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Democracy and Social Spending in Latin America, 1980–92

  • David S. Brown (a1) and Wendy Hunter (a2)

Abstract

What is the effect of regime type on public expenditures for social programs? We investigate the relationship between democracy and the change in social spending—controlling for GDP, the debt, inflation, and age structure of the population—through a time-series cross-sectional panel data set for 17 Latin American countries from 1980 to 1992. The results show that, especially in poor countries during economic crisis, democracies increase the allocation of resources to social programs relative to authoritarian regimes. This suggests that the latter are more constrained by economic forces, whereas democracies are more constrained by popular demands. Hence, calls to abandon broad categorizations of regime type appear to be premature: Democracy can matter in systematic and substantial ways.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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