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Human development and inequality in the 20th Century : the Mercosur countries in a comparative perspective

  • Luis Bertola

    ()

  • Maria Camou
  • Silvana Maubrigades
  • Natalia Melgar

This article is in line with the United Nations attempts to approach human development in wider terms than per capita GDP, and in line with an ever lively debate on the historical standard of living and on the role of inequality in development. We focus on three Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) and we view them in comparison with four core countries (France, Germany, USA and UK) along the 20th Century. The paper makes different attempts to construct diverse indices and to change the weights of their different components in order to better explain human development in different periods. A contribution of the paper, so long limited to Uruguay and the USA, is to adjust the historical human development index by inequality measures for all of its components. The results show that Argentine started to diverge, even in human development, at early stages of the 20th Century; that Uruguay diverged from the mid-century and that Brazil continued to tighten the gap up to 1980, diverging afterwards without being able to come close to the levels of the core countries. Total inequality in Uruguay and USA showed similar levels and trends: it decreased until the 1950s, and increased afterwards to similar levels. While inequality affects human development within both countries, it doesn’t help to understand the differences between them, due to the mentioned similarity of the Gini-coefficients.

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Paper provided by Universidad Carlos III, Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales in its series Working Papers in Economic History with number wp08-06.

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Date of creation: Apr 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cte:whrepe:wp08-06
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  1. Edwards, Sebastian, 2007. "Crises and Growth: A Latin American Perspective," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(01), pages 19-51, January.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2004. "Institutions As The Fundamental Cause Of Long-Run Growth," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002889, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
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  5. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2003. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," NBER Working Papers 9765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
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  9. Avner Offer, 2000. "Economic Welfare Measurements and Human Well-Being," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _034, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  10. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 345-374, June.
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