It is widely understood that poverty undermines early childhood development (ECD). In turn, poor ECD reinforces intergenerational transmission of poverty. Comprehensive economic strengthening and social protection programmes, such as ‘graduation programmes’, may offer a ‘double boon’: they can improve ECD in the short term and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty in the long run.
This article provides a comprehensive review of the state of the evidence regarding the role of graduation pogrammes in ECD in the Global South. We find positive effects in relation to nutrition and health, but observe large evidence gaps with respect to safety and security, responsive caregiving and early learning. Tension between work and care, short comings in design and delivery and structural barriers form impediments to positive change. A greater and more holistic focus on children within graduation programming is crucial for securing ECD outcomes and ultimately achieving poverty reduction in the long run.