CLASP Social Policy Interventions

We are conducting and evaluating social policy interventions in Yucatan, Mexico, aimed at improving the well-being of the population.


We designed with the State of Yucatan, Mexico, a non-contributory social security program for towns with more than 20,000 inhabitants, and are evaluating its impact on the welfare of residents 70 years or over. We are employing a randomized design with treatment and control groups and measurements before and after the intervention. People over age 70 get a pension of about US$69 at 2010 purchasing power parity (PPP) per month. This study follows both treatment and control groups over time to examine short and longer term effects. This is a unique project to test and understand the effects of non-contributory pension systems on the health and welfare of the elderly.

Many countries around the world have introduced non-contributory social security programs, including Brazil, Bangladesh, Mexico, and South Africa. Non-contributory social security programs are implemented as a poverty alleviation measure for elderly with no contributory social security coverage or employer provided pensions. Given the world wide trend of aging populations, it is important to learn about the long-term and short-term effects of these programs.

Collage of Yucatan people

Preliminary Survey Results

  • Decline in number of older people still working
  • Increase in use of medical services and medicine
  • Improvement in food availability


  • Randomized treatment and control: Merida, 2010
  • Randomized treatment and control: Merida, 2009
  • Treatment: Valladolid Control: Motul, 2008


We developed a computerized questionnaire asking for a wide variety of socio-economic and demographic characteristics, expenditures on non-durable goods, family transfers, health status, physical functioning, anthropometrics, health care services of the elderly, social networks and social support, and care giving responsibilities.

Some of the specific topics included in the survey are:


  • Dietary practices
  • Self-reported health
  • Chronic conditions
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Health care utilization
  • Food security and availability
  • Cognitive capabilities
  • Life Satisfaction
  • Depression


  • Financial and in kind transfers from family
  • Family characteristics
  • Food expenditure
  • Income and assets
  • Social networks and social support

We also collect physical measures (blood pressure, pulmonary capacity, grip strength, balance and walking tests, anthropometry (height, weight, waist circumference, arm length, height to knee, and arm circumference), and anemia tests.

Collage of people being measured for various physical traits

The survey is based on other longitudinal studies, including: the Mexican Health and Aging Study (Estudio Nacional sobre Salud y Envejecimiento en México, or MHAS), and the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

The questionnaire is available in English, Spanish and Maya. Here it is an example in the three languages:

English question Spanish question Maya question

How often do you eat tortillas, bread, crackers or other cereals?

¿Cada cuando consume tortillas, pan, galletas u otros cereales?

Ba’ax k’iino’ob ikil a jaantik waajil ixi’im, ch’ujuk waaj galleta wáa cerealo’ob

In the last three months, Does your family or friends pay for your expenses? Would you say that this is…

En los últimos tres meses, ¿Su familia o amigo(s) cubrieron sus gastos? Diria usted que...

a láak’alaal wáa a etail bo’otik le bajux ka xu’upiko’

Do you have any difficulty with getting into or out of bed or hammock?

¿Usted tiene alguna dificultad al acostarse o levantarse de la cama o hamaca?

Teche’ istikiaj a chital wáa a líik’il ti’ a kaama wáa ti a k’aan.

The surveys are administered with a RAND-developed Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) software and all surveys were programmed using a RAND MMIC (Multimode Interviewing Capability) survey software. MMIC is a comprehensive information system that integrates various traditional modes of collecting interview data, including telephone interviewing, self-administered surveys, and interviewer-administered surveys. Learn more about MMIC

Close up of computer used for survey Person taking computer survey


In our field office in Mérida, Yucatán, México, CLASP has:

  • 35 interviewers, 50% bilingual in Maya and Spanish
  • 5 field supervisors (4 of them bilingual)
  • 4 coordinators
  • 2 programmers
  • 3 administrative support staff
  • Project staff of almost 100 persons
Group photo of staff members

International collaborations include researchers from RAND; University College London, (UCL); Harvard University; University of Valley of Mexico; Research Center for Advanced Studies, (CINVESTAV); Council of Writers of Indigenous Languages of Yucatan; Northwestern University; Yale University, University Autonomous of Yucatan, (UADY); National Institute for Statistics and Geography, (INEGI); Center of Teaching and Research in the Social Sciences, (CIDE); University of California Los Angeles, (UCLA); Association Tumben Kinam A.C. and University Ibero-American.

Group photo of staff members


  • 4 field pre-tests of the questionnaire
  • 3 training courses for interviewers (two weeks each)
Group of people engaged in training

Fieldwork to Date

  • 19 field operations during 38 months of nonstop work
  • Until now we have made a census of 65,553 households
  • We have conducted 13,723 interviews to adults 70 years or older
  • We have done interviews in 1,987 establishments
Man in front of hut Family in house