FEATURE STORY

Bolsa Família: Changing the Lives of Millions



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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bolsa Família reaches people that have never benefited from social programs.
  • Most of the money is used to buy food, school supplies, and clothes.
  • Success has sparked adaptations in almost 20 countries.

Can social policies go beyond assistance and become active tools of social and economic transformation? Brazil is showing us that they can.

The Bolsa Família Program, which has technical and financial support from the World Bank, is cited as one of the key factors behind the positive social outcomes achieved by Brazil in recent years.

The Program reaches 13 million families, more than 50 million people, a major portion of the country’s low-income population. The model emerged in Brazil more than a decade ago and has been refined since then.

Poor families with children receive an average of R$70.00 (about US$35) in direct transfers. In return, they commit to keeping their children in school and taking them for regular health checks.

And so Bolsa Família has two important results: helping to reduce current poverty, and getting families to invest in their children, thus breaking the cycle of intergenerational transmission and reducing future poverty.

 


" My children know that when we receive the money, they will have more to eat, and that makes them happier.  "

Dinalva Pereira de Moura

Beneficiary

For beneficiary Dinalva Pereira de Moura, a mother who lives in the Varjão favela in the Federal District, the program "has been a marvelous thing for me and my family. My children know that when we receive the money, they will have more to eat, and that makes them happier. And they don't skip school, because they know that the money depends on their going."

The virtue of the Bolsa Família is that it reaches a signification portion of Brazilian society that has never benefited from social programs. It is among the world’s best targeted programs, because it reaches those who really need it.

Ninety-four percent of the funds reach the poorest 40 percent of the population. Studies prove that most of the money is used to buy food, school supplies, and clothes for the children.

Success has sparked adaptations in almost 20 countries—including Chile, Mexico, and other countries around the world, such as Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, and Morocco.

More recently, New York City announced its "Opportunity NYC" conditional transfer of income program, modeled on Bolsa Família and its Mexican equivalent. This is a example of a developed country adopting and learning from the experiences in the so-called developing world.

The results of Bolsa Família show that it is possible to deal with poverty and income inequality in a sustained manner, integrating millions of people into the economic and social mainstream of the country, without giving up economic development.

 


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