Bolsa Familia Brazil

The Return of Bolsa Família

The Return of Bolsa Família

Halted in 2021 by ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, the famous Bolsa Família was recently relaunched by the Lula administration in efforts to reduce poverty, infant mortality, and malnutrition, as well as to improve the economy and promote education. The policy aims to raise the minimum wage, generate new jobs, and support family farms alongside a variety of other measures. The Bolsa Família is widely known as the most successful program to combat hunger and poverty in the history of the country and has been adopted by nearly 20 countries around the world, including Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, and Morocco.


Bolsa Familia Program. Image source: Wilson Center/Brazil Institute.


As the Bolsa Família approaches its second decade in existence, it is important to examine its beginnings and its historical legacy. First launched by the Lula administration in 2003, the program has received numerous international awards—ultimately allowing Brazil to emerge from the Hunger Map in 2012. 

Numerous studies show that the program has vastly changed the face of Brazil—and for the better. According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), in its early stages, every R$ 1 invested in the program yielded a R$ 1.78 rise in the country’s economic activity. Furthermore, IPEA found that the Bolsa Família reduced child mortality by 16% between 2006 and 2015 and, in 2018, it found that the program had reduced poverty by 15% and extreme poverty by 25% and accounted for a 10% reduction in inequality.

The agency found, as well, that, in 2017 alone, the program removed 3.4 million people from extreme poverty and another 3.2 million from poverty. Ultimately, the Bolsa Família is an achievement not only for the 21.8 million beneficiary families, but for all of Brazil, as it has enormously improved national health and education levels and contributed to substantial economic growth.


Economists estimate that the injection of resources into GDP by Bolsa Família will result in a 3.5% increase in family income. Photo credit:


Under the current Lula plan, each family is to receive at least R$ 600. For each child up to 6 years old, an extra R$ 150 will be paid and R$ 50 for each person between 7 and 18 years old, with the hopes of benefiting approximately 8.9 million children. Furthermore, the program intends to include 694,245 families who have been unjustly excluded by the Bolsonaro government

The success of the Bolsa Família and its return to the center of Brazil’s political scene shows that it is possible to integrate millions of people into mainstream economic and social spheres without compromising economic development. Only by doing so has the Brazilian government been able to begin remedying widespread poverty and income inequality. 


Clara Rabbani | Board Member

My name is Clara Rabbani and I am a rising Junior at the University of Chicago, majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Environmental Studies. During my time with Latina Republic, I worked as an Environmental Writer with a focus on Brazil. My stories were primarily centered on activism, indigenous life, current environmental crises and innovations, and national NGOs. The conservation of nature and native biodiversity, as well as the preservation of indigenous voices have been major themes in my work. Working as a Latin American Correspondent has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Bringing attention to such urgent environmental topics has really informed my own understanding of our current social systems and governments and influenced the path I want to follow professionally. As I pursue my studies in the fields of Anthropology and Environmental Studies, I hope to continue building on the many skills I have developed in my time with Latina Republic. I truly appreciate the work the organization is doing as a platform for students to explore a variety of relevant themes while developing their own writing and voice.