Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century: The First Decade

Produced by: 
The World Bank
Available from: 
November 2015
Paper author(s): 
Germán Freire
Markus Kostner
Ede Ijjasz Vásquez
Topic: 
Demographic Economics - Migration
Year: 
2018

In 2013 the World Bank set itself two ambitious goals: to end extreme poverty within a generation and to boost the prosperity of the bottom 40 percent of the population worldwide. In Latin America, the significance of both goals cannot be overstated. Indigenous people account for about 8 percent of the population, but represent 14 percent of the poor and over 17 percent of all Latin Americans living on less than United States (U.S.) $2.50 a day. Though the World Bank has chosen two general indicators for measuring progress toward its twin goals - the proportion of people living on less than U.S. $1.25 a day (purchasing power parity, 2005) and the growth of real capital income among the bottom 40 percent of the population - this report acknowledges that these indicators offer only a partial view of the obstacles preventing many indigenous peoples from achieving their chosen paths of development. The report notes that in Bolivia, Quechua women are 28 percent less likely to complete secondary school than a nonindigenous Bolivian woman, while Quechua men are 14 percent less likely to complete secondary school than non-indigenous men. This report seeks to contribute to these discussions by offering a brief, preliminary glance at the state of indigenous peoples in Latin America at the end of the first decade of the millennium. The authors believe that this is the first, necessary step to start working on a concerted and evidence-based agenda for subsequent work in critical areas of development such as education, health, and land rights. The report makes a critical analysis of the many inconsistencies present in much of the data, which in many cases are intrinsic to the difficulties of approaching indigenous issues with tools and data sets not originally intended to account for or include indigenous peoples’ voices and special needs. The report is divided into six sections. The first part, how many and where they are provides a demographic overview of indigenous people in the region, including population, geographic distribution, number of ethnic groups, and indigenous languages. The second section, mobility, migration, and urbanization describes a growing tendency among indigenous people to migrate to Latin American cities, which are becoming critical, though largely ignored, areas for political participation, and market articulation. The third section, development with identity briefly discusses the concept of poverty and reflects on how the use of predominantly Western indicators of well-being might condition the understanding of indigenous peoples’ situations and needs. The fourth and fifth sections broaden this argument by focusing on two particular instances of exclusion - the market and education.

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