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Social Assistance in Developing Countries


  • 10 b/w illus. 5 tables
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 (ISBN-13: 9781107440166)

The rapid spread of large-scale and innovative social transfers in the developing world has made a key contribution to the significant reduction in global poverty over the last decade. Explaining how flagship anti-poverty programmes emerged, this book provides the first comprehensive account of the global growth of social assistance transfers in developing countries. Armando Barrientos begins by focusing on the ethical and conceptual foundations of social assistance, and he discusses the justifications for assisting those in poverty. He provides a primer on poverty analysis, and introduces readers to the theory of optimal transfers. He then shifts the focus to practice, and introduces a classification of social assistance programmes to help readers understand the diversity in approaches and design in developing countries. The book concludes with an analysis of the financing and politics of the emerging institutions and of their potential to address global poverty.

• Provides a global account of the use of income transfers as a primary means of reducing poverty in the South - helping to explain the background to, and rapid spread of, antipoverty transfers in international development • Incorporates studies of flagship antipoverty programmes such as Brazil's Bolsa Família, Mexico's Oportunidades, India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and South Africa's Child Support Grant • Examines the ethical and theoretical foundations of social assistance in developing countries


Part I. Introduction: 1. The emergence of social assistance in developing countries; Part II. Foundations: 2. Ethical foundations; 3. Poverty concepts and measures for social assistance; 4. Optimal anti-poverty transfers; Part III. Practice: 5. Anti-poverty transfers in practice; 6. Incidence, implementation and impact; 7. Budgets, finance and politics; Part IV. Conclusion: 8. The future of social assistance in developing countries.


'In this complex but accessible book, Armando Barrientos locates the exponential recent growth of social assistance programmes in developing countries in its historical and political context. Uniquely, he weaves together ethical arguments and economic analysis, to explain why social assistance has emerged as one of the most powerful tools for fighting poverty in our times. No-one who reads this seminal book can fail to be convinced that social assistance for the poor is not only effective but also affordable and ethically indispensable.' Stephen Devereux, Institute of Development Studies

'Armando Barrientos provides a comprehensive and insightful review of the experience of social assistance programmes in developing countries. Readers will value the combination of analytical, empirical and political perspectives the book presents.' Ariel Fiszbein, Chief Economist for Human Development, The World Bank

'This volume provides an excellent overview of the main conceptual and practical issues in designing and implementing social assistance in developing countries. It will prove useful for policy analysts and students alike.' Ravi Kanbur, Cornell University

'This book takes stock of a quiet revolution in the global South, the recent spread of cash transfers to the poor, and succeeds in a great way. It is the first scholarly and comprehensive account of this new approach to fighting poverty, linking social policy research, welfare economics and social philosophy. The fresh language and the innovative, non-partisan analyses avoid the fashionable talk and buzzwords common in development debates. The book will be the standard reference on the subject for years to come, written by a leading international expert who is both a scholar and a policy adviser.' Lutz Leisering, Director, Institute for World Society Studies, Bielefeld University

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