The Politics of Effective and Sustainable Redistribution

Evelyne Huber
Jennifer Pribble, University of Richmond
John D. Stephens


In this chapter, we explore the variation in the effectiveness of redistributive policies and in the level of popular support enjoyed by such programs. Specifically, we consider two questions: What kinds of social policies are most effective at reducing poverty and improving human capital among society's most vulnerable sectors? And second, how are these social policy configurations constructed politically, and how do they then shape political support for their own maintenance across social classes? To answer these questions, we summarize the lessons learned from the well-researched experiences of advanced industrialized democracies. We then discuss the degree to which these lessons are applicable to Latin America and what modifications, if any, should be made to make these experiences more relevant to the region's experience. To some extent, these lessons and modifications apply to other middle-income countries as well. However, differences in economic and social structure (size of the informal sector), political history (strength of the democratic record), and policy legacies (degree of involvement of the private sector in the provision of transfers and services) argue against sweeping generalizations.