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Trajectories and Limits of Social Assistance in Middle-Income Countries

Institutions
Political Competition
Social Policy
Welfare State
Comparative Perspective
Tobias Böger
Universität Bremen
Tobias Böger
Universität Bremen

Abstract

The massive spread of social assistance across the global South since the early 2000s has revolutionized social protection for poor persons. A lot has been written on the new programmes, but these are mostly case studies or regional studies that describe the programme design and outcomes. Some studies have tried to explain the introduction of the programmes. This article inquires what trajectories the new programmes have taken since their introduction. To this end, the article adopts a new approach in four respects: looking into trajectories of established programmes rather than into the introduction of new programmes; relating social assistance to the wider social protection context, including its relation to social insurance; covering programmes across all world regions; and drawing on a unique novel data base. Focusing on one central dimension of social assistance – benefit generosity – and employing newly generated time-series data from the SaMIP project for twelve countries over a period of up to 24 years, this paper tackles the threefold task of tracing the development of social assistance benefits, explaining their divergent trajectories and illuminating their distributive consequences. The finding is that there is a variety of programme trajectories, that institutional feedback processes play an important role, and that there may be an upcomming impasse with regards to the extend of redistribution across the global South.