Why do Latin American countries exhibit stark differences in their ability to protect citizens from falling into poverty? Analysis of poverty levels measured by ECLAC in eighteen countries shows that political factors-including the democratic record, long-term weight of left-of-center parties in the legislature, and investment in human capital-are significant and substantively important determinants of poverty. These findings contribute to the growing literature that emphasizes the importance of regime form, parties, and policies for a variety of outcomes in Latin America, despite the weaknesses of democracy and the pathologies of some parties and party systems in the region.

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Copyright © 2009, City University of New York. This article first appeared in Comparative Politics: 41:4 (2009), 387-407.

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