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Where Does Inequality Come From?: Ideas and Implications for Latin America


  • James A. Robinson


Differences in inequality between Latin American countries are not so much caused by globalisation as by a variety of political and economic structures and government policies. Hostile elites have made democracy fragile and are delaying the mass education and tax-driven income redistribution that democratisation and socialism produced in Europe over the past century. Trends in inequality in Latin America are governed by coups and democratic phases. Recent rising inequality in Argentina, Chile and Peru is mostly due to structural changes in the balance of political power triggered by policies of the military and the debt crisis. The demobilisation of labour and the left has led to new political coalitions that have seriously reduced the chances of democracy playing the key role it did in changing Europe. In theory, globalisation can increase inequality through its impact on prices or wages or by curbing the government’s ability to implement policies. In fact there is little evidence ... Les différences entre pays d’Amérique latine en ce qui concerne les inégalités ne sont pas tant le fait de la globalisation que de la diversité des structures politiques et économiques ainsi que des politiques publiques. L’hostilité des élites à l’égard de la démocratie ont fragilisé celle-ci et ont retardé la généralisation de l’éducation et la redistribution des revenus via l’impôt, processus que l’Europe a connus au siècle dernier grâce à la démocratisation et au socialisme. L’évolution des inégalités en Amérique latine reflète l’alternance de coups d’État et de phases démocratiques. La récente tendance au creusement des inégalités en Argentine, au Chili et au Pérou est due essentiellement aux changements structurels de l’équilibre politique déclenchés par les mesures prises par le gouvernement militaire et par la crise de la dette. La démobilisation des travailleurs et de la gauche a ouvert la voie à de nouvelles coalitions politiques qui ont sérieusement réduit les chances ...

Suggested Citation

  • James A. Robinson, 2001. "Where Does Inequality Come From?: Ideas and Implications for Latin America," OECD Development Centre Working Papers 188, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:devaaa:188-en

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