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Social Policy in Developing Countries

23 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2012  

Isabela Mares

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Matthew E. Carnes

Georgetown University

Date Written: 2009


Drawing on recent work and data on social protection in the developing world, this essay evaluates the current state of the art and suggests several important new lines of research.We first examine the historical origin and evolution of social protection systems in developing countries, arguing that insufficient attention has been paid to the authoritarian roots of developing nations’ social policy. As a preliminary effort to remedy this shortcoming in the literature, we offer a political logic for the observed variation in the character of institutions of social policy established by nondemocratic regimes. Next, we explore recent research examining linkages between models of economic development and welfare regimes in developing countries. Finally, we turn to the study of the political determinants of the social policy reforms that occurred in the final decades of the twentieth century, arguing that variation in reform across policy areas has been more complex than is generally appreciated in the literature. To explain this variation, we develop a theory that identifies the political coalitions supporting different policy outcomes.

Keywords: social protection, welfare state, reform

Suggested Citation

Mares, Isabela and Carnes, Matthew E., Social Policy in Developing Countries (2009). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 12, p. 93, 2009. Available at SSRN:

Isabela Mares

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Matthew E. Carnes (Contact Author)

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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