Outside of Brazil, the Bolsa Familia is known as the hallmark social policy of the former President Lula and remains the world’s largest conditional cash transfer program. Less well known is the history of Brazil’s social policy in the early decades of the twentieth century.

In her 1996 book, BARBARA WEINSTEIN examines how industrialists influenced the nation’s social programs from 1920 to 1964.

From the book:

“Although the industrialist proponents of rational organization did aspire to remake the workplace and the workforce, their concern in the first instance was to remake themselves, or at least their class image. By identifying with new currents in rational organization and scientific management, these industrialists, engineers, and educators claimed for themselves the professional authority and technical expertise necessary to modernize Brazilian society. In contrast to the ‘arbitrary’ authority of the old-style planter or mill owner, these new industrial owner-managers defined a wide variety of problems affecting the organization of production in the workplace, and even life beyond the factory walls, as technical, not social, questions to be resolved on a systematic, scientific basis. Such an approach, they claimed, would not only increase productivity but also promote social peace.

This effort by certain industrialists and their allies to capture the discourse of technical competence had formidable implications for labor relations and the work process, but workers were not the industrialists’ sole concern. The industrialists also sought to change the perception of industry among politicians, professionals, and middle-class reformers who harbored doubts about the industry’s contribution to economic progress and social peace. By asserting the centrality of technical expertise as well as their privileged access to it, industrialists attempted to protect and expand their authority within the factory and claim an authoritative role in the making of public policies and programs.”

Link to the book.

  • On Monday, join us for a conversation on Brazilian social policy and party politics, moderated by Weinstein and featuring Lena Lavinas, Rosana Pinheira-Machado, and André Singer. Register here.
  • In a recent article, Singer looks at the role of industrialists in Dilma Rousseff’s presidency, arguing that “the president bet on a coalition between industrialists and workers to sustain a developmentalist turn…[and] the industrialists changed their position.” Link.
  • “We investigate how and why ‘new consumers’—those who accessed the finance system during the Workers’ Party (PT) Administration—came to support a far-right candidate.” Rosana Pinheira-Machado and Lucia Mury Scalco examine the links between social policy and the popularity of Bolsonaro in Porto Alegre. Link.
  • “Social policy has played a crucial role in advancing financialization and reducing the scope of rights and entitlements.” Lena Lavinas critiques Brazil’s monetary transfer programs. Link.


Monopsony in the Meat Market

In her job market paper, UCLA PhD Candidate in Economics JINGYI HUANG studies the effects of monopsony in the US meatpacking industry from 1903 to 1918.

From the paper:

“In this paper, I examine the U.S. meatpacking cartel to show that a monopsonistic cartel can obtain substantial markdowns by manipulating future supply responses. In the early 20th century, five meatpackers formed one of the largest manufacturing cartels in American history; collectively, they produced more than 80% of refrigerated beef. In an era of weak antitrust enforcement, they openly colluded to manipulate the wholesale cattle market from 1893 to 1920. I collected weekly data from historical trade journals published between 1903 and 1918 for the four largest stockyards, which collectively produced more than 58% of U.S. refrigerated beef. I first show that such manipulation led to different aggregate market outcomes: under manipulation, on average, 15.8% more cattle were shipped to the stockyards for sale, while the realized price was 35.5% lower. Cattlemen were “tricked” to believe that the market would be good when they made large shipments; once the cattle arrived at the stockyards, however, cattlemen ended up facing lower-than-expected spotmarket prices. Without manipulation, however, more cattle were shipped when the market price was higher.”

Link to the paper, link to Huang’s website.

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way:

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  • “The real cause for the inflation was structural, as political as it was economic. At its root, rising prices are an index of social tension.” New on Phenomenal World, Andrew Elrod examines historical and present-day concerns of inflation. Link.
  • “Publicizing abuses has a significant impact on multinationals. Firms associated with an assassination have a median loss in market capitalization of over 100 million USD following violence.” David Kreitmeir, Nathaniel Lane, and Paul Raschky study the effects of international media campaigns around human rights abuses on multinational corporations. Link.
  • Andreas Kern, Mario Negre, and Michael Aklin find “a strong relation between central bank independence and inequality.” Link.
  • “We estimate that more than 2% of all properties in London, and up to 7% in some local areas are being misused through Airbnb as short-term holiday rentals.” Zahratu Shabrina, Elsa Arcaute, and Michael Batty on Airbnb and the London housing market. Link.
  • Debolina Biswas analyzes the causes of declining inequality in rural Bengal, post-land reform. Link.
  • “Fintech borrowers are significantly more likely to default than neighbor individuals with the same characteristics borrowing from traditional financial institutions.” Marco di Maggio and Vincent Yao compare fintech and traditional lenders. Link.
  • Chiara Benassi and Lisa Dorigatti examine the challenges of external work arrangements for industrial union bargaining strategies in Germany and Italy. Link.
  • “In an examination of the most recent 200 academic articles published in 2020 that cite [the retracted papers], Science found that more than half—including many in leading journals—used disgraced papers to support scientific findings and failed to note the retractions.” By Charles Piller. Link.
  • “Using a novel data set on 2,483 British privateering cruises, we show that state-licensed raiding of commercial vessels was a popular and flourishing business among merchants that took a serious toll on enemy trade from 1689 to 1815. Why, then, did privateering merchants gradually turn away from these profitable endeavors? We show that the expansion of overseas trade increased the opportunity costs for merchants and resulted in the decline of privateering. Our findings document that the decline of privateering had as much to do with an expanding maritime economy as with the rising naval power of the British state.” By Henning Hillmann and Christina Gathmann. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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