Focus areas: Political sustainability of the commodity boom, linkages between parties and richer and poorer voters, the economic determinants of electoral volatility in Latin America, legislators and economic representation in Argentina, weak institutions in Latin America 

Maria Victoria Murillo (Ph.D., Harvard, 1997) holds a joint appointment with the Department of Political Science and the School of International and Public Affairs and is currently the Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies (ILAS).

Murillo is the author of Labor Unions, Partisan Coalitions, and Market Reforms in Latin America, which was translated as Sindicatos, Coaliciones Partidarias y Reformas de Mercado en América Latina by Siglo XXI Editores and Political Competition, Partisanship, and Policymaking in the Reform of Latin American Public Utilities. She is also the co-author of Non-Policy Politics: Richer Voters, Poorer Voters, and the Diversification of Electoral Strategies with Ernesto Calvo (Cambridge University Press 2019) and Understanding Institutional Weakness: Power and Design in Latin American Institutions (Cambridge University Press, Element in Latin American Politics and Society Series, 2019) with Daniel Brinks and Steven Levitsky. She is also the co-editor of Understanding Weak Institutions: Lessons from Latin America (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2020), Argentine Democracy: The Politics of Institutional Weakness (Penn State University Press 2005), Carreras Magisteriales, Desempeño Educativo y Sindicatos de Maestros en América Latina (Flacso, 2003), and Discutir Alfonsín (Siglo XXI, 2010). Her work has also appeared in International Organization, World Politics, American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, World Development, the Annual Review of Political Science, and many Latin American academic journals.

Murillo's research on distributive politics in Latin America has covered labor politics and labor regulations, public utility reform, education reform, agricultural policies, and economic policy more generally. Her more recent work focuses on electoral behavior, contentious dynamics, and the analysis of institutional weakness. Her empirical work is based on a variety of methods ranging from quantitative analysis of datasets built for all Latin American countries to qualitative field work in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela and survey and experiments in Argentina and Chile.

Murillo received her B.A. from the Universidad de Buenos Aires and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Murillo has taught at Yale University, was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University (Harvard Academy for Area Studies & David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies), and at the Russell Sage Foundation, as well as a Fulbright fellow.

Research & Publications

June 2019|Cambridge University Press|Maria Victoria Murillo, Daniel Brinks, Steven Levitsky

Understanding Institutional Weakness: Power and Design in Latin American Institutions

January 2019|Cambridge University Press|Maria Victoria Murillo, Ernesto Calvo

Non-Policy Politics: Richer Voter, Poorer Voter, and the Diversification of Parties’ Electoral Strategies

May 2018|Latin American Politics and Society |Maria Victoria Murillo, Jorge Mangonnet, Julia Rubio

Local Economic Voting and the Agricultural Boom in Argentina

February 2017|Electoral Studies|Maria Victoria Murillo, Giancarlo Visconti

Economic Performance and Incumbents’ Support in Latin America

February 2017|Electoral Studies Volume 45|Maria Victoria Murillo, Giancarlo Visconti
April 2016|Revista Chilena de Ciencia Politica|Maria Victoria Murillo, Julia Maria Rubio, Jorge Mangonnet
October 2010|Siglo XXI-Argentina|Maria Victoria Murillo

En 1983 el entusiasmo democratico invadio el espacio publico con la fuerza de un momento dundacional: impreraba la ilusion, casi el encantamiento, de que todos los problemas de la Argentina podian resolverse y de que el orden poitico podria recrearse desde la nada. Esa ilusion desmesurada y los temores que entranaba afectaron la marcha del gobierno de Alfonsin y tambien las evaluaciones que se hicieron de sus logros y fracasos. Como evaluar hoy aquellos anos? Cual es finalmente el legado que nos han dejado? El proposito cental de este libro es estudiar ese legado, con sus claroscuros y ambivalencias, a la luz de las promesas incumplidas de una democracia que, tal como se reiteraba, seria la condicion de posibilidad para que todos comieran, se curaran y se educaran.

October 2009|Annual Review of Political Science|Maria Victoria Murillo, Steven Levitsky
October 2009|Maria Victoria Murillo

This book studies policymaking in the Latin American electricity and telecommunication sectors. Murillo's analysis of the Latin American electricity and telecommunications sectors shows that different degrees of electoral competition and the partisan composition of the government were crucial in resolving policymakers' tension between the interests of voters and the economic incentives generated by international financial markets and private corporations in the context of capital scarcity. Electoral competition by credible challengers dissuaded politicians from adopting policies deemed necessary to attract capital inflows. When electoral competition was low, financial pressures prevailed, but the partisan orientation of reformers shaped the regulatory design of market-friendly reforms. In the post-reform period, moreover, electoral competition and policymakers' partisanship shaped regulatory redistribution between residential consumers, large users, and privatized providers.

October 2006|Pennsylvania State Univ Press|Maria Victoria Murillo, Steven Levitsky

During the 1990s Argentina was the only country in Latin America to combine radical economic reform and full democracy. In 2001, however, the country fell into a deep political and economic crisis and was widely seen as a basket case. This book explores both developments, examining the links between the (real and apparent) successes of the 1990s and the 2001 collapse. Specific topics include economic policymaking and reform, executive-legislative relations, the judiciary, federalism, political parties and the party system, and new patterns of social protest. Beyond its empirical analysis, the book contributes to several theoretical debates in comparative politics. Contemporary studies of political institutions focus almost exclusively on institutional design, neglecting issues of enforcement and stability. Yet a major problem in much of Latin America is that institutions of diverse types have often failed to take root. Besides examining the effects of institutional weakness, the book also uses the Argentine case to shed light on four other areas of current debate: tensions between radical economic reform and democracy; political parties and contemporary crises of representation; links between subnational and national politics; and the transformation of state-society relations in the post-corporatist era.

October 2001|Cambridge University Press |Maria Victoria Murillo

Why do labor unions resist economic restructuring and adjustment policies in some countries and in some economic sectors while they submit in other cases? And why do some labor leaders fashion more creative and effective roles for labor unions? This book addresses these critical questions in an in-depth elegant comparative study of Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela in the 1990s. In each case, this book studies the role of both national confederations and individual unions in specific economic sectors in each country. It demonstrates the importance of the presence and nature of alliances between political parties and labor unions and the significance of competition between labor unions for the representation of the same set of workers. This work opens new horizons for appreciating the intellectual and practical importance of the variation in the interactions between workers, unions, political parties, and economic policies.