Ciula, Raffaele (2017). 'The Effects of Bolsa Familia on Human Development' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Usually conditional cash transfer programmes (CCTs) are interpreted as passive policies dealing with income maintenance and needs fulfilment, however, recently, some part of the literature has suggested a more active role for them (Barrientos and Hulme, 2010). The aim of this article is to investigate the inclusive role of human rights based CCTs, by inspecting the effect of Brazil's Bolsa Familia policy on human development as a proxi of achievements in fundamental capabilities and human rights (Sen, 2005). In fact, Bolsa Familia, set up in 2004, is a human rights based policy which considers health, education for kids and social security for families as fundamental rights to be protected, as the Brazilian Constitution envisages (Midgley and Piachaud, 2013).

Also, I analyze the role of Bolsa Familia transfers on HDI inequality, in fact, at theoretical level, a widespread enhancement of possibilities should reduce differences in concentration of human development level in Brazilian cities.      

As far as the the innovative content of the article is concerned, I inspect the role of a human rights based/capability oriented policy on human development growth across Brazilian municipalities, also, I investigate the association of Bolsa Familia with inequality in human development between  Brazilian cities over time, moreover, I analyze the instrumental role of each substantial right in affecting different capabilities, which contributes to strenghten individual virtuous cycle of wellbeing (Sen, 1999 ). Finally, it has some innovative content in policy terms, indicating that integrated interventions may increase social inclusion, capabilities and contribute to spread human development across cities.   

 The datasets used are the IPEA and UNDP information at municipal level for the years 2000 and 2010. In particular, the first database contains information on BF transfers and beneficiaries, whereas the second one includes HDI index and its components. Also, the latter index is made up of the geometric mean of education, health and income indicators. The education dimension includes the frequency of school attendance for kids and the frequency of attendance to school of adult population. The health indicator is proxied by life expectancy at birth and the income indicator is proxied by per capita income.  

As far as the structure of this article is concerned, it deals with qualitative and quantitative analysis about the association between Bolsa Familia and human development growth. In the first stage, I employ systematic review approach based on natural, quasi-experimental, counterfactual and longitudinal analysis, in order to suggest some causal relation between Bolsa Familia and human development. Also, to test for the results of the review, I undertake an empirical study on the relation between the Bolsa Familia transfers, the Human Development Index growth, as a proxi of human development growth, and its components (health status, education attainment and income level) at national and regional level, using correlation analysis over time. Moreover, I analyze the relationship between inequality in human development and the Bolsa Familia employing dynamic corelations too.

The main findings of systematic review suggest some causal positive association between Bolsa Familia transfers and human development, confirmed by the empirical analysis at national level. In particular, Bolsa Familia is positively associated with the increase in HDI index and with the increase in education and health components. Also, the correlation coefficients between Bolsa Familia transfers and the HDI index over time are systematically higher than the relationships between Bolsa Familia transfers and each component of the HDI index, which may suggest a compounding effect of this policy on human development due to the interaction  of human  rights on each component, as some authors suggest (Sen, 1999; Kanbur and Squire, 1997)

 However, this result is blurred by the variability of the relationship among the five Brazilian areas in terms of magnitude and signs.  Also, this policy seems to contribute to decrease inequality in human development as well as in the education component over time across Brazilian municipalities.      

The findings suggest that Bolsa Familia is a human rights based and capability oriented policy  which plays some role in incresing human development at national level, by contributing to expand the possibility to live a worth life and contributing to escape poverty. Also,  it can have a role in making the society more inclusive by increasing the access to important capabilities, which, in turn helps reduce inequality in human development, suggesting probably the capacity of reducing inequity in the achievement of health, income and education opportunities. Finally, the results indicate that the substantial capabilities delivered by the Bolsa Famlia reinforce each other and have compounding effects on the overall  human development, both at national level and in some regions, implying that education, health and income together may have an instrumental role in creating and reinforcing a virtuous cycle of wellbeing. 

Keywords: Human Development, Bolsa Familia, Inequalities, Capabilities, Human Rights  



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