CID Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Working Paper No. 27

Social Inclusion or Poverty Alleviation? Lessons from Recent Brazilian Experiences

Vanessa Maria de Castro and Marcel Bursztyn

December, 2008

A publication of CID's Sustainability Science Program


This article analyses Bolsa-Escola, a Brazilian educational program that seeks to guarantee the basic right of education to children living in poverty. Bolsa-Escola was originally established in 1995, in the national capital, Brasilia. The local government made monthly payments in cash to each family living in poverty, with the condition that all school-age children—from 7 to 14 years old—be kept in school. The program was later established at the federal level of government, in 1997, and gained a fully national coverage in 2001. Many changes occurred since the original program started in Brasília and more recently its name changed to Bolsa-Família. However, Bolsa-Escola and Bolsa-Família are distinct social public policies. This article examines the differences and the similarities between them. One conclusion is that poverty alleviation programs such as those analyzed in this article are vulnerable to clientelistic misuse.

Keywords: poverty alleviation, social inclusion, education, basic income, clientelism

JEL codes: I28, I38, R28, G35, H75

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