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In much of the world, public transportation infrastructure is sorely needed. Political economy models suggest that provision lags because uneven access and use of public transit fragments political coalitions. Yet, traditional survey techniques tell us little about who supports valence issues, such as mass transit. I instead adopt a novel survey approach from economics designed to elicit preference intensity. I then sample households at different distances from a subway project in Bogotá, Colombia. Contra conventional expectations, I find little evidence that local geography shapes preferences. Those who use public transit the least and pay the most for its construction—the upper class—are its strongest supporters. An experiment and focus groups suggest that middle- and upper-class groups want others to take public transportation to reduce congestion and shorten their commutes. One implication is that a growing middle class might help to strengthen urban public goods provision.
Despite a growing literature on the left in Latin America, few studies have considered the fate of the right. This article examines a highly successful conservative party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which held power for close to two decades in El Salvador. The ARENA party used mano dura policies—defined by the introduction of discretionary crimes, diluted due process guarantees, and military participation in policing—to boost its support among constituencies plagued by crime. Two key factors prompted ARENA party strategists to emphasize security. First, a credible electoral threat existed from a leftist party hesitant to resort to harsh security measures. Second, factional divisions drove party strategy. Business elites who formed the core of the ARENA party refused to abandon unpopular economic reforms. Mano dura policies allowed the party to maintain support from traditional elites and their rural bases without reversals to its economic program. Party centralization facilitated the programmatic shift.
Comparative political economists often divide Latin American labor markets into those with secure employment (insiders) and those without it (outsiders). Yet this division misses an increasingly important class of contract workers, who hold formal labor contracts but often lack labor stability, welfare benefits, and organizing rights. When do unionized and contract workers share preferences and engage in joint organizing? And when do their efforts result in policy change? Drawing on case studies of Chile and Peru, I argue that unionized workers mobilize contract workers when they see their own membership under threat and when they share physical workplaces with contractors. Labor coalitions succeed in policy reform when they leverage divisions within the business community and upcoming elections to build support. This article thus pushes scholars to move beyond dichotomies of formal versus informal workers and study how contract workers matter for collective action and labor policy outcomes.
How do migrants decide when to leave? Conventional wisdom is that violence and economic deprivation force migrants to leave their homes. However, long-standing problems of violence and poverty often cannot explain sudden spikes in migration. We study the timing of migration decisions in the critical case of Syrian and Iraqi migration to Europe using an original survey and embedded experiment, as well as interviews, focus groups, and Internet search data. We find that violence and poverty lead individuals to invest in learning about the migration environment. Political shifts in receiving countries then can unleash migratory flows. The findings underscore the need for further research on what migrants know about law and politics, when policy changes create and end migrant waves, and whether politicians anticipate migratory responses when crafting policy.
Institutions that require the use of coercion to enforce create political headaches. In these settings, enforcement involves fines, jail sentences, and asset seizures that are unpopular with those affected. This chapter highlights how coercive sanctions can generate social and electoral reactions against institutions, even when there is broad support for the underlying institutional aims. Intentional decisions not to enforce the law, or what I call forbearance (Holland 2016, 2017), is an important source of the institutional weakness studied in this volume.
Applying coercive sanctions is a challenge in any democracy. But in highly unequal societies, such as those in Latin America, enforcement challenges are compounded by both the power and poverty of those affected by institutional rules. On the one hand, the wealthy often stand above the law, using their money and connections to bend formal rules in their favor and forgo sanctions.
In Latin America, the relationship between income and support for redistribution is weak and variable despite the region's extreme income inequality. This article shows that this condition is rooted in the truncated structure of many Latin American welfare states. Heavy spending on contributory social insurance for formal-sector workers, flat or regressive subsidies, and informal access barriers mean that social spending does far less for the poor in Latin America than it does in advanced industrial economies. Using public opinion data from across Latin America and original survey data from Colombia, the author demonstrates that income is less predictive of attitudes in the countries and social policy areas in which the poor gain less from social expenditures. Social policy exclusion leads the poor to doubt that they will benefit from redistribution, thereby dampening their support for it. The article reverses an assumption in political economy models that welfare exclusion unleashes demands for greater redistribution. Instead, truncation reinforces skepticism about social policy helping the poor. Welfare state reforms to promote social inclusion are essential to strengthen redistributive coalitions.
Comparative research on Latin American welfare states recently has focused on the extension of non-contributory benefits to those outside the formal labor market. This extension of benefits constitutes a major break from past exclusionary welfare regimes. Yet there also are substantial areas of continuity, especially in the contributory social-insurance system that absorbs most of welfare budgets. We develop here a framework for studying changes in Latin American welfare states that reconciles these trends. We argue that Latin American governments enjoyed an “easy” stage of welfare expansions in the 2000s, characterized by distinct political coalitions. Bottom-targeted benefits could be layered on top of existing programs and provided to wide segments of the population. But many Latin American governments are nearing the exhaustion of this social-policy model. We explore policy and coalitional challenges that hinder moves to “hard” redistribution with case studies of unemployment insurance in Chile and housing in Colombia.