UCL Institute of the Americas


Dr Néstor Castañeda

Dr Néstor Castañeda



Associate Professor of Latin American Political Economy

Director of Research
Deputy director, UCL Social Data Institute


Néstor Castañeda is Associate Professor of Latin American Political Economy at University College London, where he is affiliated to the UCL - Institute of the Americas. His areas of expertise include Comparative Political Economy, Development Studies, and Latin American Politics.  His research has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, Comparative Political Studies, Governance, and Electoral Studies, among other journals and edited volumes.

His current research seeks to understand the difficulties of making taxation more efficient and progressive in developing countries. In particular, he seeks to provide macro-level (business politics) and micro-level (tax compliance) explanations for the resilience of inequality in Latin America and the ineffectiveness of tax policies as redistributive tools in developing economies. In addition to the main topics on his research agenda, he has also investigated about the effects of economic growth on electoral turnout across the world, the determinants of electoral participation in Latin America, and the racial disparities in the risks of exposure, susceptibility and access to health care in the US.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American Economics, Political Economy of Economic Development, and Social Science Research Methods. He is also the organizer of the Latin American Political Economy Seminar Series at the Institute of the Americas.

Néstor earned a Ph.D. (2014) and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh. He also completed an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in Economics at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Néstor was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia.

Research Summary

Dr Castañeda's long-term research agenda focuses on three topics: business and taxation, political finance and lobbying regulation, and electoral participation in Latin America.

In the field of business and taxation, he is developing a number of projects to evaluate the influence of special interest groups on public policy in Latin America. These projects include a book manuscript on the politics of progressive tax reforms in Latin America and a series of studies on tax compliance, informality, and redistribution in the region.

In the field of political finance, his research agenda focuses on the institutional determinants of campaign finance regulation in Latin America. In particular, he studies the relationship between electoral uncertainty and political finance regulation throughout the world, and investigates on different aspects of campaign spending and lobbying in Latin America.

Finally, in the field of electoral participation, his agenda seeks to evaluate the effects of economic development on electoral turnout across Latin America. He is currently working on a study of the behavioural effects of economic adversity on voting turnout and the impact of preferences for redistribution on voting turnout.

Teaching Summary


AMER0039 Introduction to Politics

AMER0053 Research Methods

AMER0066 Political Economy of Economic Development

Post Graduate Taught:

AMER0009 Globalisation and Latin American Development: Latin America in the Twenty-First Century

AMER0017 Latin American Economics

Research Supervision:

Dr Castañeda welcomes applications from students undertaking PhD research in the following areas: Latin American Politics, Business Interest Groups, Economic Policymaking, Tax Policy in Developing Countries, Economic Development, Inequality, and Fiscal Redistribution.

Current Research Students:

Carlos Cárdenas Escutia: The history of the Mexican Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (second supervisor, funded by CONACYT – Mexico)

Camila Cea Moore: Upsetting inequality?  An analysis of Bachelet’s Higher Education Reforms in Contemporary Chile (first supervisor, funded by CONICYT, Chile)

John Lawrence: Corporate governance in Peru (first supervisor)

Digby Ogston: Informality and tax preferences in Latin America (first supervisor)

Recently completed:

David Gomez: Canals and Borders: Economic Diplomacy and the Belize Territorial Dispute, 1845-1865 (second supervisor) [completed in 2021] 

Kazuma Mizukoshi: The Workers' Party in Brazil: Implications for the Nationalization of the Latin American Left (first supervisor) [completed in 2020]

Eva Renon: Bring the firm back in: state-business relations in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in the 2000s (first supervisor) [completed in 2021]

Media appearances

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