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The Latin American Development Problem

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  • Diego Restuccia

Abstract

By international standards, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Latin America is low -- around one fifth of that of the United States. Moreover, in the last five decades, Latin America has failed to catch-up in wealth to the level of the United States while other countries at similar or even lower stages of development have been successful. The failure to attain higher levels of relative income represents what I call the development problem of Latin America. Using a variety of data, I find that the bulk of the difference in GDP per capita between Latin America and the United States is explained by low GDP per worker and, in particular, low total factor productivity (TFP) in Latin America. I calculate that to explain the difference in GDP per worker, TFP in Latin America must be around 60 percent of the level in the United States. I consider a model with heterogeneous production units where institutions and policy distortions lead to a 60 percent productivity ratio between Latin America and the United States. Removing the barriers to productivity can increase long-run relative GDP per worker in Latin America by a factor of 4. This increase is equivalent to 70-years worth of U.S. post WW-II development.

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  • Diego Restuccia, 2008. "The Latin American Development Problem," Working Papers tecipa-318, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-318
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    Cited by:

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    3. Veloso, Fernando A. & Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti & Pessôa, Samuel de Abreu, 2006. "The evolution of TFP in Latin America," FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 620, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil).
    4. Matias Busso & Maria Victoria Fazio & Santiago Levy Algazi, 2012. "(In)Formal and (Un)Productive: The Productivity Costs of Excessive Informality in Mexico," Research Department Publications 4789, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    5. Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti & Pessôa, Samuel de Abreu & Veloso, Fernando A., 2010. "The evolution of TFP in Latin America: high productivity when distortions were high?," FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 699, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil).
    6. Sánchez-Vela, Claudia & Valero-Gil, Jorge N., 2013. "The Effect of Firm-Size Dependent Policies on the Economy: The Case of the Repecos Law in Mexico," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4549, Inter-American Development Bank.
    7. Gaaitzen J. Vries, 2014. "Productivity in a Distorted Market: The Case of Brazil's Retail Sector," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(3), pages 499-524, September.
    8. Perez Caldentey, Esteban & Pineda, Ramon, 2010. "Does Latin America lag behind due to shaper recessions and/or slower recoveries?," MPRA Paper 25036, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Pedro Bento & Diego Restuccia, 2017. "Misallocation, Establishment Size, and Productivity," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 267-303, July.
    10. Cubas, German, 2016. "Distortions, infrastructure, and female labor supply in developing countries," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 194-215.
    11. Dhritman Bhattacharya & Nezih Guner & Gustavo Ventura, 2013. "Distortions, Endogenous Managerial Skills and Productivity Differences," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(1), pages 11-25, January.
    12. Daniel Chiquiar & Manuel Ramos-Francia, 2009. "Competitiveness and Growth of the Mexican Economy," Working Papers 2009-11, Banco de México.
    13. Eduardo Fernández-Arias & Sergio Rodríguez-Apolinar, 2016. "The Productivity Gap in Latin America: Lessons from 50 Years of Development," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 94097, Inter-American Development Bank.
    14. Carlos Gustavo Machicado & Paúl Estrada, 2012. "Fiscal policy and economic growth: a simulation analysis for Bolivia," Analítika, Analítika - Revista de Análisis Estadístico/Journal of Statistical Analysis, vol. 4(2), pages 57-79, Diciembre.
    15. Diego Restuccia & Richard Rogerson, 2013. "Misallocation and productivity," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(1), pages 1-10, January.
    16. Julio Cesar Leal Ordonez, 2014. "Tax collection, the informal sector, and productivity," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(2), pages 262-286, April.
    17. Rangel González, Erick & Torre Cepeda, Leonardo E., 2015. "Determinants of the cost of starting a business in Mexico," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 430-449.
    18. López, José Joaquín, 2017. "Financial frictions and productivity: Evidence from Mexico," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 294-301.
    19. Leal Ordóñez, Julio C., 2010. "Informal sector, productivity, and tax collection," MPRA Paper 26058, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Oct 2010.
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    21. López, José Joaquín, 2017. "A quantitative theory of tax evasion," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 107-126.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    labor productivity; capital; schooling; plant heterogeneity; policy distortions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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