The Changing Way Governments Talk About Poverty and Inequality: Evidence from Two Centuries of Latin American Presidential Speeches

45 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2018

See all articles by Oscar Calvo‐González

Oscar Calvo‐González

World Bank

Axel Eizmendi

University of Oxford

Germán Reyes

Middlebury College - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 22, 2018

Abstract

This study uses text mining techniques on almost 900 presidential "state-of-the-union" --type speeches from 10 Latin American countries from 1819 to 2016. The paper documents a sharp increase in recent decades in references to poverty and inequality. The study's long-term view shows that the way in which poverty and inequality are discussed has been changing. Using a Latent Dirichlet Allocation algorithm, the paper shows that in recent years poverty has been increasingly discussed as a broader multidimensional challenge that requires a variety of social programs. Inequality has been increasingly framed as an issue of equal opportunities, whereas previously there was a greater focus on social justice. The paper assesses whether the prevalence of poverty and inequality in presidential speeches correlates with measures such as social public spending, as well as the poverty and inequality levels of the country. It finds that during the 2000s, the countries that discussed poverty and inequality at greater length were also the ones that increased social spending and reduced poverty and inequality the most.

Keywords: Inequality, Consumption, Fiscal & Monetary Policy, Non Governmental Organizations, Public Sector Management and Reform, Economics and Institutions, Technology Industry, Technology Innovation

Suggested Citation

Calvo-Gonzalez, Oscar and Eizmendi, Axel and Reyes, Germán, The Changing Way Governments Talk About Poverty and Inequality: Evidence from Two Centuries of Latin American Presidential Speeches (January 22, 2018). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8311, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3107335

Oscar Calvo-Gonzalez (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Axel Eizmendi

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Germán Reyes

Middlebury College - Department of Economics ( email )

Munroe Hall
Middlebury, VT 05753
United States

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