Social Protection in Latin America and the Caribbean: Welfare Generosity and Electoral Dynamics in Comparative Perspective

Dissertation Author: Gabriela R. Tafoya

Date: 2019

Abstract: Social policies are about extending social rights and providing a safety net that allows citizens to have a minimum standard of living independently of market forces.  Social protections have become increasingly important for citizens as countries in the Global South have undertaken market reforms, faced economic crises, and experienced changing labor conditions towards increasingly informal and vulnerable work. Policymakers have turned to social assistance to address the longstanding poverty and exclusion faced by large portions of the population in the Global South. This research project joins a growing body of work that investigates how countries in Latin America have differed in the development of adequate systems of social protection, but with a focus on the generosity of welfare entitlements. In mapping social policy regimes across Latin American countries, I argue that we need to combine the traditional social security view of the welfare state, with the emerging scholarship on social assistance and poverty reduction, for a comprehensive view of systems of social protection. Based on an original data collection I propose a new typology of social policy regimes based on the generosity of the social insurance and social assistance pillars of social protection. The typology yields four types of social policy regimes: Inclusive, Compensatory, Restrictive and Exclusionary. I show that the first two regime types have been more successful at improving social welfare and human development outcomes regardless of their level of social expenditures. I explain the variation across the country cases based on a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of economic, social and political characteristics. I show that alternative configurations of factors produce social policy regimes of varying generosity. Where Left parties have been competitive since the return of democracy and where they consistently vie for middle class votes we find more generous social policy regimes. The project concludes with an examination of the role of social policy in development discourse.