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The Strugglers: The New Poor in Latin America?-Working Paper 337

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  • Nancy Birdsall, Nora Lustig, Christian Meyer

    ()

In this paper we identify a group of people in Latin America and other developing countries that are not poor but not middle class either. We define them as the vulnerable “strugglers”, people living in households with daily income per capita between $4 and $10 (at constant 2005 PPP dollar). They are well above the international poverty line, but still vulnerable to falling back into poverty and hence not part of the secure middle class. In a first step, we use long-term growth projections to show that in Latin America about 250 million people will likely be in the struggler group in 2030, accounting for about a third of the total population. We argue that in many upper-middle income countries of the region, the strugglers will likely risk marginalization and become the new poor. In a second step, we use harmonized household survey data and fiscal incidence analysis to show that the cash transfers that the strugglers receive are largely offset by the indirect taxes they pay. We argue that the true benefit of in-kind transfers in education and health is questionable after adjusting for quality. We discuss implications for the social contract in Latin America and call for greater attention to the needs and interests of the strugglers in the design and implementation of social and economic policies.

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File URL: http://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/new-poor-latin-america_1.pdf
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Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 337.

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Length: 59 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2013
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:337
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  1. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 2003. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 7-73, March.
  2. Angus Deaton, 2005. "Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 1-19, February.
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  6. Angus Deaton, 2005. "ERRATUM: Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 395-395, May.
  7. Milanovic, Branko & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2002. "Decomposing World Income Distribution: Does the World Have a Middle Class?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(2), pages 155-178, June.
  8. Luis López-Calva & Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, 2014. "A vulnerability approach to the definition of the middle class," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(1), pages 23-47, March.
  9. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2008. "What Is Middle Class about the Middle Classes around the World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 3-28, Spring.
  10. Nora Lustig & Carola Pessino, 2012. "Social Spending and Income Redistribution in Argentina During the 2000s: the Rising Role of Noncontributory Pensions," Working Papers 1221, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  11. Gasparini Leonardo & Leonardo Tornaroli, 2009. "Labor Informality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Patterns and Trends from Household Survey Microdata," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, September.
  12. Santiago Levy & Norbert Schady, 2013. "Latin America's Social Policy Challenge: Education, Social Insurance, Redistribution," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 193-218, Spring.
  13. Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola & Emiliana Vegas, 2008. "School Choice, Stratification and Information on School Performance: Lessons from Chile," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 1-42, January.
  14. Nora Lustig & Carola Pessino & John Scott, 2013. "The Impact of Taxes and Social Spending on Inequality and Poverty in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay: An Overview," Working Papers 1313, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  15. Nora Lustig & Luis F. Lopez-Calva & Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, 2011. "The Decline in Inequality in Latin America: How Much, Since When and Why," Working Papers 1118, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  16. Pritchett, Lant & Suryahadi, Asep & Sumarto, Sudarno, 2000. "Quantifying vulnerability to poverty - a proposed measure, applied to Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2437, The World Bank.
  17. Nancy Birdsall, Nora Lustig, and Darryl McLeod, 2011. "Declining Inequality in Latin America: Some Economics, Some Politics - Working Paper 251," Working Papers 251, Center for Global Development.
  18. Maloney, William F, 1999. "Does Informality Imply Segmentation in Urban Labor Markets? Evidence from Sectoral Transitions in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 275-302, May.
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