Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Team to Research Inequality and Democracy in Brazil

June 16, 2010

New research on “Cities against Poverty: Brazilian Experiences” will begin at the Institute in July, under a $1 million grant from the Research Council of Norway. Watson Associate Professor Gianpaolo Baiocchi is partnering in the research with the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research and the Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento.

Over three years, this international collaborative will conduct statistical analyses to trace the impact of local anti-poverty measures in the 10 largest cities of Brazil. The project will then carry out qualitative research in two of the best performing cities and two of the worst performing cities, in order to suggest the political factors causing the different poverty outcomes. 

“Brazil is internationally known for its extraordinary inequality and for the poverty that affects the majority of the population,” the researchers write. “It is also recognized for its ability to innovate in terms of democratic-participatory governance. This coexistence of perceived poverty and democratic governance is a paradox.

“On the one hand, for the last 15 years poverty and inequality have been decreasing in proportions unparalleled in the history of the country. On the other, this reduction does not seem to be directly related to the experiences of democratic-participatory innovation. Facing this situation, the project will pursue the following question: what has been, and is, the role of the local governance and the cities in poverty reduction?”

The research will not only analyze this question, but also recommend public policies for effective poverty reduction.

Baiocchi leads the Participatory Democracy Project at the Institute, and he is also author of Militants and Citizens: The Politics of Participatory Democracy in Porto Alegre (Stanford University Press, 2005). The research is in line with the Watson Institute’s goal of advancing the study of the dynamics of inequalities – with the aim of catalyzing public engagements and better public policy.