Tara Cookson

Project Description

Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are the most widely implemented anti-poverty programs on the planet, reaching nearly half a billion people in over 50 countries. They operate on a simple premise: cash incentives are efficient and effective mechanisms for changing poor people's behaviour. My research examines the Peruvian program "Juntos," which incentivizes poor rual mothers to use pre-natal services and take their children to school and routine health exams. Juntos' success at achieving its short-term goals has earned it praise from the World Bank, which holds the program up as a model for development. 
Much of the enthusiasm around cash incentives is based on a handful of quantitative metrics related to children’s attendance at schools and health clinics. Looking beyond these statistics, my research explores the impacts of conditional aid on the mothers who receive the cash and are expected to meet the program conditions. I use a unique feminist research methodology called institutional ethnography, which helps me to understand how institutional practices and processes shape program implementation in geographically isolated places, and ultimately, women's experiences. 
As incentive-based initiatives are increasingly implemented in a growing number of health and development contexts in low, middle and high-income regions, this research has broad policy implications for poverty reduction, women’s rights, and social inclusion.  

Research Interests

Poverty and inequality
Social protection
Unpaid care work
Inclusive development

Research Methodology

Institutional ethnography
qualitative research


Faculty of Arts