SAPI - Social Assistance, Politics, and Institutions database

Since the turn of the century, social assistance has emerged as a leading institution in the fight against poverty and vulnerability in the developing world. Large-scale programmes providing direct transfers to households in poverty have transformed the antipoverty policy agenda, moving it from traditional approaches of food aid and subsidies to regular and predictable forms of assistance.

The rapid expansion of social assistance has also underscored the significant gaps in information and data needed for comparative cross-country research on emerging social protection institutions in the Global South.

There is a growing recognition about the importance of learning from, and understanding, the functioning of a wide range of social assistance programmes and the economic, social and political contexts under which they have emerged.

The fact that there are positive gains from cross-country knowledge sharing, and that the experiences from one country can help others avoid using resources on ineffective antipoverty policies, underlies the critical role of documenting and making information and data on social assistance programmes widely available.


Over the past two years, UNU-WIDER has been developing a new database, ‘Social Assistance, Politics and Institutions’ (SAPI), which provides a synthesis of longitudinal and harmonized comparable information on social assistance programmes in developing countries, covering the period 2000-2015. The SAPI provides information on:

  1. programme characteristics,
  2. programme and country-level institutionalization;
  3. budget and financing; and
  4. welfare impacts.

The SAPI database is part of a large research initiative, The Economics and Politics of Taxation and Social Protection that aims to shed light on the system-wide impacts of social protection and tax systems in developing countries.

There are several valuable databases on social assistance in developing countries. However, these datasets are in their current format limited in their capacity to support longitudinal comparative analysis. The SAPI database aims to expand previous data collection efforts and provide a consistent and comparable synthesis of programmes and country-level information over the past 15 years.

We are releasing a Beta version (1.0) of the SAPI database, and over the next few months, we will release an updated version with additional indicators. For further queries, please contact Miguel Niño-Zarazúa.

Stata Excel User guide and codebook Index of Programmes
SAPI SAPI 2018.xls SAPI User Guide and codebook.pdf SAPI Index of Programmes Sub-Saharan Africa, MENA, and China.pdf
      SAPI Index of Programmes Latin America.pdf
      SAPI Index of Programms Asia.pdf

Please cite the SAPI database as follows: UNU-WIDER (2018) Social Assistance, Politics, and Institutions (SAPI) database [online] Helsinki: United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER). Available from: /project/sapi-social-assistance-politics-and-institutions-database. [Accessed -date-].


Main subject

Theme: 2014-18, Inclusion