Study Finds Bolsa Familia Children Healthier, Doing Better in School

Brasilia—Brazil’s Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer program has had a positive effect on the health and education of Brazil’s poor children, according to an evaluation by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Bolsa Familia is implemented by the Ministry of Social Development and the Fight against Hunger (MDS). MDS, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank supported the independent evaluation. Data collection was undertaken from September to November 2009 by Datamétrica.

Approximately 12.6 million poor Brazilian families receive financial assistance from Bolsa Familia. The program provides mothers with modest grants in exchange for commitments to improve their families’ health and education.

“Our research shows that Bolsa Familia families were better off in 2009 than they were in 2005 because of the program,” said John Hoddinott, deputy director of IFPRI’s Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division and a co-author of the report.

Researchers interviewed more than 11,000 households in 269 locations across Brazil in 2005 and 2009. Using state-of-the-art evaluation methods, Hoddinott and fellow IFPRI researchers Alan de Brauw, Daniel Gilligan, and Shalini Roy measured the health and education benefits of the program. They found that in households receiving Bolsa Familia payments:

  • Infants are more likely to receive their vaccinations on schedule. This is true especially for the second and third doses of vaccines against diseases such as polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, without which children cannot be considered properly protected.
  • School attendance by boys and girls rises by 4.4 percentage points. The largest gains have occurred in the historically disadvantaged northeast, where enrollments have risen by 11.7 percentage points
  • Children are more likely to progress from one grade to the next. This is especially true of girls aged 15 and 17—who are at greatest risk of dropping out. Bolsa Familia increases the likelihood that a 15-year-old girl will remain in school by 19 percentage points.
  • Pregnant women have 1.5 more pre-natal visits with a healthcare professional.

“Previous studies have documented how the living standards of Bolsa Familia beneficiaries have changed over time,” said Hoddinott. “This new evaluation is both novel and important because it demonstrates that participation in the program brought about positive changes in the lives of poor families.”

Contact Information: 

John Hoddinott, J.Hoddinott@cgiar.org, +1 (240) 447-0918
Daniel Gilligan, D.Gilligan@cgiar.org, +1 (301) 351-0471
Shalini Roy, S.Roy@cgiar.org, +1 (267) 847-6950

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