Status Quo Characteristics or Private Sector Affinity? Explaining Preferences for Safety Nets in Latin American Legislatures


The literature on legislative behavior has evidenced a decay of partisanship around the world. In Latin America, where party systems are generally weak, this is a long-standing trend. However, it does not mean that legislators do not group themselves or assume identities to ease their cognitive formation of policy preferences. What shapes legislators’ attitudes toward safety net policies in Latin America? We test two hypotheses to predict these cues. First, descriptive representation. We assume that legislators who share a status-quo profile, ie older, wealthy, and highly-educated males, tend to share policy preferences. Second, business interests. We test whether having high-level jobs in the private sector and trusting employers’ organizations shape policy preferences. We conduct this investigation based on a dataset with interviews carried out with a large number of legislators from 17 Latin American countries. Our policies of interest are the ones that produce a stark cleavage in the region: The State’s role in the provision of a safety net to the poorer strata of the population. We confirm the first hypothesis and show that descriptive representation has a stronger predictive power of policy preferences than strong ties with the business sector at least when it comes to the selected policies.

Teoria e Sociedade, vol. 22, n. 2
João V. Guedes-Neto
João V. Guedes-Neto
Postdoctoral Researcher