News from Project B03

Martín who was a member of the CRC 1342 in the first funding period has investigated what influence the colonial legacy has had on the social policy developments in Mexico and Argentina.

Martín Cortina Escudero has successfully defended his PhD thesis on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2023. Martín was member of the CRC 1342 in the 1st funding period, working in the project International Complementarities in the Development of the Welfare State. The Transatlantic Sphere (1870–2020), directed by Philip Manow and Sarah Berens.

For his PhD monograph "“Diverging Paths of Social Policy Development in Latin America States: A Case Study on Argentina and Mexico from the Colonial Times to the Early Post-World-War-II Period", Martín has investigated the international factors contributing to the two countries’ diverging paths in social policy in the period from colonialism until the 1960s.

Martín started out with his research question "Why did similar paths lead to different social policy outcomes in Argentina and Mexico?" In his literature review he could not find decent explanations for the variations among the social policy developments in Latin American countries. Therefore Martín chose the examples of Argentina and Mexico to test his hypothesis that colonial legacies were a key factor. He examined historical documents, parliamentary debates and secondary resources to test his hypothesis, applying a mixed-methods approach, combining process tracing, Qualitative Comparative Analysis and descriptive statistics.

Martín found that Mexico and Argentina went through similar historical stages – the transition to modern capitalism (1810-1910), the adoption of a primary export model (1910-1940) and an industrialization process focussing on import substitution import (1940-1960). These stages to some degree led to some convergence in countries’ social policy developments.

The colonial legacies of both countries on the other hand prepared the ground for the differences in their social policy arrangements: Mexico with its abundance in precious metals and its large indigenous population was very much in the focus of the Spanish Empire, which therefore implemented strong colonial structures in Mexico. In Argentina the opposite had happened, because it was resource scarce and not densely populated – as a result the Spanish Empire did not spend as much money and effort on implementing hierarchic colonial structures. These disparities paved the way for Argentina to eventually develop a political regime of electoral competition in the first half of the 20th century, whereas Mexico developed an authoritarian regime.

These differences in regime types, amplified by the differences in the working classes’/unions’ influence on political decision-making processes, has shaped the social policy decisions of both, Mexico and Argentina, Martín has found. Argentina’s social policy was rather extensive and stratified up, whereas Mexico’s social policy was rather limited and unified, privileging civil servants.

After his presentation Martín received valuable feedback and criticism on his work from the committee that he will be taking into account before submitting to an academic publisher.

Franziska Deeg, Dr. Sarah Berens
Franziska Deeg, Dr. Sarah Berens
Sarah Berens and Franziska Deeg of project B03 look back on their surveys in Mexico and Brazil and reveal first results.

Your data collection has already taken place a little while ago: Where did you conduct your survey in Brazil and Mexico and who did you interview?

Franziska Deeg: In Mexico we conducted the survey in two states: Puebla and Querétaro. In Brazil we were in the state of Sao Paulo. Both surveys were household surveys with a representative sample. So we interviewed randomly selected people, both in the city and in the countryside.

And how many were there in each case?

Deeg: In Mexico there were 1400 respondents and in Brazil 1008.

What exactly did you want to find out?

Sarah Berens: We are interested in the social policy preferences of the Mexican and Brazilian population. We are investigating the influence of changes in economic and trade relations between countries on normal, average citizens and their social policy preferences.

How did you do this?

Berens: We have studied the phenomenon in different ways. First we asked: Do you want the state to further develop the pension system? Or the health system? Should the state spend more money on this? We asked about different policy areas within social policy: attitudes towards pensions, expansion of the health care and education systems. And also about conditional cash transfers such as Progresa in Mexico and Bolsa Familia in Brazil. We also asked more general questions, such as to what extent the respondent is in favour of more or less redistribution. And about their tax preferences: progressive income taxes, yes or no? This battery of questions allows us to examine respondents' attitudes to the welfare state from a variety of perspectives.

