In the last 25 years, conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs have become popular assistance policies across Latin America, Africa, and Asia for combating poverty and building human capital. Despite some success in reaching these goals, questions remain about the wider political effects of CCTs on individuals and communities, especially when considering gendered relationships and the institutions in the countries where CCTs are in place.
I investigate the relationship between cash transfers and political participation, while also considering the importance of moderating forces such as gender, program enforcement, and compulsory voting.
I use data from AmericasBarometer sourced from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and a series of multilevel models to examine the association between CCTs and a wide set of participatory indicators.
I show CCTs to be robustly associated with higher levels of participation broadly conceived. Results also demonstrate gender and institutional features such as enforced conditions and compulsory voting can attenuate the positive effects of transfers, depending on the form of participation considered.
Overall, CCTs tend to be strongly associated with political participation. However, CCTs may also reinforce gendered norms of political participation and engagement. Furthermore, the potentially negative associations regarding the enforcement of program conditions are valuable to consider when evaluating the downstream, democratic potential of cash transfer programs.