Subnational Social Inequality

This research agenda -which includes my first book project and a series of articles- conceptualizes subnational inequality, provides measurements, and examines its causes.

My book project, "When the State Minds the Gap: The Politics of Subnational Inequality in Latin America" asks why are some countries more successful than others at reducing subnational inequality in education and health outcomes. I suggest that place-sensitive politics, in addition to controlled decentralization, favors equalization in service provision across the territory. I develop and test this theory with a mixed-methods approach by combining controlled comparisons and process-tracing in Colombia and Peru. 

-Subnational inequality in Latin America: Empirical and theoretical implications of moving beyond interpersonal inequality. Studies in Comparative International Development, 54(2) (2019), 185-209. (pdf)

-Place-sensitive policies in the provision of subnational public goods in Colombia. Latin American Politics and Society, 62(3) (2020), 94-122. (pdf)

-¿Qué es lo subnacional de la desigualdad subnacional? Una mirada interseccional a la desigualdad en Latinoamérica. Revista de Ciencia Política, 41(1) (2021), 103-133.


Rebel Roads

This project was motivated by the list of roads that the former rebel group FARC-EP submitted to Colombian authorities for reparation purposes. We embarked on a journey to understand the where, why, and how of these infrastructures. 

-B De Barro. In Belicopedia. Universidad de los Andes Colombia, 2023. p. 26-36. 

-What is the state made of? Coca, roads, and the materiality of state formation in the frontier. World Development, 141 (2021), 105395. (with Isabel Peñaranda-Currie and Simón Uribe) (pdf)

-Seeing like a Guerrilla: the logic of infrastructure in the building of insurgent orders. Geoforum, 133 (2022), 198-207. (with Isabel Peñaranda-Currie and Simón Uribe).

-Hacer el estado: carreteras, conflicto y órdenes locales en los territorios de las FARC. Revista de Estudios Sociales, (75) (2021), 87-100. (with Isabel Peñaranda-Currie and Simón Uribe)

Subnational Responses to Covid-19

How did subnational authorities respond to the Covid-19 pandemic? As part of the Observatory for the Containment of Covid-19 in the Americas, housed by the University of Miami, I led the Colombian effort to build a unique database of daily Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions in Colombia´s departments. 

-Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to Combat COVID-19 in the Americas: Subnational, Daily Data”(2023), Scientific Data, Forthcoming (with Michael Touchton, Felicia Knaul, Héctor Arreola-Ornelas, and others).

-Learning from Latin America: Coordinating Policy Responses across National and Subnational Levels to Combat COVID-19. COVID, 2023, vol. 3, no 9, p. 1500-1515. (with Michael Touchton, Felicia Knaul, Héctor Arreola-Ornelas, and others).

-Strengthening Health Systems To Face Pandemics: Subnational Policy Responses To COVID-19 In Latin America. Health Affairs, 2022, vol. 41, no 3, p. 454-462. (with Michael Touchton, Felicia Knaul, Héctor Arreola-Ornelas, and others).

-A partisan pandemic: state government public health policies to combat COVID-19 in Brazil. BMJ global health, 2021, vol. 6, no 6, p. e005223. (with Michael Touchton, Felicia Knaul, Héctor Arreola-Ornelas, and others).

The data for Colombia is open access here.

To cite the data: Silvia Otero-Bahamon, Observatorio para la Contención del Covid-19 en las Américas, and Semillero UROSARIO para la Contención del Covid-19 en Colombia (2022). "Subnational Policy Adoption Index, Country: Colombia". Dataset. 

source of picture: COVID-19 cases by territories of the countries of South America.svg. In Wikipedia. 

Unequal Cities

Why do some cities reduce their income inequality while others stagnate? This project focuses on four Colombian cities that over the last 18 years have experienced different trends in income inequality: Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Pereira, and Cartagena. While Colombia as a whole has had a modest reduction in income inequality compared to other Latin American countries, when we scale down and observe the city level, very different trajectories come to light: some cities have had a notable reduction, while others face stagnation. This project aims to explain the causes of such variation by employing a vast variety of methods. Quantitative analyses of Gini decomposition, labor market data, and educational attainment are embedded in a combination of process-tracing and controlled comparisons. 

I have worked with co-authors at Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar and Universidad del Rosario to complete some products related to this project. Articles and Working Papers published results on the quantitative analyses, and an ongoing book project builds on these to arrive at a comprehensive response to the original question.

