Universiteit Leiden

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Maria Gabriela Palacio Ludeña

University Lecturer Development Studies

Dr. M.G. Palacio Ludeña
+31 70 800 9930

I am an Assistant Professor at Leiden University. I teach courses on Economy: Latin America and Practising International Studies at the Bachelor in International Studies and contribute to the course Organisational Theory, Culture and Behaviour. I am currently supervising several internships and MA theses. My courses deal with two consistent streams of literature: political economy and development studies.

While my work focuses on the Latin American region, I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with students and organisations whose research focus is on other regions but deal with issues of social exclusion, inequality, poverty studies and/or social policy.

More information about Maria Gabriela Palacio Ludeña

Fields of interest

Political economy; development studies; social protection; poverty studies; Latin American Studies; social exclusion; conditional cash transfers.


My research makes a contribution to interdisciplinary work on critical social policy. Situated within development studies and informed by political economy, anthropology and sociology; it seeks to understand how social policy can shape political and social identities. To that aim, I have adopted an intersectional approach attentive to gender, age, race and ethnicity. Most of my empirical research has focused on Ecuador, though I have written more broadly about Latin America.

My approach goes against the grain of most research on social protection, which is evaluative and concerned with developmental outcomes, e.g. poverty reduction, nutrition and schooling. It is part of a cumulative research agenda that brings together the political economy and the critical ethnography of social protection targeted to the poorest households, as exemplified by conditional cash transfer programmes or CCTs. Increasingly, my research interests have expanded to include the study of processes of exclusion within academia. I am the chair of the network LUDEN, tackling racism and other forms of exclusion at Leiden University's working and learning environment.

Curriculum Vitae

I hold a PhD in Development Studies by the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS). I obtained my BSc in Economics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in 2008 and an MSc degree in Social Economy and Non-Profit Organisations Management at the Universitat de València in 2009. I also obtained an MA in Development Studies at the ISS in 2011, specialising in Poverty Studies and Policy Analysis. Before my academic career, I worked in the NGO sector on projects related to public health, as a consultant on value chains and sustainable development, and in public administration for the Ecuadorian Development Bank. I have also experience as consultant for various (inter)national organisations such as UNU-WIDER, the Centre for Fiscal Studies and the National Development Council of Ecuador; on projects related to inequality and poverty, social protection and tax reform.

Grants and awards

I was awarded a grant by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) on 'The Economics and Politics of Taxation and Social Protection' in 2015. I was also awarded a grant by the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), endorsed by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, to attend the 8th Annual Advanced Graduate Workshop (AGW) on Poverty, Development and Globalisation (India, 2015), organised jointly by the Azim Premji University, INET and Columbia University. 

Key publications

Palacio Ludeña, M.G., 2019. Institutionalising Segregation: Women, Conditional Cash Transfers, and Paid Employment in Southern Ecuador. Population and Development Review. O. Social assistance has been received with anxiety, as many consider receiving cash will work as a disincentive for women to enter paid work. This article argues that this concern is misplaced. Drawing from feminist economics and sociology of gender, it questions the argument of welfare dependency attributed to cash transfers. The analysis of the Ecuadorian case points at systemic aspects of segregation and suggests that social assistance has neither affected the employment structure nor tackled the sources of gender inequality.

Palacio Ludeña, M.G., 2016. Little People, Big Words: 'Generationing' Cash Transfers in Urban Ecuador in Huijsmans (ed.) Generationing' Development: A Relational Approach to Children, Youth and Development (2016), Palgrave Macmillan UK. Despite the centrality of children in CCTs, their voices have remained absent from the literature. Like most research on CCTs, my work had mostly focused on beneficiary mothers and households. In this chapter, I employed a generational approach, decentring adults' experiences and perspectives in order to create the conceptual space to bring in children. This ethnographic study is illustrative of how CCTs reconfigure the relational position of 'poor' children within the household and society.


University Lecturer Development Studies

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Faculteitsbureau
  • International Studies

Work address

Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Room number 5.50



  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Institute for History
  • Economische en Sociale geschiedenis


  • Central Bank of Ecuador Member of the Editorial Board of the periodical Cuestiones Economicas
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