Distributive politics in Latin América: the impact of democracy, eletions and globalization on the welfare state

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Avelino Filho, George
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This dissertation is focused on examining two developments of great consequence in Latin America in the three last decades of the 20th century. It tests theories of distributive politics by examining the effects of democracy and globalization on the welfare state in Latin America. The study emphasizes that the politics of resource allocation decisions are best understood by measures of social spending relative to the national budget instead of GDP. Using time-series data for 15 nations between 1973 and 2000, it examines how three key political factors influence the responsiveness of the welfare state in Latin America: a) the democratic character of political institutions; b) the electoral institutions that channel voter preferences to bring in to power new democratic governments with a mandate; and, c) the degree of integration of states into the global economy. Based on a battery of specifications, the study shows that democracies allocate greater shares of their budget to public health and education and reduce regressive pension benefits. It demonstrates, however, that expenditures begin to favor more entrenched power groups after the period of democratic transition ends and democracy is consolidated. It shows that social policies in Latin America are used as an instrument to reward voters and not a tool to manipulate the outcome of elections. The dissertation also provides evidence that more open economies in Latin America seek to compensate citizens by increasing pensions, but that globalization has not triggered a similar increase of investments in health and education.

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