Current Institutional Affiliation
Postdoctoral Fellow in International Studies, Watson Institute, Brown University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
After the Wage? New Money and New Households in Brazil's Bolsa Família

What happens when workers stop earning wages, and instead support themselves through money that others "invest" in them? Many people in the contemporary world -- subcontracted entrepreneurs and microcredit recipients, for example -- now receive regular paychecks that take the form of "investment" payments rather than "wage" payments. What difference does this make? If people get remunerated through investments, do they still think of themselves as workers? More importantly, do they change their disposition towards money-- the habits they use to allocate their expenditures, plan their savings, account their valuables, and dream about their futures? This project investigates the world's largest attempt to bring investment logic to people living in poverty. Brazil's Bolsa Família program, a conditional cash transfer, operates as a government "investment" in 12.4 million participants who comply with requirements like child school attendance and vaccination. The policy strives to change household practices, increasing the effort that parents devote to certain child-rearing activities and converting children into sites for the guided growth of human capital. How do recipients understand this change? When receiving the payments, do they think of child care as work -- or as something else? Do the payments realign the gendered definition of labor? Bolsa Família has already been associated with quantitative improvements in child outcomes, but researchers remain uncertain about which changes inside the household lead to these improvements. This project uses the tools of ethnography to investigate such household changes, as symptoms of the deeper shifts in money and work that are happening at our moment in history.