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The electric revolution in Latin America

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Abstract

Latin America participated in the electric revolution which profoundly transformed the most developed Western economies between 1880 and 1930. The electrification of Latin America began relatively soon after these economies, but it was incapable of keeping up with them. Public electric lighting was introduced early in the big Latin American cities, where electric trams started running at almost the same time as in Europe, and electricity spread rapidly in the mining sector. In the most advanced countries or areas in the region, the manufacturing industry substituted the steam engine with the electric motor, following the example of industry in the United States and Europe. Nevertheless, towards 1930 electricity consumption per inhabitant for Latin America was far below that of the more advanced economies, and only the Latin American countries which lead the process of electrification had reached levels of electric consumption that were similar to those of the late industrialised European countries. One of the most striking features of the electric revolution in Latin America is rooted precisely in the enormous national differences. These differences are indicative of the great economic inequalities existing in the heart of the region and these nations’ highly diverse capacity for economic modernisation.

Suggested Citation

  • Xavier Tafunell, 2010. "The electric revolution in Latin America," Economics Working Papers 1236, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1236
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    Keywords

    Latin American Growth; Comparative Development; Technological Progress; Energy Transition; Electricity.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N76 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N16 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities

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