Absence of Conflict of Interest.
Pais, P. S. M., Silva, F. D. F., & Teixeira, E. C. (2017). The influence of Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer program on child labor in Brazil. International Journal of Social Economics, 44(2), 206-221.
- The objective of the study was to examine the impact of the Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer program on child labor in Brazil.
- The study used a nonexperimental design to compare labor outcomes of children who received the conditional cash transfer with a matched comparison group of children who did not, based on data from a national household survey.
- The study found that the program was significantly related to an increase in child labor, with a 52.5 percent increase in hours spent on child labor for those receiving Bolsa Familia.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Bolsa Familia; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Features of the Intervention
Bolsa Familia was introduced as a government conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in Brazil in 2004. Bolsa Familia provides cash payments to families with high socioeconomic vulnerability conditional on school attendance for children aged 6-17. It also provides social assistance to children under 16 who have been removed from child labor. By the fall of 2013, there were over 16 million children in the program.
Features of the Study
The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the labor outcomes of children ages 6 to 17 who received the CCT with those who did not receive it, based on data from Brazil’s 2006 national household survey Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicilios (PNAD). Bolsa Familia program participation was identified through a survey item on PNAD. For the study, the sample was limited to households that had a member between the ages of 0 and 17 and whose income was less than $300 Reais ($139.53 USD) a month. The authors created a matched comparison group based on child characteristics (e.g., age), parent characteristics (e.g., maternal education), and household characteristics (e.g., number of children in the household). The analysis sample included 11,869 children in the treatment group and 5,250 children in the comparison group. In 2006, households that were receiving the program reported higher rates of school attendance (72 percent versus 58 percent), lower rates of child labor (87 percent versus 93 percent) and higher rates of living in rural areas (46 percent versus 25 percent) than those not receiving the program.
- The study found a statistically significant relationship between program participation and an increase in child labor, with a 52.5 percent increase in the hours allocated to labor among children whose families participated in Bolsa Familia.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors created a matched group of non-participating eligible children to compare to Bolsa Escola participating children. However, the authors did not fully account for preexisting differences between the groups before Bolsa Familia program participation as they did not match or control for gender or pre-intervention child labor. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not Bolsa Familia—could explain the observed differences in outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Bolsa Familia; other factors are likely to have contributed.