Public Opinion, Social Policies and Poverty in Latin American Countries

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Ricardo VELÁZQUEZ LEYER, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico
Latin America is considered to be the most successful region in the fight against poverty during the present century. However, those achievements have not been uniform and whilst some countries effectively register considerable reductions of poverty rates, in other countries no significant changes can be observed. Variations in real wages, re-configuration of labour markets and expansion of social policies, among others, have been pointed out as possible causes for reductions in poverty levels in the region, but the effects of public opinion in the development of public policies and their outcomes continues to be a scantly researched topic. This article explores the relation between public opinion, social policies and poverty in Latin American countries. The research uses the Latinobarómetro database and data from ECLAC to understand the association between the priority that public opinion gives to the issue of poverty and levels of social spending, social policy architectures and variations in poverty rates in 18 Latin American countries during the period 2000-2015. Variables of public opinion on poverty and anti-poverty policy are correlated with variables of the redistributive potential of public policies, public social spending and poverty levels, and Brazil and Mexico are analysed as case studies. Findings show that whilst there may be an association between the priority given to poverty and the formulation of policies with a potential for poverty reduction, political factors like the role of policy entrepreneurs during processes of policy change may have a stronger influence on the surpassing of the normalisation of poverty as a social problem. One pending task is to identify the mechanisms that may enhance the potential of public opinion to open windows of opportunity during agenda-setting and policy formulation processes, for reforms that may increase governments’ capacity to deal with the still severe problem of poverty in Latin America.