Conditional Cash Transfers or CCTs are public programs that deliver cash directly to poor families provided they perform a set of proliferated actions that expect to reduce poverty, are most common in Latin America. 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s a cheap program (ex/ 0.5% of the country’s GDP) that for now has bipartisan support. CCTs were made possible by the shift of priority to human development and the World Bank and Latin American countries declaring war on poverty. 

CCTs are a part of the reason why poverty has been greatly reduced in the past 25 years, as Latin America was dealing with a poverty crisis in the 1980/90s. Latin America’s success made them the model to follow, though none of the emulations elsewhere have reached the scale or commitment that countries like Brazil and Colombia have. 

One example is a U.S. CCT program that didn’t last. It had been based on school performance. Dr. Silva pointed out that it made it hard and sometimes shameful to keep up with the extensive list of requirements. In Latin America, they have a better model of letting the families get the money deposited into a card and they issue it to the female head of household.

Some argue that this has increased violence against women, while others argue that this has economically empowered women. The violence is a backlash against the politics within the family and represent a hurdle to women’s economic freedom and newly gained power. 

One program, Bolsa Familia between 2004 and 2011 raised 22 million people out of poverty. A downside is that some focus all efforts on the one kid guaranteeing the family a CCT, thereby neglecting the rest. It’s a sustainability issue that must be addressed. 

Withal, it would be worthwhile to investigate why Latin America has been so successful and if in the coming years they will continue to retain these programs amidst the increasing backlash from conservative politics that challenge CCTs. Another problem is that some were failing to get CCTs not due to their families, but because of problems within lack of access to schools that must be taken into consideration when evaluating who should receive CCTs. 

“Poverty Reduction in Brazil and Colombia: Cases of Conditional Cash Transfers.” -Dr. Michelle Morais de Sa e Silva