Inequality and Social Policy in Latin America

Produced by: 
Tulane University
Available from: 
November 2020
Paper author(s): 
Nora Lustig
Topic: 
Poverty - Inequality - Aid Effectiveness
Year: 
2021

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.

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Research section: 
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