Conditional Cash Transfers and Social Mobility: The Role of Asymmetric Structures and Segmentation Processes


  • Johan Sandberg

    1. Researcher at the Department of Sociology, Lund University, Box 114, 221 00 Lund, Sweden ( He researches in areas of political economy, economic sociology and socio-economic development. His current research focuses on social policy reforms in Latin America, including a field research project on conditional cash transfers.
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I would like to thank Milton Silveira and Lucía Naser for excellent fieldwork assistance. I would also like to thank Raquel Artecona, Graciela Mazzuchi, Carmen Midaglia, Andrea Vigorito, Alvaro Forteza and Verónica Amarante for providing valuable insights into Uruguayan development and social policies. Finally, I would like to thank the three anonymous referees for thorough reviews and constructive comments. This research was supported by a research grant from Sida.


This article seeks to advance existing research on conditional cash transfers (CCTs) by centring the analysis of their long-term impact on the reproduction of poverty and exclusion. To date, most analyses and assessments of CCTs’ long-term impact have been based on simulations focused on specific parameters such as income changes and educational attainment. This study takes as its starting point the assumption that any efforts to break the cycle of chronic poverty and exclusion must address their underlying structures and processes. To that end, it presents a social mobility analysis of Uruguay's Asignaciones Familiares and its impact on residential segregation, educational segmentation and labour market segmentation. Based on empirical data from qualitative interviews, household surveys and existing research studies, the programme is found to insufficiently address these asymmetric processes. Without accompanying structural reforms, this limitation will significantly constrain the programme's capacities to promote beneficiaries’ social mobility by breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty.