Equity and Cash Transfers in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia

Brazilian girl at her home in the kitchen
Support for this work was provided by the AIR Equity Initiative.

Despite extensive research on the effectiveness of cash transfer programs, little evidence exists on the extent and ways poor people with intersectional identities have been excluded from these programs and what potential strategies would work to reduce their exclusion.

The AIR Equity Initiative awarded funding to the Equity and Cash Transfers in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia project which aims to systematically analyze and document the extent of exclusion errors in the most important cash transfer programs in these countries, and to explore potential strategies that could improve their inclusivity and equity, particularly for individuals with intersectional identities. 

World Bank data from 2019 show that in Mexico, conditional cash transfer* (CCT) programs covered 63.7% (rural) and 28.1% (urban) of the poorest quintile. Colombia’s CCT programs’ coverage was 41.4% (rural) and 26.5% (urban), while Brazil reached 83.3% (rural) and 48.1% (urban). 

*Conditional cash transfer beneficiaries need to meet certain criteria such as attending school and medical appointments.

World Bank. (n.d.). ASPIRE: The Atlas of Social Protection Indicators

The AIR team will explore whether individuals with intersectional identities, and those affected by segregation by place and race, are more prone to exclusion. The team will systematically analyze trends in exclusion errors in Mexico’s Prospera and new cash transfer programs, Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, and Colombia’s Familias en Acción programs, three of the largest and oldest cash transfer programs in the region.

This research project is a collaboration with three universities: Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico, and Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil. As part of the project, the AIR team will not only document best practices to promote their inclusion, but also influence government officials in charge of these interventions and foster networks of policymakers, researchers, and specialists in the area. The team leverage the unique public policy relationships of our local partners, AIR’s expertise in cash transfers, and our presence in the region. 

Santiago Munevar Salazar
Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Specialist
Rosa Castro-Zarzur headshot