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Determinants of Equitable Social Policy in Latin America (1990–2013)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 October 2019

Political Science Institute at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, Chile email:
Political Science School at Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile email:


The fact that equitable social policy expanded drastically in Latin America during the left turn and during a time of prosperity does not necessarily mean that the ideological color of governing parties and economic growth are the engines behind changes in social policy, as is usually claimed by part of the literature. Using panel data from Latin American countries for 1990–2013, this paper offers an alternative explanation, derived from previous qualitative research, that the level of political competition, the strength of civil society, and wealth are the key factors behind the expansion of equitable social policy. Once these explanations are included in our models, the ideological leaning of governments and economic growth lose statistical significance. Thus, this paper challenges dominant approaches that consider social policy change in Latin America a consequence of the ideological leaning of the government and economic growth.

© Cambridge University Press 2019

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