UCL Institute of the Americas


Can unconditional cash transfers encourage voters to cast ballots? Evidence from Brazil

10 March 2022, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

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An event part of the UCL Institute of the Americas series Democracy and Governance in the Americas

This event is free.

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UCL Institute of the Americas

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Low-income voters are typically underrepresented in elections. Even in countries adopting compulsory voting, there is a consolidated pattern of voter turnout decline among the poor.  A growing conceptual literature suggests that unconditional cash transfers can enhance the electoral participation of low-income voters by either decreasing the costs of gathering information about candidates and their proposals or by signaling that the benefits of voting do outweigh its costs. In this article, I formally test these claims by leveraging Maricá’s unconditional cash transfer (MUCT), the largest UCT in Latin America implemented in Brazil in 2013. Causal estimates from a difference-in-differences design show that voter abstention decreased by 15% after the cash transfer intervention in Maricá. Furthermore, the share of undecided voters -- typically those who decide to discard their votes instead of voting for one of the candidates displayed on the ballot - decreased by 33% after the MUCT implementation. About 13% of registered voters in Maricá would not have voted in general elections held in 2014 and 2018 in the absence of MUCT. These findings suggest that periodic unconditional transfers can mobilize low-income voters and encourage them to participate in elections.

Chair: Dr Néstor Castañeda (Associate Professor of Latin American Political Economy - UCL Institute of the Americas)

About the Speaker

Dr Victor Araújo

Postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science at University of Zurich

More about Dr Victor Araújo

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