The Policy of Subnational Social Inequality in Latin America

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project investigates the causes of subnational inequality in social development in Colombia and Peru. This question arises from the fact that, despite its importance, the subnational dimension of inequality does not receive much attention, is measured inappropriately, is generally subsumed with racial or class inequalities, and the political dynamics that generate it are often ignored. The project addresses these gaps through a three-level comparison - between countries (Colombia and Peru), between sectors (education and health), and between periods (1990s and 2000s). In it I suggest that three conditions are jointly capable of reducing regional disparities. The first condition consists of the distribution of resources to access teachers, doctors, schools, health centres, roads and hospitals. The second condition lies in the adaptability of the sectoral policy, which consists of the existence of specificities in the regulatory and operational framework of the policy to serve populations with ethnic minorities, who live in the countryside and who are in dispersed villages. The third condition is the ability to subordinate or control the national and subnational agents in charge of implementing social policies, so that existing resources are distributed and invested according to real needs. These three conditions make it possible to understand why in Colombia there is a reduction in disparities in access to school but stagnation in the disparities of multiple health sector indicators; while in Peru subnational inequality has been reduced in both sectors. The contrast between Colombia's strong subnational elites and Peru's weak subnational elites is crucial in the explanation. In Colombia, this strength of the subnational has led to a "trap of intermediate inequality", where the strength of certain subnational elites favors the social development of some regions, but hinders the social development of other regions. In Peru, on the other hand, with weak subnational elites, extreme levels of subnational inequality can be reached, as well as being rapidly reduced. While I focus on these two countries, my research exposes the evolution of subnational inequality in eight other countries in the region. In the short term I contemplate expanding this research to include Mexico and Brazil, and publishing a book with these results.
Effective start/end date2/1/1312/31/20

Main Funding Source

  • Internal