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Democracy and the Politicization of Inequality in Brazil, 1989-2018

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  • Amory Gethin

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

  • Marc Morgan

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

Abstract

This paper analyses the transformation of electoral cleavages in Brazil since 1989 using a novel assembly of electoral surveys. Brazilian political history since redemocratization is largely a history of the rise and fall of the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT). We show that the election of Lula da Silva as President in 2002, followed by the implementation of redistributive policies by successive PT governments, was at the origin of the marked socioeconomic cleavages that emerged. In a relatively short space of time the PT transformed itself from a party of the young, highly educated, high-income elite of the Southern party of the country, to a party of the poor and lesser educated voters, increasingly located in the disadvantaged region of the Northeast. Controlling for a host of socio-demographic factors, a voter in the Northeast was 20 percentage points more likely to vote for the PT in 2018 than voters in other regions, compared to being 5 percentage points less likely to do so in 1989. In sharp contrast to other western democracies, political conflict in Brazil has followed an increasingly unidimensional class-based path. This culminated in the unification of elites and large parts of the middle class behind Bolsonaro in the 2018 presidential election. We argue that contextual policy-driven factors and programmatic alliances are key to understand the PT's singular evolution, and thus the transformation of electoral cleavages in Brazil.

Suggested Citation

  • Amory Gethin & Marc Morgan, 2021. "Democracy and the Politicization of Inequality in Brazil, 1989-2018," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-03165718, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wilwps:halshs-03165718
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://shs.hal.science/halshs-03165718
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Thomas Piketty, 2018. "Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict," Working Papers hal-02878211, HAL.
    2. Lydia Assouad & Lucas Chancel & Marc Morgan, 2018. "Extreme Inequality: Evidence from Brazil, India, the Middle East, and South Africa," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 108, pages 119-123, May.
    3. Abhijit Banerjee & Amory Gethin & Thomas Piketty, 2019. "Growing Cleavages in India? Evidence from the Changing Structure of Party Electorates, 1962-2014," World Inequality Lab Working Papers hal-02877001, HAL.
    4. Letícia J. Marteleto & Molly Dondero, 2016. "Racial Inequality in Education in Brazil: A Twins Fixed-Effects Approach," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(4), pages 1185-1205, August.
    5. Amory Gethin & Marc Morgan, 2021. "Democracy and the Politicization of Inequality in Brazil, 1989-2018," Working Papers halshs-03165718, HAL.
    6. repec:gig:joupla:v:6:y:2014:i:3:p:129-158 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Amory Gethin & Thanasak Jenmana, 2021. "Democratization and the Construction of Class Cleavages in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, 1992-2019," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-03215872, HAL.
    2. Amory Gethin, & Sultan Mehmood & Thomas Piketty, 2020. "Social Inequality and the Dynamics of Political and Ethnolinguistic Divides in Pakistan, 1970-2018," Working Papers halshs-03022253, HAL.
    3. Amory Gethin & Marc Morgan, 2021. "Democracy and the Politicization of Inequality in Brazil, 1989-2018," Working Papers halshs-03165718, HAL.

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