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Are Conditional Government Transfers a Politically Acceptable Form of Redistribution?

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Name of the Asset | Are Conditional Government Transfers a Politically Acceptable Form of Redistribution?
Type of Asset | Working Paper
Date | December 2016


How do different characteristics of government transfers affect the level of public support for these programs? This paper presents evidence that the characteristics of the policy instrument can affect the level of support, even if they have no impact on its net-redistributive cost. It employs survey experiments in Brazil, Chile, Turkey, and Uruguay to determine whether, and in what contexts, making government transfers conditional on the behavior of beneficiaries increases support for these transfers among non-beneficiaries. In the experiments, some respondents are primed to think of themselves as “different” from potential beneficiaries in regional and ethnic/racial dimensions, and the type of conditionality imposed on beneficiaries are manipulated. Results show that conditional transfers are generally more popular than similar unconditional ones, and also support our “otherness hypothesis”, whereby the “conditionality premium” is greater when non-beneficiaries perceive themselves to be — or are primed to think that they are — different from beneficiaries in non-economic terms. The fact that perceived differences between beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries have an impact on redistribution preferences is particularly relevant, even in a broader sense. There is a growing body of literature that shows that political identities are socially constructed. When coupled with these results, it may be concluded that support for redistributive practices can be affected not only by the design of the transfers but that divisive political discourse can be particularly detrimental to redistribution efforts.


  • Juan Pablo Luna, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
  • Gokce Ozgen Baykal, Development Analytics
  • Cesar Zucco Jr., Getulio Vargas Foundation

Country and/or Region | Brazil, Chile, Turkey, and Uruguay
Name of the Program | Global Research Competition
Funder(s) | International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (formerly AusAID)

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