The Consequences of Conditional Cash Transfers for Political Behavior and Human Development

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Schober, Gregory S.


Remmer, Karen

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The Global South, and particularly Latin America, experienced a remarkable expansion in conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in the last fifteen years. Although a large literature examines the effects of CCTs on human development, the political behavioral consequences remain underexplored. In the dissertation, I address this gap by analyzing the effects of CCTs on political participation and policy. I also explore the implications of these effects for human development.

My central argument is that CCTs increase political participation among beneficiaries, and both program transfers and conditionalities contribute to these positive effects. More specifically, CCTs provide beneficiaries with politically relevant resources, including civic skills and access to state officials and community leaders. These resources reduce the costs of political participation and facilitate more involvement in political activities, particularly in more demanding forms of participation. In addition, I argue that CCTs increase the private provision of local services and influence the outcomes of some non-national elections.

To test this argument, I use four main sources of data: (1) existing survey data from Latin America in 2012; (2) original survey data from Mexico in 2014; (3) experimental data from Mexico in 1998-2000; and (4) in-depth interviews and focus groups from Mexico in 2012. Multilevel models and linear regression models are used to estimate the effects of CCTs on political behavior and service provision. The in-depth interviews and focus groups help to unravel more of the causal mechanism that connects CCTs to political participation.

The evidence largely supports my argument. I find that CCTs increase participation in a wide variety of political activities, including electoral and non-electoral activities. In addition, the pathways to increased participation include improved civic skills and increased access to state officials and local leaders. Moreover, CCTs increase the private provision of sewerage services.

I conclude that CCTs have both desirable and undesirable consequences. On the one hand, CCTs increase democratic political participation, improve civic skills, reduce the distance between beneficiaries and government officials, and increase access to local services. The increased access to sewerage services creates an indirect pathway to improved human development outcomes. On the other hand, CCTs reduce the pressure on local officials to provide local services, and in some contexts contribute to electoral rewards for undeserving incumbent parties.





Schober, Gregory S. (2015). The Consequences of Conditional Cash Transfers for Political Behavior and Human Development. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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