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Inequalities in Latin America

Pedro Mendes Loureiro

This session introduces the topic of inequalities in Latin America, a core aspect of the region’s political economy. It outlines different dimensions and causes of inequalities, alongside the approaches taken to research and explain them. First, this session explores the levels of income inequality in Latin America and compares them to those of different regions in the Global South. Second, it analyses how the distribution of income is associated to that of health and of education in the continent. Third, this session provides an overview of how inequality is structured along gender, race and class lines. Finally, it discusses the reasons why there was a consistent and substantial decrease of income inequality in Latin America during the 2000s, differently from most other regions of the world, and questions whether these recent shifts have changed the continent’s historical patterns of concentration.

Key issues

  • Inequalities
  • Income, health, and educational inequality
  • Race, class and gender inequality
  • Latin American inequalities in comparative and historical terms

Required readings (see Moodle)

Further readings

  • Annegues, A. C., et al. 2015. Determinants of unfair inequality in Brazil, 1995 and 2009. CEPAL Review, 115, 165-179.
  • Azevedo, J. P., Inchaust, G. and Sanfelice, V. 2013. Decomposing the Recent Inequality Decline in Latin America. World Bank Policy Research Working Papers, 6715, 1-26.
  • Bértola, L. and Williamson, J., eds., 2017. Has Latin American Inequality Changed Direction? Looking Over the Long Run. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
  • Blanco, L. and Lillard, S. 2013. Inequality in Latin America: Changes and New Perspectives. Latin American Politics and Society, 55(2), 169-177.
  • Bogliaccini, J. A. 2013. Trade Liberalization, Deindustrialization, and Inequality: Evidence from Middle-Income Latin American Countries. Latin American Research Review, 48(2), 79-105.
  • Braunstein, E. and Seguino, S. 2018. The impact of economic policy and structural change on gender employment inequality in Latin America, 1990–2010. Review of Keynesian Economics, 6(3), 307-332.
  • Calvo, E. and Moscovich, L. 2017. Inequality, Protests, and the Progressive Allocation of Cash Transfers in the Argentine Provinces. Latin American Politics and Society, 59(2), 3-26.
  • Coatsworth, J. H. 2008. Inequality, Institutions and Economic Growth in Latin America. Journal of Latin American Studies, 40(3), 545-569.
  • Cornia, G. A., ed., 2014. Falling Inequality in Latin America: policy changes and lessons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cornia, G. A., 2015. Income inequality in Latin America: Recent decline and prospects for its further reduction. WIDER Working Papers [online], 2015 (20). Available from:
  • Dinzey-Flores, Z. Z. 2017. Spatially Polarized Landscapes and a New Approach to Urban Inequality. Latin American Research Review, 52(2).
  • Frankema, E. 2012. Industrial Wage Inequality in Latin America in Global Perspective, 1900–2000. Studies in Comparative International Development, 47, 47-74.
  • Franzoni, J. M., et al. 2013. Can Latin American Production Regimes Complement Universalistic Welfare Regimes? Implications from the Costa Rican Case. Latin American Research Review, 48(2), 148-173.
  • Gasparini, L. and Cruces, G. 2008. A Distribution in Motion: The Case of Argentina: A Review of the Empirical Evidence. CEDLAS Working Papers, 78, 1-40.
  • Gasparini, L., Cruces, G. and Tornaroli, L. 2011. Recent Trends in Income Inequality in Latin America. Economía, 11(2), 147-190.
  • Gasparini, L. and Tornarolli, L. 2009. Labor Informality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Patterns and Trends from Household Survey Microdata. Desarrollo y Sociedad, 13-80.
  • López, M., 2018. States, elites, and inequality in Latin America. Sociology Compass [online], e12598. Available from: http:
  • Lopez-Calva, L. F. and Lustig, N., eds., 2010. Declining inequality in Latin America: a decade of progress? Washington DC and New York: United Nations Development Programme and Brookings Institution Press.
  • Lustig, N. 2017. Fiscal Redistribution and Ethnoracial Inequality in Bolivia, Brazil, and Guatemala. Latin American Research Review, 52(2), 208-220.
  • Lustig, N., Lopez-Calva, L. F. and Ortiz-Juarez, E. 2013. Declining Inequality in Latin America in the 2000s: The Cases of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. World Development, 44(0), 129-141.
  • Lustig, N., Pessino, C. and Scott, J. 2014. The Impact of Taxes and Social Spending on Inequality and Poverty in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay: Introduction to the Special Issue. Public Finance Review, 42(3), 287-303.
  • Oxhorn, P. and Jouve-Martín, J. R. 2017. Inequality and Inclusion in Latin America. Latin American Research Review, 52(2), 203-207.
  • Portes, A. and Hoffman, K. 2003. Latin American Class Structures: Their Composition and Change during the Neoliberal Era. Latin American Research Review, 38(1), 41-82.
  • Salata, A. 2018. Distribuição de renda no Brasil entre 2002 e 2013: Redução das desigualdades entre classes? Latin American Research Review, 53(1).
  • Souza, P. H. G. F. 2018. Os ricos no Brasil: o que sabemos, o que não sabemos e o que deveríamos saber. Revista Brasileira de Informação Bibliográfica em Ciências Sociais, 85(1), 5-26.
  • Torche, F. 2014. Intergenerational Mobility and Inequality: The Latin American Case. Annual Review of Sociology, 40(1), 619-642.