Demand rationalities in contexts of poverty: Do the Poor respond to market incentives in the same way?

Xavier Bonal, Adrián Zancajo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last decades, we have witnessed the centrality of demand-side education policies intended to improve access and conditions of schooling for the poor. Among these policies, voucher systems have played a prominent role as a mechanism to enhance choice and competition. Actors advocating for and boosting such policies, such as the World Bank, national governments or private corporations, share a common understanding of the ways in which poor people respond to specific market and policy incentives. This article develops a critique of the assumed instrumental rationality of mainstream policies and programmes that focus on market and policy incentives to influence the educational demands of the poor. In the first part, the article describes the main characteristics of demand-side financing of education policies and provides an interpretation of the instrumental rationality embedded in the theory of change of these policies. In the second part of the article, alternative frameworks to interpret the responses of the poor to market and policy incentives are presented and discussed. The final section of the paper reflects on the significant policy implications of this discussion for global education reforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Demand-side interventions
  • Education policy
  • Global education
  • Policy incentives
  • Poverty
  • Rationality


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