Noncontributory pensions, cash transfers, and documentation in Brazil and Latin America



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Since 1997, fully noncontributory minimum pensions have been established in many Latin American countries, and have more recently been encouraged as a "zero pillar" of social security by the World Bank and other IFIs. These policies came into being under diverse political regimes and display a range of levels of generosity and universality. Becuase these policies are generally part of a modern bureaucratic welfare state project, they require identity documents, something that many low-income citizens do not possess. States have lowered barriers to the supply of identity documents, and new social policies, like noncontributory pensions and conditional or unconditional cash transfers, have stimulated demand for identity documents among those who do not currently have them. Brazils noncontributory pension, the BPC, has a means test and a large benefit (equivalent to the minimum wage), but requires providing identity documents for all household members. This report discusses the propagation of noncontributory pensions, then examines Brazilian government records to determine the size of the incentive to demand documents in Brazil using a logit model and a more novel survival time regression discontinuity design, raising questions of the relationships between benefit size, universality, document requirements, and poverty.