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Understanding the Expansion of Latin America’s New Social Welfare Regimes

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Latin American countries have been described as truncated welfare states. However, the recent expansion of innovative social welfare programs have brought millions of excluded citizens access to social benefits. This review article examines a new body of scholarship that studies how democratic political competition has created the institutional context for social welfare expansion. This literature makes several important contributions to the study of distributive politics. It moves beyond regime type and party ideology and focuses on the nature of domestic political institutions and citizen-state linkages within Latin American democracies. Countries with robust political competition and denser ties to constituents have had the most extensive welfare expansion, and non-partisan programs have undermined clientelism. In single party dominated settings, the political incentives for informal and clientelist provision remains significant.

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Keywords: Latin America; clientelism; democratization; distributive politics; social welfare

Appeared or available online: October 5, 2020

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