Announcing Research on a New Large-Scale Basic Income Policy in Brazil

Research partnership between Maricá, the Jain Family Institute (JFI), the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), and the Euclides da Cunha Foundation (FEC) to study the effects of a citywide unconditional cash transfer policy in Maricá, Brazil

NEW YORK & MARICÁ, Brazil--()--The Jain Family Institute (JFI), the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), and the Euclides da Cunha Foundation (FEC) announced today their collaboration on the first phase of a study of the effects of a full-scale basic income policy to be implemented in the Brazilian city of Maricá. This is currently the largest unconditional cash transfer policy in Latin America, and among the largest in the world. The policy, beginning rollout this fall, will provide cash transfers to approximately 50,000 of Maricá’s 150,000 residents.

JFI is a nonpartisan research institute based in NYC that creates actionable research. One of JFI’s core initiatives is the study of guaranteed income, involving both pilot design and research. UFF is a major federally funded university serving the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. The Euclides da Cunha Foundation for the Institutional Support of UFF, a foundation connected to UFF, will administer the contract.

Brazil has been a global leader on basic income policy for many years: in 2004, President Lula signed a federal law that called for instituting a Citizen’s Basic Income step by step in Brazil. After the national rollout of several conditional cash transfer policies including Brazil’s substantial welfare program, the Bolsa Familia, the initiative in Maricá represents the next phase of development. Lessons learned from this program may inform wider implementation of unconditional cash transfers throughout the country. The Brazilian Basic Income Network, formalized this year in São Paulo, is supporting this project in Maricá, and advocates for continued expansion of basic income in Brazil.

Taking advantage of a moment of significant policy change in Maricá, the study will offer new insight around the effects of cash transfers at scale. The current mayor of Maricá, Fabiano Horta, and the former mayor, Washington Quaquá, conceive of unrestricted basic income as a human right, and designed Maricá’s policy with the goals of reducing poverty and building toward national implementation. Diego Zeidán heads the city’s Secretariat of Economic Solidarity, which is responsible for implementing the policy.

The basic income will be provided to roughly a third of Maricá’s population, with the goal of serving those most in need. In order to qualify, recipients must be registered in the city’s administrative database, have lived in Maricá for at least three years, and not surpass a certain threshold of household income. The cash will be provided through a local currency called Mumbuca, which is pegged 1:1 to the national currency (the Real) and must be spent in Maricá. Banco Mumbuca issues this currency, which is one of several similar local currency initiatives in Brazil that aim to support local business and housing development, and keep money circulating in the local economy. The transfer amount is 130 mumbucas per individual, and the national poverty line is equivalent to 178 mumbucas.

JFI and UFF have designed the study to examine some of the key open questions in basic income. Global studies of cash transfers have shown that the individual effects include increased human capital investment, food security, durable goods consumption, and wellbeing, but the size of the policy in Maricá will allow for novel contributions to the literature, beyond the individual effects: areas of focus include effects on inflation, political participation, media, local community, financial inclusion, participation in the formal economy, and agency and identity formation. The mixed-methods study involves two rounds of 1700 in-person surveys, 170 additional longer interviews, and 25 interviews with key political leaders, policymakers, and business owners. Another element of the study is systematic monitoring of traditional and social media. With its rich qualitative data and uniquely large scope, the study will contribute to multiple strands of literature in the social sciences.

Diego Zeidán, Secretary of Economic Solidarity, commented:

“For the last several years Maricá has been making itself into a city of dreams and utopias, and we are working to build a better world. The Basic Income Law of 2004 created a path for the implementation of basic income in all of Brazil, but Maricá is the only city that is applying it on this scale. The idea is that JFI can establish a partnership with the City of Maricá, so that they can observe and generate data about our program, and share that data with the world.”

Fabiano Horta, Mayor of Maricá, said:

“For us, this is a critical public policy issue that is in a constant state of development. It was created as a social currency to supplement income, and today it has already advanced to become a basic income for Maricá’s citizens. We are in a good moment to undertake these studies and understand how the Mumbuca social currency is transforming the social context of the city.”

Eduardo Suplicy, Honorary President of the Brazilian Basic Income Network, co-founder of the Workers Party, and three-time federal senator, commented on the history of the idea in Brazil:

“The collaboration between JFI, the City of Maricá, in Rio de Janeiro, and Brazilian universities and researchers to monitor and evaluate this municipal initiative is of extraordinary importance to this subject worldwide, and will contribute to a discussion of UBI unprecedented in the world.”

Michael Stynes, CEO of the Jain Family Institute, added:

“This is an exceptionally rare and exciting opportunity to study a cash transfer policy at a large scale. We’re thrilled to work with an incredibly innovative government and researchers from UFF who are taking bold steps towards creating a better life for Maricá’s citizens. We are united in our belief that this policy, and the evidence it creates, will be a touchstone in discussions of UBI throughout Brazil and the world.”

About JFI:

The Jain Family Institute is a nonpartisan applied research organization in the social sciences that works to bring research and policy from conception in theory to implementation in society. Founded in 2015 by Robert Jain, JFI focuses on building evidence around the most pressing social problems. In basic income, JFI’s research focuses on macroeconomic effects; meta-analyses of cash transfer studies around the world; and, most extensively, on policy design and implementation. JFI partners with governments in the US and abroad to build and implement pilots that will answer some of the most important remaining questions about direct cash transfers. JFI also collaborates research institutions and universities from around the world to develop best practices to improve data-sharing and build the evidence base.

About UFF:

The Universidade Federal Fluminense (Fluminense Federal University, or UFF) is a major federally funded university serving the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro and one of the best-regarded research universities in the country. UFF will be co-PI together with JFI on this project, overseeing data collection and co-leading analysis of the data and publication of the findings.

About FEC:

The Fundação Euclides da Cunha de Apoio Institucional à UFF (Euclides da Cunha Foundation for the Institutional Support of UFF, or FEC) is a foundation linked to the University that contracts with private entities to advance academic research and other purposes. Led by Director-President Alberto di Sabbato, FEC will be administering the contract.

About the Researchers:

-Co-Principal Investigator: Sidhya Balakrishnan, Director and Lead Researcher, The Jain Family Institute
-Co-Principal Investigator: Fábio Domingues Waltenberg, Professor of Economics, UFF
-Co-Principal Investigator: Johannes Haushofer, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University
-City Coordinator: Nathan Melo Costa, Research Director of the Secretariat of Economic Solidarity and Research Coordinator of the Secretariat’s Public Policy Observatory, City of Maricá
-JFI staff and fellows: Stephen Nuñez ( Lead at JFI), Paul Katz (Columbia and JFI), Marcella Cartledge (JFI), Sara Constantino (Princeton and JFI), Max Kasy (Harvard and JFI)


General Inquiries:
Phone: Alanna Olken, JFI COO, 917-608-3811

Release Summary

Announcing research on a new large-scale basic income policy in Brazil


General Inquiries:
Phone: Alanna Olken, JFI COO, 917-608-3811