Professor Sara Niedzwiecki

December 29, 2017

Sara Niedzwiecki
Prof. Sara Niedzwiecki

Sara Niedzwiecki is an Assistant Professor of Politics. She joined the department in 2017. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sara’s research studies two critical questions within comparative politics. First, she works on the process through which social policies are formed and implemented in Latin America and beyond. Second, she studies the territorial structure of government, with an emphasis on the measurement of the authority of regional governments across countries. To study these questions, she uses both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Sara’s forthcoming book, Uneven Social Policies: The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2018), examines the political and institutional conditions under which social policies are successfully implemented in decentralized countries. Focusing on Argentina and Brazil, she shows that opposition mayors and governors in decentralized countries hinder national policies that have clear attribution of responsibility, such as conditional cash transfers, but enhance policies for which attribution of responsibility is less clear, such as social services. This is because voters can only reward the opposition in elections if they know where the policy is coming from. In addition, the presence of a strong state and positive policy legacies also influence implementation patterns. The book is based on fifteen months of field research in two states and four municipalities, each in Argentina and in Brazil. In these places, Sara conducted 235 in-depth interviews with political elites at the national, state, and municipal levels, as well as 110 structured interviews with social policy recipients.

Moving forward, Sara is looking to explore how the “right turn” in Latin America shapes the future of the welfare state. She has begun analyzing whether years of left partisanship have introduced a new notion of social rights: whether the right turn in Argentina and Chile retrenched or maintained the social policies undertaken by the left. She plans to expand the analysis to cases of turn to the right after years of leftist presidents (such as Brazil) as well as cases of right-wing administrations that were not preceded by programmatic left-wing presidencies (such as Colombia, Mexico, and Peru).

Sara’s work on the politics of social policy and on multilevel governance has been published by Oxford University Press, Comparative Political Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, PS: Political Science & Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, Journal of Politics in Latin America, Regional and Federal Studies, and International Political Science Review.

At UCSC, Sara is affiliated with the Chicano Latino Research Center. She teaches courses on Latin American politics and the Politics of Social Policy.

Outside of work, Sara can usually be found exploring a state park, at a museum, or planning her next family trip.