Latin American countries are among the most inegalitarian of the world, and their situation had been deteriorating up to the end of the XX century. Since the early 2000s, however, the level of social inequality has decreased as a direct consequence of redistributive policies implemented in most of them. Why did the level of social inequality decrease more during some presidential administrations than in others? The goal of this project is to answer this question focusing on institutional determinants, instead of estimating the effects of specific social programs. We know that the spread of conditional cash transfer programs, such as the Brazilian Bolsa Família, the expansion of social safety nets, and other redistributive policies explain the reduction of inequality in the region, but why do we observe so much temporal and cross-country variation in the amount invested in these programs? This project tests the hypothesis that in countries where the decision making process in legislatures is more centralized and the Executive has higher control over the legislative agenda, the government is better able to solve collective action problems and to respond to popular demands for income redistribution. In order to test it, this project compares Latin American countries with one another and the two democratic periods of Brazil.
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