To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Assuming that a modicum of pro-poor sentiment exists, and the government’s sincerity and ability are not cynically rejected out of hand, a pro-poor initiative has the potential for feasibility, sustainability, and long-term integrity in maintaining its progressivity. However, each class of pro-poor instruments will have a different potential depending on the psychology of both nontargeted and targeted people. These dynamics are worth outlining, as long as it is remembered that the specific history and current context of any given country must be taken into account.
This chapter demonstrates how the economic prospects of the poor relate to overall economic growth, and how economic growth of both the poor and the non-poor relates to income redistribution. The reduction of poverty that has occurred in many developing countries is based on overall economic growth – and, in some countries, pro-poor policies. The conclusion, surprising to many, is that radical redistributive efforts, even if framed as helping the poor, frequently undermine their economic prospects by undermining overall economic growth. In the context of low destructive conflict, pro-poor policies, accompanied by overall pro-growth policies, tend to raise the incomes of the poor.
Affirmative action (or “reservation”) programs provide perhaps the most insightful window on the relationships among identifications, perceptions, and pro-poor policy. Affirmative action programs that designate particular sets of people as deserving favorable treatment both reflect and reinforce identifications and attributions. Affirmative action programs are distinguished from other benefit-targeting instruments by the ostensible goal of overcoming economic (and sometimes social) deprivations of variously defined groups. This is accomplished by providing privileged access to university admission, scholarships, university credits for community service work, bureaucratic jobs, and/or contracting with state institutions. Typically, part of the rationale is to redress past discrimination.
The final broad approach to addressing poverty alleviation is to target investment to the poor regions of the country (Richardson 1982). It may not be the case that the very poorest people reside in that region, but a low regional per capita income is typically a good indication of the existence of many poor people. Equally important, insofar as people perceive that they are living in one of the poorest regions, they may very well press for investment to redress the disparity between their region and wealthier regions.
The magnitude of government-provided pro-poor social services is the product of the overall budget allocation for social services and the degree to which this budget is concentrated to the poor. Enormous variation exists in how governments finance and deliver social services, and how these services can be targeted especially to the poor. This chapter highlights the psychological bases for supporting or opposing additional government spending that directly targets the poor by focusing on two cases of wide swings in such funding: Argentinaand Brazil. The psychological dynamics include the presumption of malice toward outgroup leaders involved in policy disagreements. The ebullient moods during economic booms, as shown in the Braziliancase, can overcome the polarizationthat attributions of malice can create. Thus, the Brazilian case demonstrates the possibility of inducing noblesse obligesentiment to counter the shame that would erode the self-esteemof the relatively prosperous, for whom the national identification has been highly salient. Yet, the swings in mood can reverse this sentiment dramatically. Argentina, in particular, lacking the sustained booms that have created optimismduring periods in Brazil, demonstrates the powerful impact of extreme stereotyping, stark polarization, fraternal deprivation, and the dynamics of mutual disdain.
Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs provide funds to low-income families if they maintain their eligibility by fulfilling conditions such as school attendance and regular healthcarefor their children. Some programs require recipients to work or attend training programs.1 By far the most common practice is to provide the money to the female head of household. This chapter focuses on the highly prominent Brazilian and Mexican CCT programs. These pioneering cases illustrate the psychology of esteemreinforcement for those who support these programs, reflected in the opportunity for noblesse obligeon the part of relatively prosperous people and to assert control over “less-accomplished” people. These cases also reflect the ambiguityof outgroup identification, as shown by the grave difficulties of establishing who is eligible for the benefits. Regarding the psychology of deservingnessattribution, compliance with the conditions may be a crucial basis for deeming low-income people as worthy of benefits. The cases thus highlight the intersection of deservingness attributions, as outlined in Chapter 3, and the highly contentious issue of whether the poor are entitled to a “basic income” as a citizenship right (Murrayand Pateman 2012). For countries with people clearly receiving less than what would be considered a “basic income,” embracing the basic income as a right would mean a stain on the nation as a whole, challenging the self-esteem of the relatively prosperous. In contrast, the view that income requires responsible effort is consistent with the demand that cash transfers require compliance with conditions.
So much of the research on poverty alleviation has focused on the poor and the capacity to mobilize them. Undoubtedly the actions of people who would gain from poverty alleviation are important, but it is crucial to find the bases of negative reactions to pro-poor initiatives on the part of prosperous people. If some prosperous people wish to undermine a government’s economic programs, they often have the capacity to do so. Even if a government with a pro-poor agenda is elected by a majority of voters sympathetic to this agenda, the non-poor frequently have tools to undermine specific policy initiatives or the economy itself. Compared to the poor, the wealthy do tend to invest more of their incomes into economic activities, but not necessarily within their own countries, especially if they see a threat to their investments or their persons. Capital flight has been, in many countries, a major reason for recessions, which in turn undercut the prospects for poverty alleviation. The obvious implication is that there is a threshold of the perceived threat from redistributive policies beyond which faltering economic growth undermines poverty-alleviation efforts. In addition to blocking these initiatives, the prosperous, in their opposition to higher taxes, may turn to destructive conflict.
Over the past few years more than ten million relatively prosperous families in India gave up the right to buy fuel at subsidized prices so that poorer Indianscould do so. On the other hand, some wealthy Indians have muscled their way into qualifying for affirmative action privileges, undermining an effective way of improving the prospects for deserving low-income students. In Brazil, the new millennium gave birth to a radical departure from the race-blind “racial democracy” myth to enact benefits for deprived Afro-Brazilians, despite the lack of a powerful pro-affirmative-action movement. Yet the affirmative action program has divided the Afro-Brazilian community, with recriminations and student expulsions for not being “black enough.”
This chapter presents the fundamental psychological links between identity and attributions. Among these attributions are the crucial perceptions of deservingness, as well as the potential for intergroup antagonism. As individuals identify with particular ingroups for their own esteem and security, the esteem and security of that group as a whole becomes compelling. To a certain degree, this shapes the attributes assigned to the ingroup and the outgroups. The contrast between characteristics attributed to the ingroup and an outgroup would serve the drive for esteem if the ingroup is perceived as superior to a particular outgroup or to outgroups in general.
In order to design, enact, and protect poverty alleviation policies in developing countries, we must first understand the psychology of how the poor react to their plight, and not just the psychology of the privileged called upon for sacrifice. This book integrates social and psycho-dynamic psychology, economics, policy design, and policy-process theory to explore ways to follow through on successful poverty-alleviation initiatives, while averting destructive conflict. Using eight case studies across Latin America, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, William Ascher examines successes and failures in helping the poor through affirmative action, cash transfers, social-spending targeting, subsidies, and regional development. In doing so, he demonstrates how social identities, attributions of deservingness, and perceptions of the policy process shape both the willingness to support pro-poor policies and the conflict that emerges over distributional issues.