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Inequality and Social Policy in Latin America

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  • Nora Lustig

    (Tulane University and Commitment to Equity Institute)

Abstract

This paper analyzes the evolution and determinants of inequality between 1990 and 2017 in Latin America. Throughout the period, inequality in the region has demonstrated three trends: it increased during the 1990s; decreased between 2002 and 2013; and, since 2014, it has remained constant or even increased depending on the country. The reduction of inequality in the second period corresponded to two main changes in social policy: (I) the expansion in access to education in the previous period, which led to a decrease in the salary gap; and (II) the expansion and progresivity of monetary transfers. However, despite improvements in income distribution, in recent years, there has been a wave of protests in various countries. This paper proposes possible explanations of this apparently paradoxical phenomenon. Finally, this paper analyzes the impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty using comparative data from fiscal incidence analysis. Although in all countries the combination of taxes, social spending, and consumption subsidies reduces inequality, it does not always reduce poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Nora Lustig, 2020. "Inequality and Social Policy in Latin America," Working Papers 2011, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:2011
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raymundo Campos & Gerardo Esquivel & Nora Lustig, 2012. "The Rise and Fall of Income Inequality in Mexico, 1989–2010," Working Papers 267, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    2. Marisa Bucheli & Nora Lustig & Máximo Rossi & Florencia Amábile, 2014. "Social Spending, Taxes, and Income Redistribution in Uruguay," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(3), pages 413-433, May.
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    4. Gasparini, Leonardo & Galiani, Sebastian & Cruces, Guillermo & Acosta, Pablo A., 2011. "Educational Upgrading and Returns to Skills in Latin America: Evidence from a Supply-Demand Framework, 1990-2010," IZA Discussion Papers 6244, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Ali Enami , Nora Lustig and Rodrigo Aranda, 2017. "Analytic Foundations: Measuring the Redistributive Impact of Taxes and Transfers - Working Paper 446," Working Papers 446, Center for Global Development.
    6. Azevedo, Joao Pedro & Inchauste, Gabriela & Sanfelice, Viviane, 2013. "Decomposing the recent inequality decline in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6715, The World Bank.
    7. Leonardo Gasparini & Nora Lustig, 2011. "The Rise and Fall of Income Inequality in Latin America," Working Papers 1110, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    8. Augusto de la Torre & Samuel Pienknagura & Eduardo Levy Yeyati, "undated". "Latin America and the Caribbean as Tailwinds Recede : In Search of Higher Growth, LAC Semiannual Report, April 2013," World Bank Publications - Reports 13266, The World Bank Group.
    9. Nora Lustig & Carola Pessino, 2013. "Social spending and income redistribution in Argentina during the 2000s: The rising noncontributory pensions," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 05, Tulane University, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2013.
    10. Freddy Paúl Llerena Pinto & M. Cristhina Llerena Pinto & M. Andrea Llerena Pinto, 2015. "Social Spending, Taxes and Income Redistribution in Ecuador," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 28, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    11. Darío Rossignolo, 2016. "Taxes, Expenditures, Poverty and Income Distribution in Argentina," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 45, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    12. Ali Enami & Nora Lustig & Rodrigo Aranda, 2016. "Analytic Foundations: Measuring the Redistributive Impact of Taxes and Transfers," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 25, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    13. Herwig Immervoll & Horacio Levy & José Ricardo Nogueira & Cathal O´Donoghue & Rozane Bezerra de Siqueira, 2005. "The Impact of Brazil´s Tax-Benefit System on Inequality and Poverty," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 117, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
    14. Peter Lindert, 2004. "Social Spending and Economic Growth," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(4), pages 6-16.
    15. Francois Bourguignon & Francisco H.G. Ferreira & Nora Lustig, 2005. "The Microeconomics of Income Distribution Dynamics in East Asia and Latin America," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 14844, November.
    16. Cabrera, Maynor & Lustig, Nora & Morán, Hilcías E., 2015. "Fiscal Policy, Inequality, and the Ethnic Divide in Guatemala," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 263-279.
    17. Lustig, Nora & Lopez-Calva, Luis F. & Ortiz-Juarez, Eduardo, 2013. "Declining Inequality in Latin America in the 2000s: The Cases of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 129-141.
    18. Gabriela Inchauste & Nora Lustig, 2017. "The Distributional Impact of Taxes and Transfers," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 27980, November.
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    20. Ignacio Flores & Claudia Sanhueza & Jorge Atria & Ricardo Mayer, 2020. "Top Incomes in Chile: A Historical Perspective on Income Inequality, 1964–2017," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 66(4), pages 850-874, December.
    21. Maynor Cabrera, Nora Lustig, and Hilcías E. Morán, 2015. "Fiscal Policy, Inequality, and the Ethnic Divide in Guatemala - Working Paper 397," Working Papers 397, Center for Global Development.
    22. Ali Enami & Nora Lustig & Rodrigo Aranda, 2016. "Analytic Foundations: Measuring the Redistributive Impact of Taxes and Transfers," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1325, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    23. Diego Battistón & Carolina García-Domench & Leonardo Gasparini, 2014. "Could an Increase in Education Raise Income Inequality? Evidence for Latin America," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 51(1), pages 1-39, May.
    24. Raymundo Campos & Gerardo Esquivel & Nora Lustig, 2012. "The Rise and Fall of Income Inequality in Mexico, 1989–2010," Working Papers 267, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    25. Nora Lustig & Carola Pessino, 2013. "Social spending and income redistribution in Argentina during the 2000s: The rising noncontributory pensions," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1305, Tulane University, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2013.
    26. Gilberto Moncada & Haeduck Lee, 2005. "MECOVI : Improving the Survey and Measurement of Living Conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean," World Bank Publications - Reports 10339, The World Bank Group.
    27. Freddy Paúl Llerena Pinto & M. Cristhina Llerena Pinto & M. Andrea Llerena Pinto, 2015. "Social Spending, Taxes and Income Redistribution in Ecuador," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1328, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    28. Karla Breceda & Jamele Rigolini & Jaime Saavedra, 2009. "Latin America and the Social Contract: Patterns of Social Spending and Taxation," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(4), pages 721-748, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Campos, Luciano & Casas, Agustín, 2021. "Rara Avis: Latin American populism in the 21st century," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fiscal incidence; Inequality; Poverty; Taxes; Social spending; Latin America.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

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