From the Streets to the Classrooms: The Politics of Education Spending in Mexico

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Remmer, Karen L

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This dissertation examines the political determinants of government spending across different levels of education. What are the political motivations that drive budgetary decisions on primary, secondary, and tertiary education? Who are the beneficiaries of these appropriations? Why are they capable of influencing the decisions over appropriations?

I argue that the distribution of education spending across education levels depends on the capacity of organized groups active in this sector to make their demands heard and served by governments. Better organized groups have stronger capacity to take advantage of the electoral concerns of politicians and influence their decisions on educational budgets. I provide evidence to show that, with some exceptions, the teachers' unions in the primary and secondary schools are the most influential organized group in the education sector. By taking their demands out to the streets, by capturing key positions in the education ministries, and by using their mobilization capacity in the electoral arena, teachers have made governments cater to their economic interests, rather than direct resources in ways that would enhance access to and the quality of education.

I test the theoretical arguments using an original dataset incorporating a comprehensive account of all protests, strikes, and other disruptive actions by teachers, university workers, students, and parents in Mexico between 1992 and 2008. The statistical analysis reveals that 1) states with higher levels of teachers' protests receive larger federal education grants, and that 2) subnational authorities spend more on primary and lower secondary as a consequence of the larger disruptive behavior observed in these education levels. Complementary qualitative evidence shows how the teachers' union has captured the education ministries at the federal and the subnational levels, consolidating its influence over education policy. Finally, this study reveals the teachers' union capacity to leverage their participation in electoral politics in order to defend its economic interests.





Fernandez, Marco Antonio (2012). From the Streets to the Classrooms: The Politics of Education Spending in Mexico. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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