This article examines the impact on children's education and labour of monthly cash grants targeted on ultra‐poor households and designed to reduce poverty and enable families to invest in human development. It conducts a randomised community trial, with baseline and endline
surveys of intervention and control households; verifies school enrolment; and completes key‐informant interviews and focus‐group discussions. Compared with non‐beneficiaries, intervention children experienced a 5 percentage point difference in enrolment, higher educational
expenditures, fewer absences, and a 10 percentage point decrease in labour outside the home. Qualitative data confirm the quantitative findings. Transfers to poor households had a positive impact. However, the Malawian educational system needs to be improved for short‐term impacts to
lead to long‐term development in human capital.