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DT 11-23 Tarjeta Uruguay Social: diseño, implementación y posibles efectos

As part of the process of expansion of cash transfer programs that took place in the
region since the early 2000s, Uruguay implemented a benefit called the Uruguay Social Card (TUS) in 2008. This program consists of an unconditional monthly cash transfer, granted through a prepaid card, aimed at households in a situation of extreme
economic vulnerability. The card can be used in a network of affiliated stores to purchase food and cleaning and hygiene products, which are exempt from Value Added Tax when purchased with the card. The purchase of tobacco and alcohol is prohibited.
More than a decade after the implementation of the program, this paper i) documents
the development of the intervention over time, its evolution and changes; ii) synthesizes the evidence on the effects of this type of policy on various outcome variables; and iii) provides novel empirical evidence, comparing households that are similar in observed characteristics but differ in their status as TUS beneficiaries.
The analysis presented suggests that TUS contributes to facilitating households'
economic access to food, but under the current design, the objectives of the benefit are not clear. More than a decade into the program's implementation, the TUS currently appears to function as a transfer similar to other existing transfers in the country, such as Asignaciones Familiares, and its food objectives are blurred. If the program maintains its objectives of contributing to access to healthy, nutritious and sufficient food, different aspects of its design and the need for complementary actions deserve more attention. If, on the other hand, the objective of the policy is to guarantee the improvement of the income of the most vulnerable population, it would be pertinent to discuss its complementarity and integration with other non-contributory transfer policies, such as Asignaciones Familiares.