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Research Questions

  1. What were the results of disbursing a noncontributory pension for older population through a debit card linked to a bank account?
  2. How did the pilot test of debit-card disbursal of noncontributory pensions collect information?
  3. What were the results of the surveys of program participants?

In an effort to improve the quality of life for older adults, the government of Yucatan, Mexico, and the RAND Corporation collaborated to design, implement, and evaluate a noncontributory pension program in Yucatan. Although the program initially distributed its monthly benefit in cash, it later selected a small group of recipients to receive the pension through a debit card. From March 2010 to February 2012, a pilot study was conducted in the city of Merida, the Yucatan state capital. The program paid monthly pensions of MXN $550 through deposits to a bank account established for each beneficiary that is linked to a debit card. This report is one of a series of RAND reports describing the noncontributory pension program in Yucatan, its implementation, its evaluation, and related topics. This report describes how the pilot test was conducted and explores the results from several surveys of this pilot group. Results indicated that debit-card pension disbursal is feasible for an elderly Mexican population and that the state should expand the number of beneficiaries receiving the benefit through the debit-card method.

Key Findings

Debit-Card Pension Disbursal Is Feasible for an Elderly Mexican Population

  • The debit-card disbursal mechanism appeared to make the program simpler to administer than a cash-based disbursal program.
  • Many pilot-group participants had initial doubts about the debit card, but, over time, many became more comfortable with it.
  • Many pilot-program participants reported that family members helped them use the cards or had used the cards on their behalf.
  • Some had problems using automated teller machines to withdraw their pensions, including not remembering how to use the machines and having problems with access.


  • Expand the number of beneficiaries receiving the benefit through the debit-card method.
  • Provide periodic training for beneficiaries on how to use automated teller machines.
  • Regularly check to ensure that recipients know how to access their pensions.

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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