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Social protection for the poor in Latin America


  • Hicks, Norman
  • Wodon, Quentin


Confronted with recurrent macroeconomic shocks, governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have increasingly been concerned about establishing or strengthening systems of social protection and safety net programmes. The goal of these programmes is to help mitigate the impact of shocks on the poor before they occur, and to help the poor cope with the shocks once they have occurred. In this paper, we focus on publicly funded or mandated safety nets functioning as risk-coping mechanisms. The paper reviews the characteristics of a good safety net, in comparison with the main types of safety nets currently in place, and finds in general that no single programme meets all of the criteria in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, although some are better than others. Finally, what has been the actual record in terms of protecting the poor through targeted public spending during crises? The paper finds that because of fiscal constraints during a crisis, social spending is often pro-cyclical when ideally it should be counter-cyclical. Ironically enough, social protection spending itself does not appear to be protected.

Suggested Citation

  • Hicks, Norman & Wodon, Quentin, 2001. "Social protection for the poor in Latin America," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecr:col070:10792
    Note: Includes bibliography

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grosh, Margaret E., 1992. "The Jamaican food stamps programme : A case study in targeting," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 23-40, February.
    2. Stephen Nickell, 1997. "Unemployment and Labor Market Rigidities: Europe versus North America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 55-74, Summer.
    3. Wodon, Quentin T., 1997. "Targeting the poor using ROC curves," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(12), pages 2083-2092, December.
    4. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-427, June.
    5. Besley, Timothy J & Kanbur, S M Ravi, 1988. "Food Subsidies and Poverty Alleviation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(392), pages 701-719, September.
    6. Kene Ezemenari, 1997. "The Link between Public and Private Interhousehold Transfers: Implications for the Design of Safety Net Programs in Developing Countries," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 79(2), pages 666-671.
    7. Glewwe, Paul & Hall, Gillette, 1998. "Are some groups more vulnerable to macroeconomic shocks than others? Hypothesis tests based on panel data from Peru," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 181-206, June.
    8. Ravallion, Martin & Wodon, Quentin, 2000. "Does Child Labour Displace Schooling? Evidence on Behavioural Responses to an Enrollment Subsidy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 158-175, March.
    9. Castro-Fernandez, Rodriguo & Wodon, Quentin, 2002. "Protecting the Unemployed in Chile: From State Assistance to Individual Insurance?," MPRA Paper 15416, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Revenga, Ana & Riboud, Michelle & Tan, Hong, 1994. "The Impact of Mexico's Retraining Program on Employment and Wages," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(2), pages 247-277, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Miguel Braun & Luciano Di Gresia, 2003. "Towards Effective Social Insurance in Latin America: The Importance of Countercyclical Fiscal Policy," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 1463, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. repec:hpe:journl:y:2016:v:219:i:4:p:67-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. -, 2002. "Socio-demographic vulnerability: old and new risks for communities, households and individuals," Documentos de Proyectos 3, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    4. Miguel Braun & Luciano di Gresia, 2003. "Hacia un sistema de seguro social eficaz en América Latina: la importancia de una política fiscal anticíclica," Research Department Publications 4334, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    5. Martín Ardanaz & Ana Corbacho & Alberto Gonzales & Nuria Tolsa Caballero, 2015. "Structural Fiscal Balances in Latin America and the Caribbean: New Dataset and Estimations," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6989, Inter-American Development Bank.
    6. Villatoro S., Pablo, 2005. "Conditional cash transfer programmes: experiences from Latin America," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), August.
    7. World Bank, 2010. "Liberia - Employment and Pro-Poor Growth," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2966, The World Bank.
    8. World Bank, 2005. "Managing Food Price Risks and Instability in an Environment of Market Liberalization," World Bank Other Operational Studies 8264, The World Bank.
    9. Alderman, Harold & Haque, Trina, 2006. "Countercyclical safety nets for the poor and vulnerable," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 372-383, August.
    10. Martín Ardanaz & Ana Corbacho & Alberto Gonzales & Nuria Tolsa Caballero, 2015. "Structural Fiscal Balances in Latin America and the Caribbean: New Dataset and Estimations," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 89816, Inter-American Development Bank.
    11. Martín Ardanaz & Alejandro Izquierdo, 2017. "Current Expenditure Upswings in Good Times and Capital Expenditure Downswings in Bad Times?: New Evidence from Developing Countries," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8558, Inter-American Development Bank.


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