IRIBA Working Paper 04: Antipoverty Transfers and Inclusive Growth in Brazil


The paper examines the growth of antipoverty transfers in Brazil and their role in securing inclusive growth. Since the turn of the century, Brazil has managed to combine improvement in its growth performance, by the standards of recent decades, with substantial, and arguably unprecedented, reductions in poverty and inequality. There is considerable interest in the mix of economic and social policies responsible for inclusive growth in Brazil, including from countries in Africa. Since the mid-1990s, the emergence of large scale programmes providing direct income transfers to household facing extreme poverty and vulnerability have provided a focus for poverty reduction strategies in Brazil. They include non-contributory pensions, like Previdência Social Rural and the Benefício de Prestação Continuada, and human development conditional transfer programmes like Bolsa Escola and Bolsa Família. Antipoverty transfers are credited with a sharp reduction in extreme poverty and with having contributed to a reduction in inequality and social exclusion. Arguably, they have also strengthened political support for pro-poor policies. This paper provides a comprehensive assessment of the role of antipoverty transfers in securing inclusive growth. It examines their design, implementation, outcomes, and sustainability. It also sketches their potential relevance to African countries. There a growing literature covering recent developments in social assistance in Brazil. The paper contributes to the literature it in several respects. First, the huge interest in conditional cash transfers globally has concentrated attention on Bolsa Família, but the other components of social assistance are important too and are covered in the paper. Second, very little attention has been paid outside Brazil to the rich discussion and debate around the conceptual and normative frameworks supporting the development of social assistance, and social policy more broadly. The paper addresses this gap. Third, research into the effectiveness of social assistance in Brazil has produced a wealth of information on the aggregate impact of each of the component programmes. This paper assesses this literature while paying special attention to the distribution of the outcomes across municipalities in Brazil and the role socio-economic and capacity condition. Fourth, the paper will pay close attention to the sustainability of social assistance in Brazil, especially the budgetary and political sustainability issues. Fifth, the paper discusses the relevance of Brazil’s antipoverty transfers to African countries, including South-South international cooperation.


Barrientos, A.; Debrowicz, D.; Woolard, I. IRIBA Working Paper 04: Antipoverty Transfers and Inclusive Growth in Brazil. International Research Initiative on Brazil and Africa (IRIBA), University of Manchester, Manchester, UK (2014) 49 pp.

IRIBA Working Paper 04: Antipoverty Transfers and Inclusive Growth in Brazil

Published 1 January 2014