Politics, Poverty, and Policy in Brazil

Kaknes, Elizabeth, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Mershon, Carol, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This dissertation assesses the ways in which social policy can contribute to the process of democratic consolidation in middle-income countries. It strives to understand the ways in which universalistic social programs help to construct robust party systems and citizenry in developing democracies. Through an in-depth examination of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia Program (a means-tested anti-poverty program that transfers monthly cash stipends to beneficiaries) it highlights the capacity of social policy to contribute to democratic consolidation even in extreme instances of longstanding institutional weakness, as is historically the case in Brazil. Through a tri-partite examination of behavioral effects to the policy’s target population, it strives to understand the intermediary effects of policy on mass opinion. These three constituent foci highlight key areas of scholarly debate regarding the political profile of a vibrant polity: (1) the electoral connection, (2) social class and race, and (3) democratic confidence and efficacy.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Brazil, democratic consolidation, political behavior, social policy
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