Show me the money! Economic openness, the left, and social spending in Latin America

  • Grant BurrierEmail author
Original Article


How has economic openness affected social spending? Are allocations influenced by the partisan preference of the executive branch? In this paper, I test various hypotheses about the determinants of social spending in contemporary Latin America, using a time-series cross-sectional analysis of 17 countries in the period between 1978 and 2006. Contrary to the expectations of critics, I find that trade openness affects social spending positively and governments are compensating citizens exposed to greater economic uncertainty. In addition, I find that partisanship is an important predictor of social spending. Left-wing executives spend more money on social programmes than their right-wing counterparts. This finding is particularly strong when left-wing executives have greater legislative support. In the final section, I re-examine my quantitative findings in a case study of Uruguay.


Latin America natural resources partisan politics social spending trade openness Uruguay veto players welfare state 



The author thanks Juan Pablo Micozzi, Mark Peceny, Kathryn Hochstetler, Jessica Feezell, Charles Brockett, Wendy Hansen, Alex Adams, Ben Waddell, Phil Hultquist, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. A special thanks to Thomas Spaccarelli.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics & History, Curry CollegeMiltonUSA

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