Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy (II): Aiding Latin America’s Poor

Issue Date October 2009
Volume 20
Issue 4
Page Numbers 36-49
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Social policy in Latin America has traditionally failed to benefit the poor. Throughout most of the twentieth century, the main redistributive efforts in the region went into building welfare states. Social insurance schemes generally foster a “reverse Robin Hood effect” in which the poor are made to pay for the benefit of the rich. In addition, subsidies—another form of social policy commonly used in Latin America—have historically tended to go disproportionately to the urban middle classes. If the tremendous income disparities that characterize Latin American life are not mitigated, the stability of the region’s democracies may be jeopardized.