Social protection around the world

Risk and reversals: Explaining individual level support for public insurance expansion in Latin America (with Matthew Carnes), Forthcoming. Politics and Society.

The provision of social insurance in Latin America has undergone rapid and significant changes in recent years. After a strong swing toward private solutions in the 1990s, many countries have moved decisively in the opposite direction in the 2000s. Publicly-funded initiatives – including tax-financed, non-contributory benefits – have taken on new prominence in the “policy-mix” of public and private offerings in a wide set of countries. Surprisingly, this return of the state has enjoyed broad-based popular support. Why? Using survey data from eighteen Latin American countries, this paper documents the decisive role that employment vulnerability and income sensitivity play in determining the recent, individual-level demand for public (rather than private) provision of social policy. It finds that exposure to labor-market risks, both at the individual and household-level, is strongly associated with support for public options. In contrast, household income – long held to be a major factor in social insurance preferences – has differing effects across policy areas, with a non-linear influence on public health plans, but no clear effect for pensions.

Redefining Who’s “in” and Who’s “out”: Explaining Preferences for Redistribution in Bolivia” (with Matthew Carnes). Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Latin American Political Economy Network (REPAL) and in Santiago, Chile. Winner of the REPAL Best Paper Award.

How does welfare state expansion reconfigure political coalitions? This paper argues that preferences regarding social insurance are the product of two underexamined coalition-forming factors: the size and structure of the informal sector, on the one hand, and the informational role of political partisanship, on the other. First, where the informal economy dominates the labor market, formal “insiders” may be particularly sensitive to the risk of job loss or temporary unemployment or informal employment; they thus have less confidence in their long-term ability to find security in contributory insurance schemes, and they are willing to make common cause with policy outsiders in supporting expansion. Second, given the complexity of social insurance schemes, especially in low-information environments, political partisanship provides strong cues to individual citizens about how to evaluate competing policy options. Parties can use these cues to swing opinion toward new redistributive policies that would expand their political base.

Coalitional Realignment and the Adoption of Non-Contributory Social Programs in Latin America (with Matthew Carnes), Forthcoming, Socio-Economic Review.

What explains the recent rise in non-contributory social programs in Latin America?  Since the 1990s, Latin American countries have enacted a series of social policy reforms that have changed the mix in the type of social programs, supplementing contributory insurance policies – financed by a mix of contributions from employers and employees with non-contributory programs, financed by general tax revenues. We present a political explanation of this policy development that examines the consequences of economic changes associated with the process of deindustrialization on the mix of social policies favored by different individuals. We hypothesize that a long-term increase in economic insecurity contributes to a shift in the mix of the type of social policy transfers demanded by individuals and an increase in relative demand for tax –financed, as opposed to contribution-financed social policies. We test our theoretical claims that hypothesize a relationship between employment vulnerability and non-contributory insurance using both cross-national and individual-level data from Latin America.

Measuring the individual determinants of social insurance preferences: evidence from the Argentinean pension nationalization (with Matthew Carnes), Latin American Research Review, 2013, 48: 3, 108-129.

This study employs an original, nationally representative survey of citizens in Argentina to understand the economic and political factors that shape individual-level preferences for social insurance. In the past two decades, Latin American democracies have undergone significant changes in their social welfare institutions, in some cases dramatically reversing course from previous policies. We develop a theoretical framework to explain how and when citizens shift their preferences for competing social policy proposals. We emphasize the role of dissatisfaction with prevailing policies in creating political opportunities for the introduction of sweeping reforms. Our survey capitalizes on the 2008 pension reform in Argentina to test competing hypotheses regarding preferences for different policies of old-age insurance. We find that stakeholder dissatisfaction increases individual-level support for policy reform across all citizens, while partisanship has a more restricted effect, only shaping preferences among middle- and low-income respondents.

Social policy in developing countries (with Matthew Carnes), Annual Review of Political Science, 2009: 12, 91- 113.

The welfare state in global perspective (with Matthew Carnes), 2007, Handbook of comparative politics, Carles Boix and Susan Stokes, eds. New York: Oxford University Press

Isabela Mares. 2007. The welfare state, growth and employment. International Social Security Review,  60: 2-3, 65- 81

Isabela Mares. 2005. Social Protection around the world: External insecurity, state capacity and domestic political cleavages. Comparative Political Studies, 38:6 , 623- 651.