International Education Journal


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Bolsa Escola: Redefining Poverty and Development in Brazil

Christian Andrew Denes
Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs



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The Bolsa Escola program in Brazil presents a clear break from the economic growth models and supply-side based strategies of the past. Founded on the assumption that the supplemental income generated by child labour outweighs the potential benefits of primary education, Bolsa Escola attempts to address the demand-side component of high dropout rates by providing conditional income-subsidies to families with school-aged children. Following a brief survey of the major discussions on child labour as related to educational attainment, this paper follows the Bolsa Escola program from its conceptual foundations to the initial results as related to school enrolment, child labour and income. Finally, the conclusion explores the potential economic and political obstacles to a sustainable program as well as issues to consider for future improvement of the program.

Latin America, income subsidy, child labour, enrolment, dropout rate


   Denes, C.A. (2003) Bolsa Escola: Redefining Poverty and Development in Brazil. International Education Journal, 4 (2), 137-147.

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