Mariely Lopez-Santana, Ph.D.

George Mason University

Country: United States (Virginia)

About Me:

Mariely Lopez-Santana is an Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She is the author of 'The New Governance of Welfare States in the United States and Europe: Between Decentralization and Centralization in the Activation Era' (SUNY Press, 2015).

She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI). ​Her main field of study is Comparative Politics with an emphasis on welfare states and social policy, as well as federalism and decentralization, Recently, she has been working on a new project on fiscal oversight boards, including the Puerto Rican "junta."

​Prior to joining George Mason University, she was a Max Weber Post-Doctoral Fellow at the European University Institute. In addition, she was an Erasmus Mundus MAPP Visiting Scholar at the Institut Barcelona D' Estudis Internacionals (IBEI).For more information about my research, see:

Research Interests

Class, Inequality, and Labor Politics

Comparative Political Institutions

European Politics

Political Economy

State and Local Politics

Specific Areas of Interest

Welfare Policies

Fiscal Oversight Boards

Federalism, Regionalism, Decentralization

Welfare States

Social Welfare Policy


Countries of Interest

Puerto Rico



United States


Journal Articles:

(2019) The Myths of Central American Undocumented Immigration and MS-13 in the United States, California Western Law Review

Tags: Immigration & Citizenship, Race, Ethnicity and Politics, Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Does the gang MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) represent a real national security threat to the United States? Does its presence in the United States justify extreme border enforcement measures and drastic changes in immigration law and policies? How much of this problem is driven by current immigration patterns and policies? This essay seeks to answer these questions by analyzing the scope, structure, aims, and modus operandi of MS-13 in the United States. More specifically, it explores the myths and realities of MS-13 and the influence of US officials’ discourse about this gang on US immigration policy. The findings presented in this study are grounded in interviews conducted with law enforcement officers, practitioners and experts on the subject matter, as well as on content analysis of social media and other electronic platforms covering immigration and MS-13.

(2006) The domestic implications of European soft law: framing and transmitting change in employment policy, Journal of European Public Policy

Tags: European Politics, Political Economy

The Treaty of Amsterdam launched the European Employment Strategy, a supranational non-binding instrument to boost employment rates and competitiveness. The open method of coordination, a new governance regulatory instrument, rules this common strategy. The article argues that the ‘framing effect’ of soft law is significant to policy-making across states, especially in the case of policy formulation. The analysis is grounded in the argument that to understand the effect of ‘foreign’ non-binding governance instruments researchers studying these types of governance instruments should unpack the ‘black box of policy-making’ and focus on process. Specifically, the article contributes to the literature on Europeanization by studying an instance of ‘soft Europeanization.’ To sustain and illustrate my argument, I present data from interviews conducted in the European Union, in Sweden, Spain, and Belgium at the national and subnational levels.

Books Written:

(2015) "The New Governance of Welfare States in United States and Europe: Between Decentralization and Centralization in the Activation Era." 2015. (SUNY Press)., SUNY Press

Until recently, studies of changes in the welfare state have tended to focus on transformations in the nature of social policies and their level of generosity. The New Governance of Welfare States in the United States and Europe concentrates on an often overlooked dimension: territorial and governance transformations. Employing detailed case studies and more than seventy-five interviews, Mariely López-Santana captures how a variety of postindustrial countries across both sides of the Atlantic have transformed the postwar organization of their labor market policy settings through decentralization, centralization, and delegation reforms. These changes have in turn changed the role of national and subnational levels of government, as well as nongovernmental actors, in the organization, management, and provision of labor market policies and services. López-Santana’s multidisciplinary, comparative, and multilevel approach to welfare state change is an original and important step forward in our understanding of welfare reforms enacted since the mid-1990s.

Book Chapters:

(2020) Employment Policy in Spain: Policy and Governance Perspectives, Oxford Handbook of Spanish Politics

Tags: Class, Inequality, and Labor Politics, European Politics, Political Economy

This chapter provides an overview of the emergence, consolidation, recalibration, and liberalisation of employment policies in Spain. By identifying five developmental periods, it reviews transformations in the nature and regulation of labour market polices from the early 1900s to the mid-2010s. In addition, it explores changes in the territorial organisation and governance of labour market policies with a focus on decentralisation, (re-) centralisation, and delegation reforms. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of the Great Recession on Spanish labour market policies and structures, including its segmented labour market.


(2018) Is MS-13 as Dangerous as Trump Suggests?, The Washington Post

Tags: Immigration & Citizenship, Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Is MS-13 as Dangerous as Trump Suggests?

(2017) A controversial 'oversight board' could take over Puerto Rico's hurricane rebuilding effort, Washington Post

Tags: Political Economy, State and Local Politics

Monkey's Cage piece on Oversight Boards