Cover: A Noncontributory Pension Program for Older Persons in Yucatan, Mexico

A Noncontributory Pension Program for Older Persons in Yucatan, Mexico

Implementing and Designing the Evaluation of the Program in Merida

Published Apr 7, 2014

by Emma Aguila, Abril Borges, Arie Kapteyn, Rosalba Robles, Beverly A. Weidmer

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Research Questions

  1. What types of poverty alleviation programs exist for older populations?
  2. What are the features of Yucatan's noncontributory pension program?
  3. What challenges did the program face?
  4. How can Yucatan implement a noncontributory pension program?
  5. What are the lessons learned by implementing a noncontributory pension program?
  6. How can Yucatan implement a bilingual program evaluation for illiterate older populations?
  7. How can Yucatan design a randomized controlled trial evaluation of a noncontributory pension program?

Mexico's population is aging, and a high proportion of its elderly are poor. This report describes a collaborative effort by the Yucatan government and the RAND Corporation to design, implement, and evaluate a state government program to provide cash benefits to the elderly to improve their well-being as measured by a comprehensive socioeconomic survey and more than 15 anthropometric and biomedical indicators. The program has been introduced in phases in 37 localities in Yucatan over a period of four years. Phases I and II, Reconocer Rural, were implemented in rural areas. Phase III, Reconocer Urbano, expanded the program to urban areas. Program evaluation, Escuchar, began when the program was expanded in phase III to the cities of Valladolid and Merida. The evaluation is gathering extensive data on program beneficiaries, as well as control or comparison groups. For the Merida evaluation, the surveys used in Valladolid were modified including new questions about the educational performance (school enrollment and attendance and time spent in educational activities) of children age 5 to 13 living with the older adult, questions on mortality expectations, and collection of dried blood spots for possible indicators (e.g., high levels of blood sugar) of chronic diseases in older adults. This document provides context and background for the program and describes its design and implementation. It also describes the design of the evaluation of the program impact in Merida. Later documents will provide more details about the data analysis and findings from all the evaluations.

Key Findings

Yucatan's Noncontributory Pension Program Has a Few Noteworthy Features

  • Yucatan, RAND, and other team members work together to contribute essential expertise for a successful program and evaluation.
  • The program invests heavily to develop local capacity.
  • The control group's members did not initially receive pensions but were surveyed simultaneously with those who did.
  • The program has institutionalized the topic of aging in Yucatan, resulting from the joint work between government and researchers.

Yucatan's Noncontributory Pension Program Has Faced Challenges

  • It integrated, trained, and strengthened a local team of data collectors composed mainly of young workers with no experience in electronic survey administration or in taking anthropometric and biomedical measures.
  • It required constructing and sustaining a logistical plan to continuously support the team, regardless of location or timing of the operation.
  • Surveys had to be adapted and translated to Mayan.
  • It required establishing and constructing, in a consistent and professional manner, interdisciplinary networks of institutional collaboration to provide support and viability to the program.

The research described in this report was made possible with funding from the government of the state of Yucatan, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, RAND Labor and Population, and the Center for Latin American Social Policy (CLASP).

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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