Friday, January 1, 2010


by Richard Crews
Have you heard of a marvelous program set up by the Mexican government to pay a rural mother $60 any month that three conditions are met:
(1) her child attends school every day,
(2) her child has a health-clinic visit,
(3) the mom attends a one-hour class in nutrition?

The money is paid directly by the government to minimize administrative costs and corruption. It is paid to the mother when she provides the three certificates for the month. Although there are no strings attached, sociological follow-up studies show that the mothers generally use the money for the benefit of their families. It was found that when the money was paid to the father, it was more likely to go to alcohol, tobacco, and gambling. The amount of the allocation is calculated to compensate the family for the loss of the child's labor from the fields.

The program was originally set up under the name "Progressa" (Progress) in 1997, and was changed to "Oportunidades" ("Opportunities") in 2002. About one fourth of Mexican families are enrolled in the program. Similar programs have subsequently been started in Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Honduras, Jamaica, Malawi, Thailand, and Zambia.