New £300,000 grant from British Academy for research on links between poverty and health

The British Academy has announced significant funding for a ground-breaking research programme looking at poverty and health in Brazil.

Entitled ‘Welfare Dependence and Poverty Traps: Evaluating the contribution of health shocks and health policy using administrative data’ the research will be led by Sonia Bhalotra, Professor of Economics at ISER.

Professor Bhalotra said: “The objective is to investigate the extent to which public health provision
enhances the capacity for social protection. The poor are more vulnerable to
disease, and poor health can perpetuate poverty and welfare dependency. We will
contribute new evidence on synergies between income support and public health,
relevant to sustaining cash transfers on a wide scale, especially under austerity.

We also contribute to work on sustainable cities insofar as we study epidemics
that diffuse more rapidly in dense urban areas. Previous attempts to identify
causal effects of health on poverty have been frustrated by the poor being more
likely to suffer health shocks, making it hard to isolate cause from effect. We will
address this challenge by analysing administrative individual longitudinal data on
the entire population of welfare recipients in Brazil, linked to hospital, clinic and
vital statistics data, and using exogenous variation in local epidemic infection

Why Brazil? First, Brazil is home to the largest conditional cash transfer programme in the
world, Bolsa Familia (BF), serving 50 million people, accounting for 20-25% of the
population and costing 0.5% of GDP p.a., though, despite the conditionalities,
most of the poor remain in poverty for years. Second, Brazil was a forerunner
among developing countries when, in 1990, soon after returning to democracy, it
committed to providing universal health coverage. (This implies that our estimates
of impacts of health shocks on welfare dependence are likely to represent lower
bounds of effects in developing countries with limited public health insurance.)
Third, we have (privileged) access to administrative data (CadUnico) from the
Brazilian Ministry of Social Development, which track families eligible for welfare
over time since 2001.”

On 16th December 2016, Professor Bhalotra’s research was cited in Prospect magazine’s article “Reducing Global Inequality: how do we achieve a fairer world?”

Read the full article here


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