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Economic Policy Changes and Wage Differentials in Latin America


  • Jere R. Behrman
  • Nancy Birdsall
  • Miguel Székely


This article presents estimates of the impact of changes in liberalization policies on wage differentials by schooling level using a new high-quality data set for 18 Latin American countries for 1977–98. The method controls for all fixed and time-varying country characteristics, some of which may affect the policies themselves. The results indicate that liberalizing policy changes overall have had a short-run disequalizing effect of expanding wage differentials, although this effect tends to fade away over time. This disequalizing effect is due to the strong impact of domestic financial market reform, capital account liberalization, and tax reform. However, privatization contributed to narrowing wage differentials, and increasing trade openness had no significant effect on wage differentials. Technological progress, rather than trade flows, appears to be a channel through which policy changes are affecting inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Jere R. Behrman & Nancy Birdsall & Miguel Székely, 2007. "Economic Policy Changes and Wage Differentials in Latin America," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 57-97.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:v:56:y:2007:p:57-97 DOI: 10.1086/520556

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1992. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963–1987: Supply and Demand Factors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 35-78.
    2. Blundell, Richard, et al, 2000. "The Returns to Higher Education in Britain: Evidence from a British Cohort," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(461), pages 82-99, February.
    3. Behrman, Jere R. & Rosenzweig, Mark R., 1999. ""Ability" biases in schooling returns and twins: a test and new estimates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 159-167, April.
    4. Cragg, Michael Ian & Epelbaum, Mario, 1996. "Why has wage dispersion grown in Mexico? Is it the incidence of reforms or the growing demand for skills?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 99-116, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hanushek, Eric A. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2012. "Schooling, educational achievement, and the Latin American growth puzzle," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 497-512.
    2. Marina Bassi & Matías Busso & Sergio Urzúa & Jaime Vargas, 2012. "Disconnected: Skills, Education, and Employment in Latin America," IDB Publications (Books), Inter-American Development Bank, number 79504, February.
    3. repec:idb:idbbks:427 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pablo Acosta & Gabriel Montes-Rojas, 2014. "Informal Jobs and Trade Liberalisation in Argentina," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(8), pages 1104-1118, August.
    5. Binelli Chiara, 2015. "How the wage-education profile got more convex: evidence from Mexico," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 15(2), pages 509-560, July.
    6. Hanushek, Eric A. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "Schooling, Cognitive Skills, and the Latin American Growth Puzzle," IZA Discussion Papers 4576, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Leonardo Gasparini & Guillermo Cruces & Leopoldo Tornarolli, 2016. "Chronicle of a Deceleration Foretold: Income inequality in Latin America in the 2010s," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0198, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    8. Francesco Di Comite & Antonella Nocco & Gianluca Orefice, 2014. "Tariff reductions, trade patterns and the wage gap in a monopolistic competition model with vertical linkages," Working Papers 2014-02, CEPII research center.

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