Working Paper
Can the Context Mediate Macro-Policy Outcomes?

Contextual Differences in the Returns to Bolsa Familia in Brazil

Local institutional and structural (meso) factors can play a role in mediating the returns to a macro-social policy. I focus on the Brazilian cash-transfer-programme Bolsa Familia and check how contextual features influence the returns to transfers. Building on Amartya Sen’s work, I assess the return to the policy in terms of non-monetary achievement indicators in the dimensions of education, health and employment quality. I use the extensive CadÚnico of the Brazilian Ministry for Social Development comprising all beneficiaries of Bolsa Familia, and a meso-level dataset containing information on economic structure, socio-demographic and institutional characteristics of Brazil’s 5565 municipalities in a random coefficients (multilevel) model. First results confirm that a number of contextual factors play a role in increasing the conversion of transfers into human development.