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Latin American earnings inequality in the long run

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11698-016-0150-9

Cite this article as:
Arroyo Abad, L. & Astorga Junquera, P. Cliometrica (2016). doi:10.1007/s11698-016-0150-9


This paper traces between-group earnings inequality for six Latin American countries over two centuries based on wage and income series compiled from a large array of primary and secondary sources. We find that inequality varied substantially by country and by period, questioning the notion that colonial legacies largely dominated the evolution of inequality. There is a broader inequality trajectory over the long run in the form of an “m” pattern with peaks around 1880 and the 1990s and a trough around 1920/1930s. Export-led growth does not necessarily imply a rise in inequality, while the import-substitution industrialisation efforts did not translate into a more egalitarian distribution of income. More notably, Latin America’s experience does not exhibit the great inequality levelling as seen in the North Atlantic economies from the 1930s to the 1970s.


Economic history Economic development Income inequality Latin America 

JEL Classification

N36 O15 O54 J31 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA
  2. 2.Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals, IBEIBarcelonaSpain

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