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Desigualdad, instituciones y crecimiento económico en América Latina


  • John H. Coatsworth

    (Columbia University)


This essay examines three recent historical approaches to the political economy of Latin America’s relative economic backwardness. All three locate the origins of contemporary underdevelopment in defective colonial institutions linked to inequality. The contrasting view offered here affirms the significance of institutional constraints, but argues that they did not arise from colonial inequalities, but from the adaptation of Iberian practices to the American colonies under conditions of imperial weakness. Colonial inequality varied across the Americas; while it was not correlated with colonial economic performance, it mattered because it determined the extent of elite resistance to institutional modernization after independence. The onset of economic growth in the mid to late nineteenth century brought economic elites to political power, but excluding majorities as inequality increased restrained the region’s twentieth-century growth rates and prevented convergence.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Coatsworth, 2012. "Desigualdad, instituciones y crecimiento económico en América Latina," Revista Economía, Fondo Editorial - Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, vol. 35(69), pages 204-230.
  • Handle: RePEc:pcp:pucrev:y:2012:i:69:p:204-230

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John T. Addison & Mário Centeno & Pedro Portugal, 2004. "Reservation Wages, Search Duration, and Accepted Wages in Europe," Working Papers w200413, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    2. Sarah Brown & Karl Taylor, "undated". "Reservation Wages, Expected wages and the duration of Unemployment: evidence from British Panel data," Working Papers 2009001, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
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    More about this item


    political economy; colonial institutions; economic growth; wealth inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • N36 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N56 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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