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FORTY YEARS OF LATIN AMERICA'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: From the Alliance for Progress to the Washington Consensus


  • Sebastian Edwards


In this paper I analyze the evolution of economic and social conditions in Latin America from the 1950s through the 1980s, when deep external crises erupted in country after country. The point of departure of our story is the political awakening of the region in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the emergence of guerilla movements in many countries, including in Cuba. I then analyze the Alliance for Progress, a major and ambitious aid program sponsored by the United States whose main objective was to improve social conditions in the region. I show that in spite of the Alliance, social circumstances did not improve significantly; I also show that throughout this period protectionism and government intervention became more ingrained, discouraging productivity improvements. I then deal with inflation, fiscal largesse, and the Mexican debt crisis of 1982, a crisis that led to the so-called "lost decade." The paper ends with a discussion of the launching of the reforms of the Washington Consensus in 1989-1990. I provide a detailed analysis of the most important elements of this consensus, and I touch on some of the implementation challenges.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Edwards, 2009. "FORTY YEARS OF LATIN AMERICA'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: From the Alliance for Progress to the Washington Consensus," NBER Working Papers 15190, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15190
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    1. repec:idb:idbbks:412 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2007. "When Did Latin America Fall Behind?," NBER Chapters,in: The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises, pages 15-58 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro & Rosés, Joan R. & Sanz Villarroya, Isabel, 2010. "Stabilization and growth under dictatorship: the experience of Franco's Spain," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp10-02, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    2. Gordon Hanson & Chen Liu & Craig McIntosh, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of U.S. Low-Skilled Immigration," NBER Working Papers 23753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:bin:bpeajo:v:48:y:2017:i:2017-01:p:83-168 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro & Rosés, Joan R. & Sanz-Villarroya, Isabel, 2012. "Economic reforms and growth in Franco's Spain," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 45-89, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F30 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - General
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • N26 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean

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