The impact of the Bolsa Escola/Familia conditional cash transfer program on enrollment, dropout rates and grade promotion in Brazil
We examine the impact of Brazil's Bolsa Escola/Familia program on Brazilian children's education outcomes. Bolsa provides cash payments to poor households if their children (ages 6 to 15) are enrolled in school. Using school census data to compare changes in enrollment, dropping out and grade promotion across schools that adopted Bolsa at different times, we estimate that the program has: increased enrollment by about 5.5% (6.5%) in grades 1–4 (grades 5–8); lowered dropout rates by 0.5 (0.4) percentage points in grades 1–4 (grades 5–8); and raised grade promotion rates by 0.9 (0.3) percentage points in grades 1–4 (grades 5–8). About one third of Brazil's children participate in Bolsa, so assuming no spillover effects onto non-participants implies that Bolsa's impacts are three times higher than these estimates. However, simple calculations using enrollment impacts suggest that Bolsa's benefits in terms of increased wages may not exceed its costs.
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