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JSPES, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Summer 2016)
pp. 57–83

Resources and Opportunity for Change: Democracy, Labor and the Welfare Effort in Latin America

Amanda L. Beal, Ph.D.

Mount St. Mary’s University

The roles of democracy and labor power in welfare state development have been generally accepted: democracies often spend more on social programs than other regime types and labor is consistently associated with a larger welfare effort. This article brings that literature in to question, demonstrating a complex relationship in which the effect of regime type is moderated by domestic pressures. Democracies have a greater welfare effort when they are responding to organized and substantial interest group pressures, specifically those from labor. In particular, social security and welfare expenditure is highly influenced by the existence of both democratic structures and labor pressures. In addition, however, the findings suggest that there are times when authoritarian regimes spend more than democratic governments. These findings reveal the importance of interest groups in influencing democratic leaders and in affecting welfare reform.