effects are heterogeneous, and strongest in Kenya, we find that, averaging over the three countries, sponsorship increased indices of self-esteem (0.25sd), optimism (0.26sd), aspirations (0.29sd), and expected years of completed education (0.43 years). We find that sponsorship increases actual grade completion by 0.56 among children at the time of the survey, and mediation analysis suggests that the impact of sponsorship on aspirations is likely to mediate higher levels of grade completion. Our results contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that the positive impacts of child sponsorship stem partly through elevating aspirations. More generally, our research contributes to a larger literature suggesting that the alleviation of internal constraints among the poor is a strong complement to addressing their external constraints.
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- Child sponsorship
- Economic development