Ethnic, Linguistic and Religious Heterogeneity and Preferences for Public Goods

Sarah Berens (University of Cologne) & David Brady (University of California, Riverside)

Abstract: One of the most prominent claims in political economy is that social heterogeneities weaken public support for public goods and redistribution. Despite the appeal of this theoretical argument, empirical tests outside certain global regions remain surprisingly scarce. This study sheds new light on this prominent argument by making use of a large set of survey data and more rigorous statistical techniques. Latin America and the Caribbean provide a useful setting to investigate these claims given these regions feature poor and developing countries, with many heterogeneities, and active political debates about public goods and redistribution. This study tests three hypotheses about the relationship between various forms of heterogeneity and individual-level support for public goods redistribution (henceforth “preferences”): (1) heterogeneity is negatively associated with preferences, (2) heterogeneity is positively associated with preferences; and (3) heterogeneity is negatively associated with preferences among the dominant group.

Opting for Exit: Is Informalization a Function of Social Policy Discontent and Lack of Good Governance?

Sarah Berens (University of Cologne)

(forthcoming in Latin American Politics & Society)

Abstract: The informal sector challenges economic growth and the abatement of income disparities in developing countries. This study argues that a weak and poorly governed welfare state can increase the informal sector when individuals use it as an exit option from an unsatisfying welfare system. This article explores how the benefit structure of the welfare state and trust in institutions to deliver public goods affect the likelihood of informality. A logistic hierarchical model based on cross-sectional survey data from Latin America and the Caribbean and descriptive panel data from Brazil are used to test the hypothesis. Findings reveal that social policy discontent, low trust, an elitist distribution of welfare benefits and dysfunctional institutions increase the likelihood of being informally employed across the board. However, workers with greater agency, the better educated, seem notably less likely to informalize when social policy benefits are targeted toward their own socio-economic group.

Does Clientelism Hinder Progressive Social Policy in Latin America?

Sarah Berens (University of Cologne) & Saskia Pauline Ruth-Lovell (GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies)

(Revise & Resubmit)

Abstract: Latin American welfare systems are marked by regressive spending patterns. Building a micro foundation for the endurance of residualistic social policies in the region, we argue that clientelism distorts the link between the vested interest of low-income earners and redistributive policies. By paying off the poor in return for their vote, clientelistic parties gain greater leverage to pursue an elitist welfare agenda. Moreover, clientelism induces uncertainty in the public goods game for middle- and high-income earners, which makes them opt for residualistic social policies as well. We investigate how clientelism influences electoral support for residualistic social policy platforms by merging information on party strategies from expert survey and public opinion data for Latin America. Findings confirm that clientelistic practices have both a direct and an indirect impact on the likelihood of increased support for residualistic social policy party platforms. This association is observable across all income groups.