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Economic Inequality, Interpersonal Trust, and Support for Redistributive Policies in Latin America
Unformatted Document Text:  2 levels of interpersonal trust in the region, while at the same time interpersonal distrust might account for the lower support for redistributive policies among those who do not benefit directly from them, namely the well-off. In turn, the lack of consensus in Latin American societies about whether the state should implement firm policies to improve the distribution of economic resources or not seems to be at the core of Latin Americas’ enduring inequality. Indeed, despite the dramatic political and economic changes that have occurred in the last two decades, from authoritarianism to democracy and from state-centered economic policies to market-oriented reforms, in most countries no substantial improvement in the distribution of economic resources has occurred. Evidence for the United States suggests that citizens’ preferences for public policy are taken into account by the government, but at the same time it has been found that not all citizens’ preferences are weighted equally, working to the advantage of the rich (Gilens 2005). Thus, not surprisingly it has also been found that in United States regressive public policies, rather than market forces, better explain the rising economic inequality in this country (Bartels 2008). In the Latin American case, a similar process might be at work. Despite the overwhelming levels of economic inequality, and therefore the predictably high support for redistributive policies by an important proportion of the population, the relatively unchanged distribution of economic resources in Latin America suggests that the well- off might be influencing government policies the most. Taken together, this suggests that despite the likely high support for redistributive policies by the citizenry, the lack of a significant progressive fiscal reform in Latin America might be explained to some extent by the lower support or even opposition by a relatively powerful economic minority. As a recent World Bank report states, in Latin America “inequalities in

Authors: Cordova, Abby.
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levels of interpersonal trust in the region, while at the same time interpersonal distrust might
account for the lower support for redistributive policies among those who do not benefit directly
from them, namely the well-off. In turn, the lack of consensus in Latin American societies about
whether the state should implement firm policies to improve the distribution of economic
resources or not seems to be at the core of Latin Americas’ enduring inequality. Indeed, despite
the dramatic political and economic changes that have occurred in the last two decades, from
authoritarianism to democracy and from state-centered economic policies to market-oriented
reforms, in most countries no substantial improvement in the distribution of economic resources
has occurred.
Evidence for the United States suggests that citizens’ preferences for public policy are taken
into account by the government, but at the same time it has been found that not all citizens’
preferences are weighted equally, working to the advantage of the rich (Gilens 2005). Thus, not
surprisingly it has also been found that in United States regressive public policies, rather than
market forces, better explain the rising economic inequality in this country (Bartels 2008). In the
Latin American case, a similar process might be at work. Despite the overwhelming levels of
economic inequality, and therefore the predictably high support for redistributive policies by an
important proportion of the population, the relatively unchanged distribution of economic
resources in Latin America suggests that the well- off might be influencing government policies
the most.
Taken together, this suggests that despite the likely high support for redistributive policies by
the citizenry, the lack of a significant progressive fiscal reform in Latin America might be
explained to some extent by the lower support or even opposition by a relatively powerful
economic minority. As a recent World Bank report states, in Latin America “inequalities in


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