Zoila Ponce de Leon, Ph.D.


Assistant Professor

Washington and Lee University

Year of PhD: 2018

Country: United States (Virginia)

About Me:

Zoila Ponce de Leon is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 and her B.A. in political science from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in 2011. Her research focuses primarily on the politics of social policy in Latin America. Her book project, Political Parties and Policy Reform: Expansion of Healthcare in Latin America, analyzes how and why the role of parties as policymakers can have an effect on policymaking. She compares the healthcare reform processes in Chile, Mexico, and Peru. She also studies representatives’ connection to the policy positions of citizens in Latin America, and conducts cross-regional studies of gender bias in legislator responsiveness to citizens and immigration attitudes in Latin America and Europe. She uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to develop her research agenda. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the Journal of Latin American StudiesJournal of Experimental Political ScienceOxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, and Revista de Ciencia Política. Professor Ponce de Leon teaches comparative politics, Latin American politics, immigration attitudes, and applied statistics. She is also a core faculty member of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Program.

Research Interests

Health Politics and Policy

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Political Parties and Interest Groups

Challenges To Democracy


Anti-Immigrant Attitudes

Public Policy Process

Comparative Political Economy

Comparative Politics

Comparative Social Policy

Immigration & Citizenship

Countries of Interest







Journal Articles:

(2021) Healthcare Reform out of Nowhere? Policy Reform and the Lack of Programmatic Commitment in Peru, Journal of Latin American Studies

The reform approved in Peru in 2009 during a right-wing government deviates from similar attempts to expand access to healthcare. Left-wing parties in Peru were extremely weak during the policymaking process and the political parties were non-programmatic. Based on original field research, this paper demonstrates how parties that lacked core values uniting their leaders and had no commitment to the reform did not care for the definition of specifications regarding funding and implementation. Instead, technocrats dominated the process of policy formation, which accompanied by the lack of commitment from key political actors, led to poorly specified policy and deficient implementation.

(2020) Women Want an Answer! Field Experiments on Gender Bias in Legislator Responsiveness, Journal of Experimental Political Science

Are elected officials more responsive to men than women inquiring about access to government services? Women face discrimination in many realms of politics, but evidence is limited on whether such discrimination extends to interactions between women and elected officials. In recent years, several field experiments have examined public officials’ responsiveness. The majority focused on racial bias in the United States, while the few experiments outside the US were usually single-country studies. We explore gender bias with the first large-scale audit experiment in 5 countries in Europe (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands) and 6 in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay). A citizen alias whose gender is randomized contacts members of parliament about unemployment benefits or healthcare services. The results are surprising. Legislators respond significantly more to women (+3% points), especially in Europe (+4.3% points). In Europe, female legislators in particular reply substantially more to women (+8.4% points).

(2019) Peru 2018: Political Precariousness in the Times of Lava Jato, Revista Ciencia Política

This article presents an analysis of the main political events of 2018. After the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), the first year of Martín Vizcarra’s government began. His government faced numerous scandals triggered by the Lava Jato case, resulting in the detention of key politicians (including former presidents PPK and Ollanta Humala) and the transformation of the three branches of government. Moreover, a series of audio recordings uncovered a network of illegal under-the-table practices within the Judiciary, which included the protection of politicians and the negotiation of positions and reduction of penalties. In response, Vizcarra’s government promoted a group of institutional reforms via referendum, which are set in a context of institutional precariousness.

(2019) The Changing Shapes of Latin American Welfare States, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Latin American welfare states have undergone major changes over the past half century. As of 1980, there were only a handful of countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay) with social policy regimes that covered more than half of their population with some kind of safety net to insure adequate care during their old age and that provided adequate healthcare services. With the turn of the century, the economic and political situation changed significantly. The commodity boom eased fiscal pressures and made resources available for an increase in public social expenditure. Democracy was more consolidated in the region and civil society had recovered from repression. Left-wing parties began to win elections and take advantage of the fiscal room which allowed for the building of redistributive social programs. The most significant innovation has been expansion of coverage to people in the informal sector and to people with insufficient histories of contributions to social insurance schemes. The overwhelming majority of Latin Americans now have the right to some kind of cash assistance at some point in their lives and to healthcare provided by their governments. In many cases, there have also been real improvements in the generosity of cash assistance, particularly in the case of non-contributory pensions, and in the quality of healthcare services. However, the least progress has been made toward equity. With very few exceptions, severe inequalities continue to exist in the quality of services provided through the new and the traditional programs.

Books Written:

(2022) Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press

An engaging and accessible introduction to the subject, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, Fourth Edition gives students the methodological tools they need to answer the "big questions" in the field. Offering a hybrid format, the text’s unique structure offers the best of thematic and country-by-country approaches. Sixteen succinct thematic chapters--organized around the "big questions" in the field--are followed by a separate section at the end of the book offering full-length profiles and case studies for twelve countries. Each chapter integrates several standalone country case studies in Case in Context features; these features tie into the narrative, pose questions, and point students to the full case discussions in the country profiles section of the book.

Book Chapters:

(2022) Healthcare System Reform in Peru (Reforma del Sistema Sanitario y de Salud), CIES

In Balance de Investigación 2016-2021 y Agenda de Investigación 2021-2026.

(2021) Health Care and the Public-Private Mix in Mexico, Chile and Peru, Oxford International Handbook of Governance and Management for Social Policy

This chapter provides an overview of the development of the public-private mix in healthcare in Mexico, Chile, and Peru. It outlines the development of the private sector in the 1980s and 1990s when the public health systems in all three countries struggled to provide insurance coverage to the majority of their population as well as access to healthcare services. This situation prompted the co-existence between the public and private sectors in a system characterized by fragmentation. One of the main consequences of these fragmented systems is the high out-of pocket expenditure citizens face. The states have sought aid from private providers to guarantee access to healthcare services for their populations. However, the governmental purchase of private services still remains marginal in the three countries. The important role of the private sector in the healthcare systems of Mexico, Chile, and Peru in terms of provision, insurance, and funding resembles a common trend in the Latin American region.


(2021) Sistema de Salud en el Perú y el COVID-19, Escuela de Gobierno y Políticas Públicas Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

El proceso de reforma del sistema de salud iniciado en el 2009 se caracterizó por una carencia de compromiso político durante su implementación. Además, temas como financiamiento, viabilidad del proyecto con respecto a escasez de recursos humanos, infraestructura y sostenibilidad fueron excluidos del debate en torno a la reforma. Las medidas implementadas en los últimos años no lograron mejorar la capacidad ni la calidad del sistema de salud de manera sustancial. En ese contexto de precariedad, la pandemia provocada por el COVID-19 ha generado el colapso del sistema de salud público peruano, y expuesto la necesidad de una reforma de salud integral.

Media Appearances:

Newspaper Quotes:

(2021) Brasil de Fato

Lava Jato aprofundou “caos político” no Peru e respinga nas 18 chapas presidenciais

(2020) Global Finance

Peru’s Rock Star Finance Minister

(2020) Aljazeera

Latin America in 2020: Stories to watch

Blog Posts:

(2020) The Conversation

Women politicians more likely to reply to people who reach out in need, study shows

(2020) European Politics and Policy - LSE Blogs

How gender affects the response rates of politicians to inquiries about healthcare and unemployment support