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Knowledge gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean and economic development


  • Jarrín-V, Pablo
  • Falconí, Fander
  • Cango, Pedro
  • Ramos-Martin, Jesus


An economy based on primary products is present in most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. These remain focused on the export of unprocessed materials and goods, with little added value from knowledge and technology, which creates a development gap with technologically advanced countries and regions. By using a set of 5 quantitative indicators, we provided a novel assessment of growth gaps in the production of knowledge across world regions. Our study interpreted growth curves in terms of their essential constituent components (i. e. size, tempo, and intensity). Latin America and the Caribbean remains a region with average or below-average performance for most indicators of knowledge and most components of growth. The region shows a relatively large intensity for growth in patent applications, high-tech exports, and scientific publications, and this may have to do with recent investment in R&D by some Latin American countries. Although education gaps are slightly closing, research and technological gaps, measured by patent applications and scientific publications, are widening and driving up the resulting gaps in economic growth. Our study adds to other assessments of growth gaps in establishing the existence of an increasing divide between Latin America and the Caribbean and the developed world regions. We also propose strategy recommendations in the context of the current observed gaps in the production of knowledge. Bridging knowledge gaps represents a historical imperative and an unavoidable condition for the economic and social progress of the Latin American region. Therefore, active domestic public policies are urgently needed, along with international agreements that contribute to democratizing access to knowledge and technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Jarrín-V, Pablo & Falconí, Fander & Cango, Pedro & Ramos-Martin, Jesus, 2021. "Knowledge gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean and economic development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:146:y:2021:i:c:s0305750x21002175
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105602

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    1. Xin Dai & Jie Tang & Qin Huang & Wenyue Cui, 2023. "Knowledge Spillover and Spatial Innovation Growth: Evidence from China’s Yangtze River Delta," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(19), pages 1-26, September.

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    More about this item


    Knowledge gaps; Development; Technological change; Intellectual property; Latin America;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics


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