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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

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Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Nancy Birdsall, Nora Lustig, Christian Meyer, 2013. "The Strugglers: The New Poor in Latin America?-Working Paper 337," Working Papers 337, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:337
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nora Lustig & George Gray Molina & Sean Higgins & Miguel Jaramillo & Wilson Jimenez & Veronica Paz & Claudiney Pereira & Carola Pessino & John Scott & Ernesto Yanez, 2012. "The Impact of Taxes and Social Spending on Inequality and Poverty in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Peru: A Synthesis of Results," Working Papers 1216, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    2. 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.
    3. 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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    5. 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.
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    11. 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.
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    15. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nancy Birdsall, Christian Meyer, Alexis Sowa, 2013. "Global Markets, Global Citizens, and Global Governance in the 21st Century," Working Papers 329, Center for Global Development.
    2. Nancy Birdsall & Christian J. Meyer, 2015. "The Median is the Message: A Good Enough Measure of Material Wellbeing and Shared Development Progress," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 6(4), pages 343-357, November.
    3. Bird, Richard M. & Zolt, Eric M., 2015. "Fiscal Contracting in Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 323-335.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    income distribution; poverty; inequality; distribution; fiscal incidence; safety net;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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