Evaluating the Impact of Brazil’s Bolsa Família: Cash Transfer Programmes in Comparative Perspective

Bolsa Família is one of the largest Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programmes in the world, benefiting roughly 11 millions families. It provides a monthly transfer to poor households with children up to 15 years of age and/or a pregnant woman, and a monthly transfer to extremely poor households regardless of their composition. Although Brazil does not have official poverty lines, the programme has set the eligibility threshold at R$ 60 (US$33) per capita for extremely poor households and at R$120 (US$66) per capita for poor households.

Only extremely poor households are entitled to the basic benefit of R$ 58 (US$ 32). Whether poor or extremely poor, a household can receive R$ 18 (US$ 10) for a pregnant 
woman or for each child up to a maximum of three children. Therefore, the maximum transfer  for an extremely poor household is R$ 112 (US$ 61) and for a poor household R$ 54 (US$ 30).1
The programme started in 2004 with the merger of the existing conditional and unconditional cash transfer programmes of the Federal Government. It specifically unified four major programmes: Bolsa Escola, a minimum income grant related to primary education; Fome Zero and Bolsa Alimentação, two income grants related to food security; and Vale Gás, a subsidy to help poor households buy cooking gas. Once created, Bolsa Família was scaled up to include 11 million households by the end of 2006.