The Impact of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs on Indigenous Households in Latin America: Evidence from PROGRESA in Mexico

48 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2016

See all articles by Esteban J. Quiñones

Esteban J. Quiñones

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Shalini Roy

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: February 26, 2016


Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are widely used antipoverty measures in Latin America, and many such programs include indigenous beneficiaries. However, concerns have been raised that the indigenous poor, who have historically been marginalized, may not benefit from CCTs as much as the nonindigenous population, owing to cultural as well as geographic factors. Even so, rigorous evidence showing this effect is limited. We assessed this issue in the context of PROGRESA (Programa de Educación, Salud, y Alimenación), an integrated approach to poverty alleviation in Mexico, in which over one-third of beneficiaries were indigenous at the program’s inception in 1998. A feature of the program’s initial targeting was that indigenous and nonindigenous beneficiaries were drawn from geographically similar areas, minimizing the potential for geographic factors to lead to differential impacts. Despite an extensive literature showing positive average impacts of PROGRESA on health and education outcomes, few studies have disaggregated these effects by indigenous status. Using the randomized assignment of initial program roll out, we estimated PROGRESA’s impacts on a range of health and education indicators, distinctly for indigenous and nonindigenous beneficiaries. We found that, as of November 2000, PROGRESA had significant impacts on many health and education indicators among both indigenous and nonindigenous households in our sample; in addition, in aggregate across most indicators, these impacts were very similar. Our results indicate that if geographic disadvantage for indigenous households can be minimized (a nontrivial endeavor), cultural factors may not pose an intrinsic barrier to indigenous households benefiting from CCT programs, and as such, CCTs can promote human capital accumulation among both indigenous and nonindigenous households.

Keywords: Mexico; Latin America; Americas; health; education; households; indigenous peoples; social protection; social safety nets; conditional cash transfers (CCT) programs; resilience

Suggested Citation

Quiñones, Esteban J. and Roy, Shalini, The Impact of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs on Indigenous Households in Latin America: Evidence from PROGRESA in Mexico (February 26, 2016). IFPRI Discussion Paper 1511, Available at SSRN:

Esteban J. Quiñones (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

Shalini Roy

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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