After the Fight: Political Perceptions and Participation of Housing Program Recipients in São Paulo

Dr. Maureen Donaghy

What happens after residents have fought and won important social benefits? In this paper I seek to understand the impact of social benefit programs on political participation and perceptions of democracy, using the case of housing program beneficiaries in São Paulo, Brazil. The paper responds to a debate in social welfare literature about how experiences with government agencies and the concomitant benefit shape the politics of recipients and the credit they attribute to politicians responsible for the programs. Through fieldwork within two very different communities in the city of São Paulo, I find a great deal of disillusionment among beneficiaries and social movement leaders with only weak continued support for the Workers' Party, generally responsible for increasing social benefits in the country over the last two decades. The findings demonstrate that the experience of the struggle for benefits involving government agents and public sentiment regarding welfare matter for the inclusion of residents into the city.