Being Seen by the State: Cash Transfers and Women’s Political Participation in Pakistan

with R. R. Jamil

What are the effects of receiving programmatic cash transfers on marginalized citizens’ political behaviour in new democracies, where state-citizen linkages are weak? Can cash transfers targeted exclusively at women increase their political participation in settings where gender gaps in participation are high? This paper addresses these questions by analyzing the political effects of one of the largest unconditional cash transfer (UCT) programs targeted at women in the Global South: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The paper presents findings from an original household survey of 2254 respondents, which uses a regression discontinuity design to analyze the political behavior of program recipients and non-recipients close to the eligibility cutoff. We find evidence that receipt of the BISP UCT increased recipients voting but did not result in long-term electoral returns for the benefit-giving party. Moving beyond voting measures, the program reduced recipients’ reliance on traditional governance intermediaries, such as landlords zamindars and traditional village governance panchayats. However, this reduced dependence on traditional intermediaries has not resulted in female welfare recipients’ increased engagement with the local state or political parties, pointing to other structural barriers that constrain women’s political participation

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