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Anti-Poverty Policies in Mexico and Brazil: Consensual Reforms?

Comparative Politics
Latin America
Public Policy
Social Policy
Welfare State
Coalition
Comparative Perspective
Carla Tomazini
Sciences Po Paris
Carla Tomazini
Sciences Po Paris

Abstract

The 1990s witnessed the emergence of new Latin American models of social policies: Conditional Cash Transfers. These policies create a new field of social protection whose principles and modalities are far removed from traditional forms of assistance. These policies first appeared in Brazil and Mexico in the 1990s. An analysis of their genesis reveals a gradual construction characterized by distinct institutional contexts and paths that nevertheless lead to similar results. How to explain this parallelism? The paper analyses the factors contributing to the emergence and expansion of programmes. It also questions the reasons why these policies may have generated opposition or, in contrast, an ambiguous consensus that is uncorrelated with traditional partisan dynamics. We can thus observe the structuring of groups defending these policies for different reasons: sometimes in competition, sometimes in synergy. In any case, these groups largely decide on the content and conditions for implementing the programmes. In particular, this study highlights the major role played by the dominant "pro-human capital" coalition. In addition to examining the mechanisms that lead to an idea emerging and materializing simultaneously in two very different contexts, the work consists of understanding why and how left-wing and right-wing parties (in Brazil and Mexico, respectively) came to implement similar policies. While there was a consensus on policy instruments, namely the creation of pro-poor policy allocation, there was no consensus on the causes of poverty and how to deal with it. By comparing the processes of developing these programs, the study also sought to understand why Brazil and Mexico were the birthplace of these programs and the drivers of their exponential expansion, despite the significant political changes that have occurred in both countries over the past two decades.