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Shifting socioeconomic 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 their recent changes. Second, 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
  • Race, class and gender inequality
  • Latin American inequalities in comparative and historical terms

Required readings

Further readings

  • Bértola, L. and Williamson, J., eds., 2017. Has Latin American Inequality Changed Direction? Looking Over the Long Run. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
  • Bleynat, I. and Segal, P. 2021. Faces of Inequality: a mixed methods approach to multidimensional inequalities. LSE III Working Papers, 68, 1-31.
  • Cornia, G. A., 2014. Recent Distributive Changes in Latin America: An Overview. In: Cornia, G. A. ed. Falling Inequality in Latin America: policy changes and lessons. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3-22.
  • Cornia, G. A. 2021. Latin America's Income Inequality Under Five Political Regimes, 1870-2018. DISEI Working papers, 2021(12), 1-30.
  • Hoffman, K. and Centeno, M. A. 2003. The Lopsided Continent: Inequality in Latin America. Annual Review of Sociology, 29(1), 363-390.
  • Lustig, N., et al. 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.
  • McGuire, J. W., 2012. Social Policies in Latin America: Causes, Characteristics, and Consequences. In: Kingstone, P. and Yashar, D. J. eds. Routledge Handbook of Latin American Politics. New York and London: Routledge, 200-223.
  • Paixão, M. and Rossetto, I., 2019. The Labyrinth of Ethnic–Racial Inequality: A Picture of Latin America According to the Recent Census Rounds. In: Dixon, K. and Johnson III, O. A. eds. Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America. Abingdon: Routledge, 288-317.
  • 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.
  • Sánchez-Ancochea, D., 2021. The costs of inequality in Latin America: lessons and warnings for the rest of the world. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Telles, E., et al. 2015. Pigmentocracies: Educational inequality, skin color and census ethnoracial identification in eight Latin American countries. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 40, 39-58.
  • Webber, J. R. 2017. Contemporary Latin American Inequality: Class Struggle, Decolonization, and the Limits of Liberal Citizenship. Latin American Research Review, 52(2), 281-299.