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Latin American Household Budget Surveys 1913-1970 and What They Tell Us about Economic Inequality among Households


  • Gazeley, Ian

    () (University of Sussex)

  • Holmes, Rose

    () (University of Sussex)

  • Lanata Briones, Cecilia

    (Queen Mary, University of London)

  • Newell, Andrew T.

    () (University of Sussex)

  • Reynolds, Kevin

    () (University of Brighton)

  • Rufrancos, Hector Gutierrez

    () (University of Stirling)


The article reports an analysis of the findings of a search for household budget surveys for Latin America for the period from the earliest surveys to the late 1960s. Over one hundred studies were located. References to these surveys are available at In Appendix 1 we offer a synopsis of the history, context and contents of all the surveys, including those that did not contain useable data. We discuss the comparability of each country's surveys in turn, offering a table for each country with indicator of size, scope and other features. Our final work is to model the progress of inequality, as reflected in Gini coefficients, 90/10 and 50/10 percentile ratios in the region. We find that the bulk of the measured rise is inequality from the 1930s to the 1960s is due to changing survey methods and objectives, in particular the expansion of the scope of the surveys from a narrow focus on urban manual worker-headed households to a later broad focus on the population. Finally, we predict the pattern of inequality over time that might have been found had the earlier surveys been unrestricted in terms of target population and randomly sampled. We find a modest increase from the early years to the 1960s in Gini inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Gazeley, Ian & Holmes, Rose & Lanata Briones, Cecilia & Newell, Andrew T. & Reynolds, Kevin & Rufrancos, Hector Gutierrez, 2018. "Latin American Household Budget Surveys 1913-1970 and What They Tell Us about Economic Inequality among Households," IZA Discussion Papers 11430, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11430

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    1. repec:spr:cliomt:v:11:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11698-016-0150-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Bértola, Luis & Castelnovo, Cecilia & Rodríguez, Javier & Willebald, Henry, 2010. "Between the colonial heritage and the first globalization boom: on income inequality in the Southern Cone," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 307-341, September.
    3. Valpy FitzGerald, 2008. "Economic development and fluctuations in earnings inequality in the very long run: The evidence from Latin America 1900-2000," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 1028-1048.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    5. Prebisch, Raúl, 1950. "The economic development of Latin America and its principal problems," Sede de la CEPAL en Santiago (Estudios e Investigaciones) 29973, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    6. Pablo Astorga, 2015. "Functional Inequality in Latin America: News from the Twentieth Century," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _135, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Frankema, Ewout, 2010. "Reconstructing labor income shares in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, 1870-2000," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 343-374, September.
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    More about this item


    inequality; working households; Latin America; 20th century;

    JEL classification:

    • N36 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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