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Brazilian Assistance Program for Low-Income Households: Bolsa Família

In Brazil, there is a government national program that aims to help low-income households and it is called Bolsa Família. According to the government, the purpose of this program is to transfer income to households living in poverty. They need health, nutrition and education assistance. The amount paid varies according to the number of household’s children and is due always to the woman of the family. Children must be less than eighteen years old and the amount varies with age also[1].

As a way of controlling who receives the aid, the government linked the payment to children’s school attendance as well as to vaccination records. For instance, if the children do not enroll in school, the household will not receive the money. In addition, it is necessary to keep personal data up to date in government registering system. Moreover, Bolsa Família groups a lot of poverty assistance national programs, that used to provide resources such as LP gas, food and school supplies. In Bolsa Família, all these aids and incentives were unified[2].

Several studies have shown that Bolsa Família program had been benefical for Brazilian population. Researchers have found that school attendance and the number of children approved in school increased and school abandonment was reduced instead[3].

Besides that, researches recently showed that violence reduction in State of São Paulo could be related to Bolsa Família. The authors point is that this program reduces income inequality and promotes increased low-income children attendance in schools. But critics disagree, because they argue that there are many other variables that interfere in violence[4].

Even though some studies have demonstrated benefits from Bolsa Família, there is a national discussion about the effective impact of this program. Have this program reduced income inequality in Brazil? Ricardo Paes de Barros, who idealized Bolsa Família, highlights the combination of this social program with others in Brazil. Income inequality fall occurred because formal job increased in poorest social layer, as a result of educational programs such as government financing of university tuition[5].

Another critical point is: who should receive this aid? Ricardo Paes de Barros says that government still have to improve in this area. Indeed, households just have to inform their income and there is no double check by the government. This is the main reason why part of Brazilians complains about Bolsa Família. The governemnt do not have a formal validation on income data, which facilitates corruption and income transferring for non-qualifying households. Correcting that is not a difficult task since government have enough data about it. Nowadays, this program is used as a political promotion by politicians. Almost all candidates stand up for this program as if Bolsa Família were the unique way to solve all the country’s problem of inequality.

[1] Bolsa Família is managed by a state-owned bank called Caixa Econômica. All operational guideline about this program was obtained in Caixa Econômica’s website:
[2] Source:
[3] Source:
[4] Source:
[5] Source:

Gabriela Rodrigues



Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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