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Uneven Social Policies
The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America

  • Date Published: November 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108472043

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  • Social policies can transform the lives of the poor and marginalized, yet inequitable implementation often limits their access. Uneven Social Policies shifts the focus of welfare state analysis away from policy design and toward policy implementation. By examining variation in political motivations, state capacity, and policy legacies, it explains why some policies are implemented more effectively than others, why some deliver votes to incumbent governments while others do not, and why regionally elected executives block the implementation of some but not all national policies. Niedzwiecki explores this variation across provinces and municipalities by combining case studies with statistical analysis of conditional cash transfers and health policies in two decentralized countries, Argentina and Brazil. The analysis draws on original data gathered during fifteen months of field research that included more than 230 interviews with politicians and 140 with policy recipients.

    • Focuses on social policy implementation as a vital aspect of poverty alleviation
    • Shifts the focus from national to subnational variation of welfare states
    • Includes variables at multiple territorial levels in a mixed methods research design
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Two giant federal states - Argentina and Brazil - legislated national programs for conditional cash transfers and primary health care benefits recently. But why are they implemented in such radically uneven ways? This book provides a surprising, complex set of answers and shows the crucial importance of 'credit claiming' in the subnational space.' Stephan Leibfried, Universität Bremen, Germany

    'In this well researched and insightful book, Sara Julieta Niedzwiecki draws much needed attention to the important role of subnational politics in explaining how broadly targeted, patronage-free social policies often undergo uneven implementation across municipalities and states in decentralized countries. The local political dynamics she emphasizes, aimed at enhancing or hindering the implementation of national policies, have relevance far beyond the specific cases she analyzes.' Wendy Hunter, University of Texas, Austin

    'This masterful book breaks with years of conventional wisdom by showing that it is not just poor state capacity that shapes the delivery of social policy in Latin America. Politicians make calculated choices to facilitate or obstruct policy implementation based on the degree to which they can claim credit for policies. This book makes multiple contributions to a number of important literatures, including scholarship on the welfare state, public policy, federalism, and subnational politics. On the basis of rigorous research integrating multiple methods, including months of observation, interviews, and an original dataset on political alignments, institutional strength, and subnational policy outcomes, Niedzwiecki convincingly accounts for differences in political choices and policy outcomes across sectors. Directing our attention to the conflicts and strategic decisions in the terrain of policy implementation, which determine whether and how Latin Americans receive the health care and income support politicians promise them, this book is a must-read for students, scholars, and policy makers.' Mala Htun, University of New Mexico

    'Uneven Social Policies shows how credit-claiming and co-partisanship at the subnational level can improve or diminish the prospects for the effective implementation of nationwide social policies. The book's findings have implications for social policy design and implementation not only in middle-income Latin American countries, but in decentralized countries around the world. By illuminating forces and conditions that help to bring about, or obstruct, social policy reforms that benefit the previously excluded, Uneven Social Policies identifies critical points at which policymakers and the public can intervene to promote policies in the interest of the poor.' James W. McGuire, Wesleyan University, Connecticut

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108472043
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 157 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 18 b/w illus. 22 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Social policies and politics in decentralized countries
    2. Implementing social policies: attribution of responsibility, political alignments, policy legacies, and territorial infrastructure
    3. Mixed methods and multilevel research design
    4. Subnational statistical analysis
    5. Conditional cash transfers in Argentina and Brazil
    6. Healthcare policies in Argentina and Brazil
    7. Social policy implementation: looking back and forward.

  • Author

    Sara Niedzwiecki, University of California, Santa Cruz
    Sara Niedzwiecki is Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research on the politics of social policy and on the territorial structure of government has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, Studies in Comparative International Development, Electoral Studies, International Political Science Review, and elsewhere. She is co-author of Measuring Regional Authority: A Postfunctionalist Theory of Governance (2016).

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