Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Gregory Morton – Assets that Last: Women's Ownership and the Timing of Bolsa Familia Benefits in Rural Brazil

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

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Over the past decade, conditional cash transfers (CCTs) have become a core policy tool for addressing global poverty. None is bigger than Brazil’s giant Bolsa Família, a program that serves nearly a quarter of the nation’s population. How does this government money affect women’s ownership of assets inside the household? Or, to turn the question another way, what can Bolsa Família teach us about what it means to own? This talk is an argument for the importance of time. As it turns out, the timing of cash flows – daily, monthly, yearly, or unpredictable – has a crucial role to play in shaping the forms of ownership that result.

Gregory Duff Morton is an economic anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at the Watson Institute. He studies the movements of money through Northeastern Brazil. He considers the urban-to-rural reverse migrations of agricultural laborers, the wanderings of itinerant countryside merchants, and the payouts that come from the world’s largest national cash welfare program, Bolsa Família. His articles have appeared in American Ethnologist, Journal of Peasant Studies, and Brasil de Fato. He is currently working on a manuscript titled Leaving Labor: Reverse Migration, Welfare Cash, and the Specter of the Commodity in Northeastern Brazil.

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Brazil Initiative