Innovative features in conditional cash transfers: an impact evaluation of Chile Solidario on households and children

Innovative features in conditional cash transfers: an impact evaluation of Chile Solidario on households and children

Chile Solidario is an avant garde CCT in the Latin American context, introducing innovative features which are aimed at specifically addressing the multidimensional nature of poverty, considered not only as a consequence of the lack of income, but also as a result of low levels of human and social capital, and the vulnerability of a household to shocks.

Social protection represents an important tool to mitigate poverty and to promote adequate living standards and conditions. The literature offers many definitions of social protection; most highlight the preventive-protective-promotive functions that social protection programmes provide to their beneficiaries (ERD, 2010), while others emphasize the transformative role of social protection in promoting empowerment and participation of individuals within society.

However, apart from definitional issues, there seems to be consensus around the fact that social protection has an important impact on poverty and vulnerability. Evidence from different kinds of programmes in the developing world shows that beneficiaries of social protection are generally better off compared to their counterparts in terms of the various dimensions of wellbeing, ranging from a reduction of poverty to gains in human capital. In view of their increased vulnerability compared to adults, social protection is particularly relevant to children, given the role it can play in ensuring adequate nutrition, utilization of, and access to social services.

In Latin America social protection has largely taken the form of large scale implementation of conditional cash transfers (CCTs). These transfers have proven successful in combating poverty and inequality across the continent, while facilitating empowerment by increasing access to services and supporting investment in education, health and nutrition. Compared to the older, rudimentary programmes introduced in the region in the past, CCTs are better funded by the State and assure a greater coverage of the vulnerable population. Indeed, flagship programmes such as Bolsa Familia in Brazil and Oportunidades in Mexico now cover about 25 per cent of the population and cost on average less than 0.5 per cent of GDP. Most of the existing CCTs in the region require households to fulfill conditions linked to both educational attainment by children and regular health check-ups. A more recent development of CCTs in the region is represented by the Red Solidaria in El Salvador, which – as well as offering transfers in exchange for education and health facility attendance – also provides a supply-side component to strengthen access to basic services, including investments in electricity, water, sanitation and other infrastructures