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Wavering between neoliberalism and populism: An empirical analysis of the South American experience, 1990-2015

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A sample of economic and institutional outcomes in South American nations are analyzed for the 1990-2015 period. Qualitative analysis suggests that populist countries -Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela - have fared worse than other American nations in terms of the evolution of basic institutional indicators. Empirical findings on the determinants of political rights and civil liberties and economic growth, however, are more nuanced. While growth and liberties in populist nations seem to be affected differently by some factors, the findings suggest that there are also similarities across all countries, rendering futile making any definitive conclusions. Notwithstanding the difficulty with sweeping assessments, what seems to be true is that most South American nations would experience higher economic growth if they are able to lessen income inequality and decrease corruption levels.


economic growth, neoliberalism, populism, political and civil liberties