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Global Development Institute

Improving research infrastructure in social assistance

Since the turn of the century low and middle income countries have implemented programmes providing regular transfers to families in poverty with the objective of strengthening their capacity to exit poverty.

The theory behind antipoverty transfer programmes is that stabilising and enhancing household income will enable participants to improve their nutrition, ensure investment in children's schooling and health, and help overcome economic and social exclusion.

The term social assistance best described budget-financed programmes targeted on the population in poverty and providing regular and reliable transfers.

Social assistance programmes in developing countries show large variation in design, effectiveness, scale, and objectives. In middle-income countries, social assistance works alongside social insurance for formal sector workers. In low-income countries, social assistance coexists with humanitarian or emergency assistance (safety nets).

The aim of this research project is to improve research infrastructure on social assistance, in terms of concepts, indicators and data.

The project will collect data on social assistance indicators for all developing countries for the period 2000-2015. The database will be made available online to researchers and policy makers globally.

This is urgently needed to support comparative analysis of emerging social assistance institutions. Our interest is in identifying ideal types or social assistance regimes, as a first step towards developing comprehensive theories to explain their emergence, evolution and future.

Analysis will test for combinations of political, demographic, economic and social factors linked to specific social assistance regimes; examine what conditions hinder or facilitate their effectiveness and sustainability; and study the role and contribution of emerging welfare institutions to growth and development and the eradication of poverty in different countries and regions.

The project is led by Professor Armando Barrientos in collaboration with Andrea Barry, Research Fellow. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Government's Department for International Development. 

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