Deeg: In Mexico we also conducted a conjoint analysis as part of the survey. The respondents are specifically offered a policy design that varies in its design (expansion versus reduction of the program; who should have access, e.g. only formal employees or everyone; how should the program be financed, tax increase for the rich or e.g. exclusively through contributions). We ask to what extent the respondent likes this concrete policy design or would prefer to support the alternative proposal shown. He or she should then assess how well he or she liked offer A compared to offer B. Not only the design but also the analysis is now very exciting.

Did your questions differ between Mexico and Brazil?

Berens: We kept one group of questions the same so that we could compare both cases. That was important to us. The very concrete conjoint analysis on the design of social policy was very specific to Mexico. For Brazil, we designed different experiments that shed light on our big question about the influence of economic interdependence on social policy preferences in different ways, so that we have different ways of looking at the phenomenon to be explained.

Your data analysis is not yet complete, but are there already first results?

Berens: A manuscript paper already exists from the data on Mexico. We are studying economic interdependence via the labour market and migration. At the time when we were in Mexico, a great many people from Central America moved to the USA through Mexico. This is one of the issues that we asked about as part of the survey. Economic interdependence is not just trade, but also has very specific implications for the labour market through labour migration between Mexico, the USA as a strong trading partner and as a major economic power, and the other Central American countries such as Honduras or Nicaragua, which are considerably poorer. Our first paper deals with this influence of different types of migration on social policy preferences in Mexico. The argument is somewhat complex. We examine specifically the influence of two groups: refugees from Central America and returnees, i.e. Mexican migrants who have worked in the US for a while and then come back to Mexico to enter the labour market. We contrast the influence of these two groups and ask: Do they have different effects on social policy preferences for different groups within Mexico? Interestingly, it turns out that the refugees from Central America play no role in this respect: We do not see any strong effects, especially among the poorer sections of the population, who in fact should feel particularly under pressure and perceive the refugees as competitors in the labour market. Rather, it is the better educated Mexicans, the richer ones, who react sensitively to the returnees from the USA. The returnees are competitors for the well-educated because they acquired better skills in the USA. And anyway, people who go to the USA are on average a little more educated or better educated. When this group comes back, we see a greater impact on welfare state preferences among Mexicans.

And what do the better educated Mexicans want when they see that many migrants return from the US?

Berens: Less welfare state. That the cake gets smaller or limited. That only those Mexicans living in Mexico who are in the formal labor market have access to social policy programs, such as pensions. There is a shift towards more exclusion, away from solidarity. The interesting thing is that this attitude is directed against those who are actually Mexicans. It is not so much the Central American foreigners that bother them, but their fellow countrymen who went to the USA and left Mexico behind for a while and would now like to have a pension.

Deeg: Especially the formally employed are more opposed to the returnees, because those have not paid into the social security system and would still like to have access to it. The question of solidarity arises: You were in the USA and worked there. And now you are coming back and you have a good chance of finding formal employment on the labour market, because you are in any case relatively better educated than other parts of the population. And then you should still not have access to social goods.

Does that also apply to health insurance?

Berens: In Mexico the health system has been reformed and is now universal. Even people who haven't paid for their health care have access to it. The pension system, on the other hand, is based on contributions; only those who have paid in receive benefits. That's the exciting thing about our project: by looking at different policy areas that differ in accessibility for different groups, we can observe: Where is this about solidarity or exclusion?

Deeg: This is exactly why the argument in the paper is so complex, because we are looking at two groups of migrants - the refugees and the returnees. And then in Mexico we differentiate between the formally and informally employed and according to skill level. Then there are different types of social benefits, which are accessable in different ways for different groups. All this makes the point relatively complex.

How about Brazil?

Berens: There we are still stuck in huge mountains of data. We have not yet gotten around to analyzing it. For the second half of the project we will analyze this data, evaluate different experiments and compare the results with those we have found in Mexico.

Deeg: Brazil is also very interesting in terms of trade policy. Mexico is very dependent on the USA, Brazil is a little bit diversified, although there is a dependence on China for example. In any case, there are interesting dynamics, especially because the type of exports from both countries is different. That's why it's definitely exciting to take a closer look at this.

