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Mexico’s Progresa-Oportunidades and the emergence of Social Assistance in Latin America


  • Miguel Nino-Zarazua


This paper provides an overview of the political and economic context under which Mexico’s Progresa-Oportunidades was introduced to prelude the emergence of social assistance in Latin America. The paper identifies four distinctive features of the programme that were revolutionary in their own right. First, the Progresa-Oportunidades embraced a multidimensional approach to poverty, linking income transfers with simultaneous interventions in health, education and nutrition. Second, the programme focused on the poor. This is in clear contrast to generalised food subsidies and other targeted interventions that dominated the antipoverty agenda in the past. Third, the programme followed a complex system of identification and selection of beneficiaries to prevent discretionary political manipulation of public funds. Finally, an independent impact evaluation protocol proved to be critical for both improving the programme’s effectiveness and strengthening its legitimacy across different political factions and constituencies. The paper concludes that the success of Progresa-Oportunidades must be understood in a broader context, where harsh economic and political environment, coupled with a rapid democratisation and increasing political competition, laid down the foundations for the introduction and then sustained expansion of the programme.

Suggested Citation

  • Miguel Nino-Zarazua, 2011. "Mexico’s Progresa-Oportunidades and the emergence of Social Assistance in Latin America," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 14211, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:14211

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    Cited by:

    1. Tony Addison & Rachel Gisselquist & Miguel Niño-Zarazúa & Saurabh Singhal, 2015. "Needs vs Expediency - Poverty Reduction and Social Development in Post-Conflict Countries," Working Papers id:7371, eSocialSciences.
    2. Masino, Serena & Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel, 2014. "Social service delivery and access to financial innovation. The impact of Oportunidades’ electronic payment system in Mexico," MPRA Paper 53430, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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