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Economic Development and Social Security in Mexico, 1945-1985

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Debate persists about the relationship between economic development and the development of the welfare state in Third World countries. The expansion of social security in Mexico in the context of debt crisis presents a historical puzzle that challenges many theoretical expectations. In light of this puzzle, this study re-evaluates and compares the determinants of economic development and social security coverage through a time-series analysis of post-revolutionary Mexico. The analysis generates three important findings. First, the determinants of economic development and social security coverage differ considerably. Second, these differences suggest that the dependent development perspective may adequately account for the dynamics of economic development but does not adequately theorize the development of social security. Rather, a political struggle model which emphasizes the role of social protest as an impetus to welfare reform receives support in the Mexican case. Both strikes and opposition party politics have a positive effect on social security coverage, even in the context of economic constraints. Finally, this study indicates that the dynamics of economic development and social security politics vary significantly across time. The need for historically specific studies of development is further suggested by these findings.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska, Oldfather Hall, Lincoln NE 68588


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