Did you also have a special perspective in Brazil, as in the case of Mexico, where you specifically looked at migration?

Berens: We also looked at migration in Brazil, because we saw that it plays such a big role in Mexico and we wanted to have the opportunity to make a statement on this with the Brazilian data. But migration in Brazil is quite different. The group of migrants that plays a stronger role comes mainly from Venezuela. And then there is a smaller group of Haitians who are driven out of Haiti by poverty and state failure and who are perceived in a predominantly negative way in Brazil.

Deeg: We also look at domestic migration. Many people from the north of Brazil migrate to the south because there are more jobs there. These internal migrants are also perceived very negatively in the cities. The question is raised whether these migrants should have access to social benefits or not. Which puts solidarity within the country to the test.

Dr. Sarah Berens
Franziska Deeg
The second of the two surveys in Latin America by the Cologne CRC members took place this summer in the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

In the Cologne part of project B03, two surveys were carried out - one in Mexico and one in Brazil - in order to gain insights into the connection between trade and social policy at the micro level. The survey covered several dimensions: respondents had the opportunity to provide information on issues such as social policy, trade, migration, security and corruption. With the data, the Cologne team hopes to explore the link between globalisation and socio-political preferences in Brazil, but many other interesting questions can also be addressed.

Franziska Deeg in Sao Paulo.

To accompany the implementation in Brazil, Franziska Deeg, the Cologne PhD student of the B03 project team, spent almost three weeks in Sao Paulo. Together with the opinion research institute IBOPE, she was able to completely adapt the questionnaire to the Brazilian context and the Portuguese language. Furthermore, 30 pre-tests with low-income households were carried out to test the questions and interview training was implemented to reduce interviewer effects.

The team has thus reached another important milestone in the project and can now fully concentrate on evaluating the extensive data sets from the surveys in Mexico and Brazil. The data has been available to the Cologne B03 team since mid-August.

Dr. Sarah Berens
Franziska Deeg
Franziska Deeg and Leticia Juarez
Franziska Deeg and Leticia Juarez
Franziska Deeg spent two months in Mexico City for project B03 in order to coordinate the final preparations and the conduct of the interviews on site.

In the Cologne part of project B03, two surveys will be conducted - one in Mexico and one in Brazil - in order to gain insights into the connection between trade and social policy at the micro level. The first survey in Mexico was completed on 21 November: a milestone for the B03 project team. Since June, the study has been prepared in Cologne and finally implemented from September to November by PhD student Franziska Deeg on site and with the active support of the Cologne team. The time on site in Mexico City was particularly labour-intensive, as the questionnaire still had to be translated and the pre-tests had to be completed. In addition, interviewer trainings were conducted.

For the preparation and final implementation of the survey, there was a lively exchange between Ms. Deeg and Beltran, Juarez y Asociados (BGC), the public opinion research institute commissioned to collect the data. Special attention was paid to a conceptually correct translation of the questionnaire, which was also adapted to the Mexican case on social policy. This was a particular challenge as the social system in Mexico is highly fragmented. It was also possible for the team to conduct 60 pre-test interviews in the two countries selected for the study (Puebla and Queretaro). This allowed initial insights into the data to be gained and the questionnaire to be further adapted. The main focus here was on the comprehensibility of the questions, and especially the questions on social policy could be further improved by the experience gained in the pre-test.

Before the final data collection, the questionnaire was thoroughly reviewed in a training session with all interviewers. Through the training, interviewer effects could be greatly reduced and special features of the survey could be addressed, such as the conjoint.

Franziska Deeg was able to combine her stay in Mexico City with a research visit to the Colegio de Mexico (Colmex), one of the best universities in Latin America. She was able to benefit from the university's rich lecture programme, learn more about the numerous research activities at Colmex and collaborate with Dr. Melina Altamirano, who strongly supported the implementation of the study with her know-how.

Thanks to the efficient work of the entire team and the seven-week stay in MExiko, the survey was successfully implemented. The data is now available and ready for analysis.

Franziska Deeg