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Brazil’s Bolsa Família program is a conditional cash transfer scheme that has been hailed for dramatically reducing poverty and inequality since its launch in 2003. Under the scheme, qualifying families receive a monthly stipend on the condition that they fulfill certain requirements in health and education. Although the Bolsa Família is a federal program, each of Brazil’s 5, 564 municipalities play an important role in its local implementation. Using a combination of regression analysis and four case studies from the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, this study evaluates the impact of local government capacity on beneficiaries’ health and education. I find that municipalities with higher administrative capacity – more developed collaboration across sectors and more competent staff – are likely to be more effective in implementing the BFP, as observed by higher monitoring rates. As a result, the percentage of beneficiaries who comply with the program’s health and education requirements is likely to be higher in these municipalities. The paper concludes that local governments are critical actors in the success of this program and calls for policymakers to build administrative capacity through a combination of incentives and regulations.



Researcher: Pui Shen Yoong

Advisors: Professor Jessica Teets (Political Science),

Professor John Maluccio (Economics)



Related Links

Bolsa Familia (in Portuguese)

The Nuts and Bolts of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia Program: Implementing Conditional Cash Transfers in a Decentralized Context 

Avoiding Governors: The Success of Bolsa Familia

Buying Out the Poor? Bolsa Familia & the 2010 Elections in Brazil


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This thesis presents the internal conflict in Peru from the perspective of the Peruvian peasantry in order to analyze and determine who joined, as well as the why they joined, including the various factors that may have motivated these people to join the Shining Path. Basing my analysis on a variety of individuals using the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s documents as well as other sources, I explore specific cases to determine the relationship between individual motivations and Sendero’s group cohesion. I stress that many of the motivating reasons and problems academics describe such as socio economic disparity, colonial and feudal legacies, racism towards the indigenous, and lack of state presence are still issues present in Peru making certain kinds of citizens susceptible to terrorism under alternative leadership. The state’s process of the dehumanization of terrorists and the lack of attention paid to their testimonies parallels the lack of interest in terrorist motivations. Furthermore, this thesis warns against the dangers of this process as it propagates the faulty idea that military intervention will solve this complex issue that continues to affect Peru’s security.


Thesis Advisors: Jeff Cason and Roberto Pareja
Mellon Grant Project Advisor: Enrique García

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A MiddLab Project

Buying Out the Poor? Bolsa Familia and the 2010 Elections in Brazil

Learn more about Politics & Economics and Latin America at Middlebury College.

Hailed for reducing poverty and inequality in Brazil, the Bolsa Familia program (PBF) is the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world. Critics, however, have accused President Lula and his party of indirectly ‘buying’ the poor vote through the PBF. This research investigates the relationship between the PBF and the voting patterns of its recipients in the recent elections. Is the PBF an apolitical poverty reduction strategy? Does it influence the formation of political preferences? Based on interviews conducted in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, I focus on the beneficiaries’ own perception of the program, exploring the concepts of “ownership” and “clientelism” in social welfare.


Pui Shen Yoong

Svea Closser
Sponsor & Assistant Professor of Sociology & Anthropology

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Brazilian Press Coverage

Dilma atinge 40% entre participantes do Bolsa Família

Dilma diz que quer ser ‘mãe à altura’ dos brasileiros

Antes das eleições CEF erra e paga Bolsa Família maior

Prefeita relata prática de angraiar votos para Lula com programa federal

Plínio quer quadruplicar beneficiarios do Bolsa Familia e reduzir tempo do auxilio

Em Pernambuco Lula defende o Bolsa Familia

Norma do governo distribuída a prefeitos diz que próximo gestor pode mudar regras do Bolsa Família

Para PSDB, PT faz terrorismo com mensagem sobre recadastramento do Bolsa Familia. Governo nega acusão

No radio Serra garante continuidade do Bolsa Familia, Dilma fala sobre PAC

Em Santa Catarina, Marina diz que não fará ‘aventuras econômicas’ se for eleita


Transformations in Argentine immigration and healthcare policy have collided to create a dynamic landscape of public health utilization in Buenos Aires. This study presents empirically grounded analysis of healthcare utilization in the wake of these policy changes by examining the spatial distribution of 841 patients receiving obstetric services at Hospital Rivadavia in 2009. Analysis carried out at both the individual level and aggregated by partido reveals patterns in both the relative utilization of public healthcare services by migrants compared to native Argentines as well as the spatial distribution of patients, and in particular, migrant patients. The results of this study suggest that utilization of public obstetric services at Hospital Rivadavia by migrants is significantly higher than that of native Argentines and finds the distribution of migrant patients to be spatially clustered. These results have important implications for future immigration policy and healthcare provision at municipal, national, and international scales.


Nora Hirozawa

Peter Nelson
Sponsor & Associate Professor of Geography

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