Homicide kills more people than war globally and is associated with income inequality. In Brazil, one of the most unequal countries of the world, the homicide rate is four times higher than the world average.

Establishing if the Brazilian conditional cash transfer programme [Bolsa Familia Programme (BFP)], the largest in the world, is associated with a reduction in the rate of homicide is relevant for violence prevention programs. The researchers aimed to assess the effect of BFP coverage on homicide and hospitalization rates from violence.

BFP coverage and rates of homicide (overall and disaggregated by sex and age) and hospitalizations from violence from all 5,507 Brazilian municipalities between 2004 and 2012 were explored using multivariable negative binomial regression models with fixed effect for panel data. Robustness of results was explored using sensitivity analyses such as difference-in-difference models.

Homicide and hospitalization

Homicide rates and hospitalization from violence decreased as BFP coverage in the target population increased. For each percent increase in the uptake of the BFP, the homicide rate decreased by 0.3% (Rate Ratio:0.997; 95%CI:0.996-0.997) and hospitalizations from violence by 0.4% (RR: 0.996;95%CI:0.995-0.996).

Rates of homicide and hospitalizations from violence were also negatively associated with the duration of BFP coverage. When, coverage of the target population was at least 70% for one-year, hospitalizations from violence decreased by 8%; two-years 14%, three-years 20%, and four years 25%.

The results support the hypothesis that conditional cash transfer programs might have as an additional benefit the prevention of homicides and hospitalizations from violence.

Social protection interventions could contribute to decrease levels of violence in low-and-middle-income-countries through reducing poverty and/or socioeconomic inequalities.