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Latin American economic development


  • Mauricio Cárdenas
  • Steven M. Helfand


This article examines the strategies, successes and failures of economic development in Latin America since 1870. We divide the analysis into four key development phases: primary export-led growth (1870–1929), import substitution industrialisation (1945–82), debt crisis (1980s) and the Washington Consensus (1990s). We demonstrate progress on many fronts, but underscore two key challenges for the region. One of them relates to weak institutions and state capacity; the other is the persistence of high levels of poverty and inequality. We conclude with a discussion of these challenges and of specific actions that are necessary to accelerate development in the region.

Suggested Citation

  • Mauricio Cárdenas & Steven M. Helfand, 2011. "Latin American economic development," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:dofeco:v:5:year:2011:doi:3867

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    More about this item


    Latin America; economic development; primary export-led growth; import substitution industrialization (ISI); debt crisis; Washington consensus; institutions; state capacity; poverty; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N16 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Latin America; Caribbean


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