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The Political and Economic Consequences of Populist Rule in Latin America

  • Christian Houle and Paul D. Kenny

While populist rule has become increasingly prevalent in the developing world, much of our knowledge about its implications remains anecdotal and contradictory. In this article, we conduct the most comprehensive large-N cross-national test of the consequences of populist rule to date. Using data on 19 Latin American states, we find that populism’s implications are mostly negative: (1) populist regimes tend to erode institutional and legal constraints on executive authority; (2) participation rates are not higher under populist governments or for populist campaigners; and (3) populist rule, even under left-wing populists, is not associated with more redistribution than non-populist democratic rule. We perform instrumental variable estimations and a quasi-experimental analysis to address the potential endogeneity of populism.

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Christian Houle is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University. Contact email:

Paul D. Kenny is Research Fellow in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. Contact email:

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