-Nuevas perspectivas sobre desigualdad y política social en América Latina (2022). Revista CS, (Especial), 11-18 (with Laura Garcia and Juan Dusso).

-Trayectorias divergentes de la desigualdad en las ciudades intermedias: el rol de las pensiones y las ayudas en la reducción de la desigualdad de ingresos. Revista CS, (Especial), 139-171. (with Liney Álvarez, Andrés Sampayo y Jorge Luis Alvis). (Divergent Inequality Trajectories in Intermediate Cities: The Role of Income From Pensions and Transfers in Reducing Inequality).

Working Papers

- Otero-Bahamon, S., Álvarez, L., Sampayo, A., Toro, D., Jiménez, T. I., & Alvis, J. L. (2022). Análisis de la desigualdad de ingresos en Colombia y en cuatro ciudades intermedias Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Pereira y Cartagena: 2002-2018. Documento de Trabajo FEIPU 3. Universidad del Rosario. 

-Otero-Bahamon, S., Álvarez, L., Sampayo, A. M., Toro, D., Jiménez, T. I., & Alvis, J. L. (2022). Desigualdad de ingresos laborales y no laborales en Colombia y en cuatro ciudades intermedias. Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Pereira y Cartagena: 2002-2018. Documento de Trabajo FEIPU 4. Universidad del Rosario. 

-Álvarez, L., Rodríguez, G., Sampayo, A. M., Chacón, C., Otero-Bahamon, S., Toro, D., Jiménez, T., Alvis, J. L., & Aleán, A. (2022). Análisis del efecto Covid-19 en los ingresos de los hogares en cuatro ciudades intermedias de Colombia: Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Pereira y Cartagena: 2019-2020. Documento de Trabajo FEIPU 5. Universidad del Rosario. 

Data Visualization Dashboard

-Otero-Bahamon, S., Toro, D., Álvarez, L., Jiménez, T, Sampayo, A., Chacón, C., Alvis, J. L., & Aleán, A. (2022). ¿Por qué se reduce la desigualdad en las ciudades colombianas? Tablero de Visualización de Datos. Universidad del Rosario - Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar. 

Accompanying methodological guide: 

-Análisis de la desigualdad de ingresos en las ciudades colombianas. Guía para abordar el problema y reflexiones para la toma de decisiones. 

Other Published Work

-Colombia 2022: Del fin de la guerra al gobierno del cambio (with Sandra Botero, Laura García and Sebastián Londoño). Revista de Ciencia Política (2023). Twitter thread

-Racionalidad Rodolfista y Encanto Populista. In Gustavo Petro vs. Rodolfo Hernández. ¿Dos Populismos Encontrados? (pp. 1-22). Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, 2023 (with Rodrigo Barrenechea)


- ¿En dónde combaten los actores armados? Desigualdad de tierras y capacidad estatal en el conflicto colombiano. Desafíos 34(1), 1-45 (Where do armed actors fight? Land Inequality and State Capacity in the Colombian Conflict).

-El abordaje forense del homicidio sexual en contexto de conflicto armado: el caso  de la masacre de El  Salado" (with Viviana Quintero e Ingrid Bolívar). Análisis  Político 71  (2011): 109-128.   (Forensic approach of sexual homicide in armed conflict contexts. The Salado Massacre case).


-¿Qué esconde el asfalto? La política de los medios de transporte y el proceso de formación del estado”, Revista Controversia 192 (2009):163-211. (What does the alphat hide? Transportation politics and state formation processes).


-Emociones y movimientos sociales: algunas claves útiles para estudiar el conflicto armado. Colombia Internacional 63 (2006): 174-187. (Emotions and Social Movements: Insights for Studying the Colombian Armed Conflict).


Manuscripts in Preparation

- Process-driven Natural Experiments (with Ana Arjona)

-Dependent Elites. The role of elite-citizenship linkages in inequality reduction at the city level. (book project).

-Navigating the trade-off: How centralized system can adapt policy responses to local conditions. The case of Covid-19 in Colombia. Under Review (leading author).

-The Micro-foundations of peace: Implementation and attitudes towards  Colombia’s peace agreement (with Abbey Steele, Sebastián Pantoja, Helga Malmin Binningsbø, Casper Kurpan)