Accepted paper:

Great expectations: long-term poverty reduction, intergenerational change and young beneficiaries' aspirations in Brazil's Bolsa Família programme


Hayley Jones (LSE)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the transformative potential of CCTs to address intergenerational poverty. It highlights the tension between policy narratives, the expectations and aspirations that these narratives engender among young beneficiaries, and the realities of the opportunities available to them.

Paper long abstract:

CCTs have been adopted across Latin America as key components of many countries' poverty reduction strategies. While there is an extensive literature on their short-term impacts, very little is known of the long-term impacts. Drawing on empirical evidence collected through qualitative research in the Northeast of Brazil, this paper traces some key dimensions of intergenerational change and continuity for young beneficiaries and their families in Brazil's Bolsa Família programme (BFP). It argues that the BFP has played a key role in changing experiences of poverty across generations in terms of shifts in access to social services and the ability to meet basic needs; there is, however, a great deal of continuity in beneficiaries' experiences of marginalisation and lack of opportunity, particularly in employment. Despite this, the CCT model for poverty reduction and the associated international discourses linking schooling and poverty reduction appear to have contributed to, on the one hand, raising aspirations and expectations of social mobility among young beneficiaries and their families, and on the other, perpetuating an individualised conceptualisation of poverty that in turn reinforces the notion that those who fail to rise out of poverty are themselves entirely to blame. This poses two critical challenges for CCTs: not only do CCTs not appear to be facilitating the type of intergenerational change for poverty reduction that they aim to, but they face a key ethical dilemma in perpetuating a narrative around pathways out of poverty that raises aspirations of social mobility without providing the means to achieve these.

panel M5
Understanding social protection as technologies of social ordering and reproduction within contemporary development