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Should Policy Aim at Having All People on the Same Boat? The Definition, Relevance and Challenges of Universalism in Latin America

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Artículo de revistaMartínez Franzoni, Juliana; Sánchez- Ancochea, Diego . (University of Costa Rica, Institute of Social Research - Center of Research and Political Studies; University of Oxford, Reino Unido). Should Policy Aim at Having All People on the Same Boat? The Definition, Relevance and Challenges of Universalism in Latin America.  / ¿Debe la política ayudar a que todas las personas vayan en el mismo barco? La definición, relevancia y desafíos del universalismo en América Latina desiguALdades.net Working Paper Series, 2014 no. 70 Palabras claves:
América Latina
Salud, Alimentación | Sociología, Asuntos sociales
Política social universal | equidad | salud


In recent years, attention to universal social policy has intensified in Latin America and other parts of the periphery. Definitions of universal social policy have traditionally varied between a minimalist approach focused on broad coverage and a maximalist approach focused on generous, citizen-based programs funded exclusively with general taxes. Unfortunately the former is too narrow and the latter relies on over-ambitious policy instruments, hardly attainable in the periphery. Instead, we propose a definition focused on policy goals: universal social policies are those that reach the entire population with similarly generous transfers and high quality services. In the second part of the paper, we review the advantages of universal policies, which can be more redistributive, create less stigma and be easier to manage than means tested programs and can also have positive effects on social cohesion and economic growth. The paper concludes with a discussion of different types of fragmentation as significant threats towards the expansion of universal social policies in Latin America and beyond.

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