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Social Policies and Center-Right Governments in Argentina and Chile

Thu, August 31, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Parc 55, Balboa


Latin America’s “left turn” expanded cash transfers and public services, contributing to lower poverty and inequality. Recently, however, candidates of right-leaning parties have begun to win back seats in the legislature, and in some cases have captured the executive branch. This swing to the right has sparked a debate about whether social policy innovations will be maintained, expanded, or retrenched. In this paper we explore the social protection policies of two recent right-leaning Latin American governments: Sebastián Piñera's in Chile (2010-2014) and Mauricio Macri's in Argentina (2015—). We find no outright retrenchment of social welfare policy in either country, and attribute the persistence of social protection programs in part to policy legacies, as would be predicted by the literature on social welfare policy in advanced industrial countries. We do find policy drift, however, which can create retrenchment by default, such as the weakening of the public health option in Chile or the decrease in the real value of transfers in a context of inflation in Argentina. In addition, we find that the lack of retrenchment, and even expansion of cash transfers, responds to the strength of the left opposition.