Guillermo Toral


Articles in peer-reviewed journals

"Competence versus priorities: Negative electoral responses to education quality in Brazil" (with Taylor Boas and F. Daniel Hidalgo). Journal of Politics, forthcoming.



Do voters reward politicians for the quality of public services? We address this question by studying voters' responses to signals of municipal school quality in Brazil, a setting particularly favorable to electoral accountability. Findings from a regression discontinuity design and a field experiment are strikingly consistent. Contrary to expectations, signals of school quality decrease electoral support for the local incumbent. However, we find the expected effect among citizens for whom school quality should be most salient—parents with children in municipal schools. Using an online survey experiment, we argue that voters who do not value education interpret school quality as an indicator of municipal policy priorities and perceive trade-offs with other services. Voters may hold politicians accountable not only for their competence but also for their representation of potentially conflicting interests—a fact that complicates the simple logic behind many accountability interventions.

2017 Southeast Latin American Political Behavior Conference (SeLAB, Georgia State University)

"Immigrant organizations as civil society: A three-dimensional analysis" (in Spanish). Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas 132, pages 105-130, 2010.


This article examines immigrant organizations from three perspectives: their relationships with public authorities, the system of relationships established among these organizations, and their degree of internal participation. My principal aim is to analyze the extent to which one can speak of a civil society in this domain. The study presented takes the case of immigrant organizations in Spain, focusing on those organizations that benefit from greater public recognition through the Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants, a consultative body of the Government. In-depth interviews with chairpersons and workers in these organizations are combined with contributions from the literature on social movements, on ethnic mobilization and on social capital, to explain the Spanish situation. Connecting the dynamics of immigrant organizations with those of other social organizations in Spain, it is argued that the relationships established with public authorities are neither balanced out by a dense interorganizational network, nor harmonized by the active participation of their members. These factors work to the detriment of a true civil society in this domain, having negative implications for the organizations’ capacity to act as creators of social capital, and for the integration of immigrants. This brings into question the role of the State in supporting immigrant organizations.

2010 Trinity Immigration Initiative International Conference (Trinity College Dublin)

Chapters in books

In "Better teachers for Latin America and the Caribbean: New Evidence on Strategies for Teacher Quality and Student Learning" , edited by Barbara Bruns and Javier Luque. World Bank, 2015.

Book in English

Book in Spanish

Book in Portuguese

→ "Recruiting great teachers" (with Barbara Bruns, Javier Luque, Soledad de Gregorio and David Evans)
→ "Grooming great teachers" (with Barbara Bruns, Javier Luque, David Evans, Noah Yarrow, and Soledad de Gregorio).

The seven million teachers of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are the critical actors in the region's efforts to improve education quality and raise student learning levels, which lag far behind those of OECD countries and East Asian countries such as China. This book documents the high economic stakes around teacher quality, benchmarks the current performance of LAC's teachers, and delineates the key issues. These include low standards for entry into teacher training, poor quality training programs that are detached from the realities of the classroom, unattractive career incentives, and weak support for teachers once they are on the job.

New research conducted for this report in close to 15,000 classrooms in seven different LAC countries - the largest cross-country study of this kind to date - provides a first-ever insight into how the region's teachers perform inside the classroom. It documents that the average teacher in LAC loses the equivalent of one day of instructional time per week because of inadequate preparation, excessive time on administration (taking attendance, passing out papers) and a surprisingly high share of time physically absent from the classrooms where they should be teaching. Teachers also make limited use of available learning materials, espcially those using information and communications technology (ICT), and are unable to keep the majority of their students engaged.

The book sets out the three priority lines of reform needed to produce great teachers in LAC: policies to recruit better teachers; programs to groom teachers and improve their skills once they are in service; and stronger incentives to motivate teachers to perform their best throughout their career. In every area, the book distills the latest evidence from inside and outside the region to provide practical guidance to policymakers in the design of effective programs and sustainable reforms. A final chapter analyzes the politics of recent major teacher reforms in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, chronicling the prominent role of teachers' unions and the political and communications strategies that have underpinned successful reforms.

Policy reports

"Information and Accountability: Evidence Syntheses of Within-Government and Citizen-Government Accountability Pathways" (with Lily Tsai, Benjamin Morse and Varja Lipovsek). Transparency and Accountability Initiative , 2019.


Transparency – or access to information about the responsibilities and actions of those in government – is widely viewed as a prerequisite for effective democratic governance. Various studies testify to the results made possible by transparency initiatives, particularly in the context of democratic elections. Yet there is relatively scarce evidence to explore the effects of transparency on non-electoral accountability or to inform practitioner and policy-maker investments in strengthening accountable democratic governance.

These evidence syntheses offer a conceptual framework to understand the causal mechanisms and types of information interventions to enhance accountability and to identify gaps in the evidence base. The report discusses the quality of evidence examined and the implications of these findings to help us develop more nuanced models for understanding the relationship between transparency and accountability.

"Taxation and accountability in developing countries" (with Lily Tsai, Blair Read and Varja Lipovsek). Transparency and Accountability Initiative, 2018.


We often believe that citizens who pay taxes to the government should have a stronger desire to make sure that the government spends their money wisely. According to this idea of a “fiscal contract,” citizens who pay taxes expect accountable and democratic governments that deliver public goods. In this evidence review, we seek to answer two questions. First, does such a fiscal contract exist between citizens and governments in developing countries? Second, assuming that such a fiscal contract exists or can be created, how can governments increase taxation and decrease tax evasion? To answer these questions, we review and discuss recent evidence from empirical studies published between 2010 and 2016.

"Effect of international standards on accountability behaviors" (with Lily Tsai, Benjamin Morse and Varja Lipovsek). Transparency and Accountability Initiative, 2018.


The focus of this review is on evidence that initiatives to promote international norms and standards have an impact on the behaviors of the accountability actors. The review complements the 2015 report previously commissioned by TAI on the effectiveness of governance-oriented multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), which focused primarily on “grey literature” and highlighted the gap in this literature on the impact of MSIs on the actions of accountability actors.