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A New Typology of Social Policy Regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America
Social Policy
Welfare State
Gabriela Ramalho Tafoya
Koç University
Gabriela Ramalho Tafoya
Koç University

Abstract

The recent explosion of social assistance programs throughout the Global South has challenged scholars to reanalyze and reclassify these social policy regimes. This paper joins this body of research and performs three important tasks. First, I assess the relationship between social expenditures and welfare generosity in Latin America and the Caribbean. Expenditures on social protection in the region are largely taken up by public pension programs, with a very small share devoted to other, social assistance programs, and have historically been considered regressive. I show that social protection spending is a strong predictor of welfare generosity in the social security pillar, but a weak predictor of generosity in the social assistance pillar. I show that cases with similar expenditure profiles have policies of varying levels of generosity. Following this analysis, I develop a typology of social policy regimes for Latin America and the Caribbean based on a multidimensional measure of welfare generosity. Using cluster analysis, the typology adds the variety of new social assistance policies implemented across the Global South to the traditional social security pillar of social protection. Among the findings are that the typical top and bottom performing groups of countries do not differ significantly from previous classifications, however, important deviations exist among the intermediate cases, where some have developed more generous regimes while other, similar cases, have lagged in social protection since the 2000s. I find four regime types across the twenty Latin American cases: Inclusive, Compensatory, Restrictive and Exclusionary. Finally, the paper concludes with an overview of the human welfare outcomes associated with the different types of social policy regimes. I show that Inclusive and Compensatory regimes perform significantly better than Restrictive and Exclusionary regimes across a broad set of welfare indicators, such as poverty and inequality reduction, and education and health outcomes.