Home Newsroom Faculty News Susan Parker’s Research Findings Focus on Social Programs in Developing and Developed Countries

Susan Parker’s Research Findings Focus on Social Programs in Developing and Developed Countries

Professor Susan Parker’s recent academic publications explore the effectiveness of social programs. While her work focuses on Mexico, the research is directly relevant to ongoing debates around the world on how to reduce poverty and how to avoid negative incentives that programs can generate. 
In the paper “Conditional Cash Transfers: The Case of Progresa/Oportunidades,” published in the Journal of Economic Literature, Parker and her co-author Petra Todd study what has been learned after twenty years of the pioneering Mexican Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.
“CCT are a new way to approach fighting poverty, providing money to poor families, but conditional on kids going to school. The Mexican program has been a model for the implementation of these programs which are now prevalent across the world.” Parker says. “They’re used to fight poverty in both developed and developing countries. Their innovation is linking cash provided to poor families to children’s school attendance and in this way aim to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty.”
“More than 80 countries around the world have CCT programs now,” Parker adds. “The Mexican program was the original CCT program, and it’s the program that we know the most about in terms of effects. Other countries that are starting CCTs are always looking to the Mexican program for evidence. That’s why this review is important.”
Parker’s co-written article “Cheating and Incentives: Learning from a Policy Experiment” studies incentive programs focused on learning and the positive and negative effects they can have. “Many countries around the world reward or punish schools and teachers depending on performances on standardized achievement tests, for instance the United States’s No Child Left Behind. But what has not been studied in a quantitative way is how these incentives may lead to cheating on these tests. Education incentive payments can have negative consequences,” she says. “The idea is to promote achievement, but our paper shows that you can also promote cheating.” The paper was published in American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 
Her third article, “Health Insurance and the Aging: Evidence from the Seguro Popular Program in Mexico,” was published in Demography. In the paper, Parker and her co-authors explore a health insurance program designed to promote universal health care. “Many developing countries tie social security to formal sector participation which excludes workers in the informal sector who in many developing contexts are the majority of all workers. Such a program then can have large welfare effects on informal sector workers, if health insurance improves health outcomes. Our research shows health insurance for informal sector workers can help manage the problem of diabetes in Mexico and get more sick individuals into treatment” Parker says.
Links to Parker’s recent publications: