Exit Patterns from Brazil’s Bolsa Familia and the Role of the Local Labor Market

Can rising tides in the labor market lift the poor out of social assistance Although a substantial literature has studied the capacity of safety nets to expand automatically during labor market shocks, less is known about the dynamics of social assistance when labor market conditions improve, and who may benefit from positive changes. This paper studies how rising formal employment at the municipal level affects the likelihood of beneficiary families to exit Bolsa Familia, Brazil’s dynamic means-tested cash transfer. The analysis exploits panel data from Brazil’s vast social registry, matched with seven years of Bolsa Familia payroll information and formal employment records. The data reveal that the Bolsa Familia program displays significant and heterogeneous dynamism, with beneficiaries with higher levels of education and fewer constraints to labor supply taking fewer years to exit. The analysis then uses fixed-effects estimates, combined with an instrumental variable approach, to identify the effects of exogenous changes in the local labor market on exits. The findings show that the increase in local employment leads to a small, statistically significant rise in the probability of exiting from Bolsa Familia. These effects are concentrated in households with spare labor supply and those with medium levels of education.