Skip to main content Accessibility help

Democracy and Social Spending in Latin America, 1980–92

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


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.



Hide All
Alvarez, Michael, Cheibub, José Antonio, Limongi, Fernando, and Przeworski, Adam. 1996. “Classifying Political Regimes.” Studies in Comparative International Development 31 (Summer): 336.
Ames, Barry. 1987. Political Survival: Politicians and Public Policy in Latin America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Beck, Nathaniel, and Katz, Jonathan N. 1996. “Nuisance vs. Substance: Specifying and Estimating Time-Series-Cross-Section Models.” Political Analysis 6 (July): 137.
Bollen, Kenneth. 1980. “Issues in the Comparative Measurement of Political Democracy.” American Sociological Review 45 (June): 370–90.
Brown, David S. 1995. “Democracy, Human Capital, and Economic Growth.” Ph.D. diss. University of California, Los Angeles.
Bruno, Michael, and Easterly, William. 1998. “Inflation Crises and Long-Run Growth.” Journal of Monetary Economics 41 (1): 326.
Bruno, Michael, and Easterly, William. 1999. “Inflation Crises and Long-Run Growth.” (accessed July 28, 1999).
Cleveland, W. S. 1979. “Robust Locally Weighted Regression and Smoothing Scatterplots.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 74 (December): 829–36.
Cominetti, Rossella. 1996. “Social Expenditure in Latin America—An Update.” Santiago de Chile: Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe. Unpublished document.
Conaghan, Catherine M., and Malloy, James M. 1994. Unsettling Statecraft: Democracy and Neoliberalism in the Central Andes. Pittsburgh and London: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Conaghan, Catherine M., and Malloy, James M. 1994. Unsettling Statecraft: Democracy and Neoliberalism in the Central Andes. Pittsburgh and London: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Dahl, Robert. 1971. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
de Schweinitz, Karl Jr. 1962. Industrialization and Democracy: Economic Necessities and Political Possibilities. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Dornbusch, Rudiger, and Edwards, Sebastian. 1991. The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gasiorowski, Mark J. 1990. “The Political Regimes Project.” Studies in Comparative International Development 25 (Spring): 109–25.
Geddes, Barbara. 1994. Politician's Dilemma: Building State Capacity in Latin America. Berkeley and London: University of California Press.
Geddes, Barbara. 1995. “The Politics of Economic Liberalization.” Latin American Research Review 30 (2): 195214.
Gurr, Ted Robert, and Eckstein, Harry. 1975. Patterns of Authority: a Structural Basis for Political Inquiry. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Haggard, Stephan, and Kaufman, Robert R., eds. 1992. The Politics of Economic Adjustment: International Constraints, Distributive Conflicts, and the State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Haggard, Stephan, and Kaufman, Robert R. 1995. The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hicks, Alexander, and Swank, Duane. 1992. “Politics, Institutions, and Welfare Spending in Industrialized Democracies, 1960–1982.” American Political Science Review 86 (September): 658–74.
Hunter, Wendy, and Brown, David S. N.d. “World Bank Directives, Domestic Politics, and the Politics of Human Capital Investment in Latin America.” Comparative Political Studies. Forthcoming.
International Monetary Fund, various years. International Financial Statistics, Washington, DC.
Jaggers, Keith, and Gurr, Ted Robert. 1995. “Tracking Democracy's Third Wave with the Polity III Data.” Journal of Peace Research 32 (4): 469–82.
Karl, Terry Lynn. 1990. “Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America.” Comparative Politics 23 (October): 122.
Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1981. Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Londregan, John B., and Poole, Keith T. 1996. “Does High Income Promote Democracy?World Politics 49 (October): 130.
Malloy, James M. 1987. “The Politics of Transition in Latin America.” In Authoritarians and Democrats: Regime Transition in Latin America, ed. Malloy, James M. and Seligson, Mitchell A.Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press. Pp. 1543.
Nelson, Joan M., ed. 1990. Economic Crisis and Policy Choice: The Politics of Adjustment in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
O'Donnell, Guillermo A. 1988. “Transicões, Continuidades e Alguns Paradoxos.” In A Democracia No Brasil: Dilemas e Perspectivas, ed. Reis, Fábio Wanderley and O'Donnell, Guillermo. São Paulo: Vértice.
Petras, James, Leiva, Fernando Ignacio, and Veltmeyer, Henry. 1994. Democracy and Poverty in Chile. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Petras, James, and Morley, Morris. 1992. Latin America in the Time of Cholera: Electoral Politics, Market Economics, and Permanent Crisis. New York: Routledge.
Przeworski, Adam, and Limongi, Fernando. 1993. “Political Regimes and Economic Growth.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 7 (Summer): 5171.
Remmer, Karen L. 1986. “The Politics of Economic Stabilization: IMF Standby Programs in Latin America, 1954–1984.” Comparative Politics 19 (October): 124.
Remmer, Karen L. 1990. “Democracy and Economic Crisis: The Latin American Experience.” World Politics 42 (April): 315–35.
Remmer, Karen L. 1991. Military Rule in Latin America. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Schneider, Ben Ross. 1995. “Democratic Consolidations: Some Broad Comparisons and Sweeping Arguments.” Latin American Research Review 30 (2): 215–34.
Schmitter, Philippe. 1992. “The Consolidation of Democracy and the Representation of Social Groups.” American Behavioral Scientist 35 (March–June): 422–49.
Skidmore, Thomas. 1977. “The Politics of Economic Stabilization in Postwar Latin America.” In Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America, ed. Malloy, James M.Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Silva, Eduardo. 19921993. “Capitalist Regime Loyalties and Redemocratization in Chile.” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 34 (Winter): 77107.
Sloan, John, and Tedin, Kent L. 1987. “The Consequences of Regime Type for Public Policy Outputs.” Comparative Political Studies 20 (April): 98124.
Stallings, Barbara. 1992. “International Influence on Economic Policy: Debt, Stabilization, and Structural Reform.” In The Politics of Economic Adjustment, ed. Haggard, Stephen and Kaufman, Robert R.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Stallings, Barbara, and Kaufman, Robert R. 1989. “Debt and Democracy in the 1980s: The Latin American Experience.” In Debt and Democracy in Latin America, ed. Stallings, Barbara and Kaufman, Robert. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Summers, Robert, and Heston, Alan. 1991. “The Penn World Table (MARK 5): An Expanded Set of International Comparisons, 1950–1988.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 106 (May): 327–68.
Summers, Robert, and Heston, Alan. 1999. “Penn World Tables Mark 5.6” (accessed July 27, 1999).
United States Census Bureau, 1999. “International Data Base.” (accessed July 27, 1999).
U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. 19931994a. Foreign Labor Trends: Honduras. Prepared by American Embassy, Tegucigalpa.
U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. 19931994b. Foreign Labor Trends: Guatemala. Prepared by American Embassy, Guatemala City.
U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. 1996. Foreign Labor Trends: Bolivia. Prepared by American Embassy, La Paz.
World Bank. 1990. World Debt Tables, 1989–90: External Debt of Developing Countries. Washington, DC: World Bank.
World Bank. 1996. World Debt Tables, 1996: External Finance for Developing Countries, vol. 2. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed