Informal Service Access in Pro-Cyclical Welfare States: A Comparison of Electricity Theft in Slums and Regular Residential Areas of Montevideo


It is often thought that political incumbents in developing countries abandon the poor during economic crises because of narrow and pro-cyclical welfare policies. In contrast to that view, this article argues that informal transfers for those excluded from the welfare state represent an example of “social policy by other means”. During dire economic conditions, democratic incumbents, who need the support or acquiescence of dislocated groups, expand irregular access to the electricity service counter-cyclically. Comparative time series data from slums and residential areas of Montevideo show that electricity losses respond to the political provision of both informal social insurance and informal redistribution.

Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice (21)3: 287-305.