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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 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

  • Annegues, A. C., et al. 2015. Determinants of unfair inequality in Brazil, 1995 and 2009. CEPAL Review, 115, 165-179.
  • Bértola, L. and Williamson, J., eds., 2017. Has Latin American Inequality Changed Direction? Looking Over the Long Run. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
  • Coatsworth, J. H. 2008. Inequality, Institutions and Economic Growth in Latin America. Journal of Latin American Studies, 40(3), 545-569.
  • 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.
  • Cruz, J. M. 2016. State and criminal violence in Latin America. Crime, Law and Social Change, 66(4), 375-396.
  • Franzoni, J. M. and Sánchez-Ancochea, D., 2016. The quest for universal social policy in the South: actors, ideas and architectures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 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.
  • Lima, M. and Prates, I., 2019. Racial Inequalities in Brazil: A Persistent Challenge. In: Arretche, M. ed. Paths of inequality in Brazil: a half-century of changes. Cham: Springer, 113-134.
  • 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., 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.
  • 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.
  • Salata, A. 2018. Distribuição de renda no Brasil entre 2002 e 2013: Redução das desigualdades entre classes? Latin American Research Review, 53(1), 76-95.
  • Telles, E., Flores, R. D. and Urrea-Giraldo, F. 2015. Pigmentocracies: Educational inequality, skin color and census ethnoracial identification in eight Latin American countries. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 40, 39-58.
  • Torche, F. 2014. Intergenerational Mobility and Inequality: The Latin American Case. Annual Review of Sociology, 40(1), 619-642.