Human Capital versus Basic Income

Ideology and Models for Anti-Poverty Programs in Latin America

Subjects: Latin American Studies
Open Access : 9780472902774, 288 pages, 24 illustrations, 13 tables, 6 x 9, February 2022
Paperback : 9780472038978, 288 pages, 24 illustrations, 13 tables, 6 x 9, February 2022
Hardcover : 9780472132928, 288 pages, 24 illustrations, 13 tables, 6 x 9, February 2022

This open access version is made available thanks in part to the support of libraries participating in Knowledge Unlatched.
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Examines the relationship between the widespread election of left-leaning presidents and the diffusion of conditional cash transfer programs in Latin America

Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Acronyms and Abbreviations
1          Introduction: Conditional Cash Transfers and the Left Turn
Part 1: The Political Origins of the Two Models of CCTs
2          Presidential Ideology and CCT Adoption Revisited: Uncovering the Relationship
3          Lula and Brazil’s Left Learn to Love CCTs: From Rejection to Acceptance and Transformation
4          Human Capital vs. Basic Income: Models of Cash Transfers in Mexico and Brazil
Part 2: Ideology and the Diffusion of CCTs  
5          The Effect of Presidential Ideology on CCT Scope and Design: A Quantitative Test
6          Diffusion Revisited: Presidential Ideology and Two-Track Diffusion of CCTs
7          Presidential Ideology’s Effect on CCT Adoption and Design: The Cases of Costa Rica, Bolivia and Argentina
Part 3: Ideology and the Future of CCTs
8          Conclusion: The Future of CCTs


Latin America underwent two major transformations during the 2000s: the widespread election of left-leaning presidents (the so-called left turn) and the diffusion of conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs)—innovative social programs that award regular stipends to poor families on the condition that their children attend school. Combining cross-national quantitative research covering the entire region and in-depth case studies based on field research, Human Capital versus Basic Income: Ideology and Models for Anti-Poverty Programs in Latin America challenges the conventional wisdom that these two transformations were unrelated. In this book, author Fabián A. Borges demonstrates that this ideology greatly influenced both the adoption and design of CCTs.
There were two distinct models of CCTs: a “human capital” model based on means-tested targeting and strict enforcement of program conditions, exemplified by the program launched by Mexico’s right, and a more universalistic “basic income” model with more permissive enforcement of conditionality, exemplified by Brazil’s program under Lula. These two models then spread across the region. Whereas right and center governments, with assistance from international financial institutions, enacted CCTs based on the human capital model, the left, with assistance from Brazil, enacted CCTs based on the basic income model.
The existence of two distinct types of CCTs and their relation to ideology is supported by quantitative analyses covering the entire region and in-depth case studies based on field research in three countries. Left-wing governments operate CCTs that cover more people and spend more on those programs than their center or right-wing counterparts. Beyond coverage, a subsequent analysis of the 10 national programs adopted after Lula’s embrace of CCTs confirms that program design—evaluated in terms of scope of the target population, strictness of conditionality enforcement, and stipend structure—is shaped by government ideology. This finding is then fleshed out through case studies of the political processes that culminated in the adoption of basic income CCTs by left-wing governments in Argentina and Bolivia and a human capital CCT by a centrist president in Costa Rica.

Fabián A. Borges is Associate Professor of Political Science at California State University, San Bernardino.

“This is a masterful and monumental work, and I am confident that it will make a significant impact in the areas/literatures on Latin American politics and on public policy. This extremely well researched and well written book puts forth many thoughtful insights that have remained somewhat latent in the literature on CCTs to date; synthesizes a vast amount of information in an interesting way; and brings to bear important new empirical findings.”
—Wendy Hunter, University of Texas at Austin

- Wendy Hunter

“The book is impressive in its detailed attention to country-level policy developments, its familiarity with the vast literature on conditional income transfers, and its judicious employment of statistical methods to test for multiple hypotheses regarding the emergence of the programmes. The author has taken care to write in an accessible and didactic format. This will guarantee a wide audience for the book. (…) Borges’ book is an important contribution to our understanding of the emergence of conditional income transfers in Latin America. It deserves a wide readership among researchers, students, policy-makers and those with an interest in Latin American social policy and society.”
Journal of Latin American Studies

- Journal of Latin American Studies

"Fabian A. Borges's new book, Human Capital versus Basic Income, is a well-researched effort to identify alternative ideologies among Latin American presidents over the past several decades, in terms of commitment to economic rights for the poor."
Perspectives on Politics

- Perspectives on Politics