Social citizenship for the global poor? The worldwide spread of social assistance

Lutz Leisering, Armando Barrientos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion of citizenship has universalistic claims, but in practice citizenship goes along with exclusions. Households in poverty are a test case. Social assistance for those in poverty is a rather unlikely source of citizenship because it blends inclusion and exclusion, decommodification and commodification. But we argue that the development of social assistance since the 1950s (in the global North) and since the late 1990s (in the global South) has extended social citizenship. In the South, innovative large-scale 'social cash transfer' programmes are reaching significant sections of the population. This testifies to the renewed role of (Southern) nation-states within 'layered' global citizenship. Unlike earlier studies, we investigate Northern and Southern social assistance together, applying a common theoretical framework derived from T. H. Marshall's writings on citizenship and on social assistance. While social citizenship has become more inclusive, we also discuss new exclusions and stratifications that go along with social security-based citizenship. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S50-S67
JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Citizenship
  • Global citizenship
  • Global South
  • Poverty
  • Social assistance
  • Social cash transfers
  • Social protection

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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