In recent years, attention to universal social policy has intensified in Latin America and other parts of the periphery. Definitions of universal social policy have traditionally varied between a minimalist approach focused on broad coverage and a maximalist approach focused on generous, citizen-based programs funded exclusively with general taxes. Unfortunately the former is too narrow and the latter relies on over-ambitious policy instruments, hardly attainable in the periphery. Instead, we propose a definition focused on policy goals: universal social policies are those that reach the entire population with similarly generous transfers and high quality services. In the second part of the paper, we review the advantages of universal policies, which can be more redistributive, create less stigma and be easier to manage than means tested programs and can also have positive effects on social cohesion and economic growth. The paper concludes with a discussion of different types of fragmentation as significant threats towards the expansion of universal social policies in Latin America and beyond.