The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Latin American Economic Development

  • Mauricio Cárdenas
  • Steven M. Helfand
Reference work entry


This article examines the strategies, successes and failures of economic development in Latin America since 1870. We divide the analysis into four key development phases: primary export-led growth (1870–1929), import substitution industrialisation (1945–1982), debt crisis (1980s) and the Washington Consensus (1990s). We demonstrate progress on many fronts, but underscore two key challenges for the region. One of them relates to weak institutions and state capacity; the other is the persistence of high levels of poverty and inequality. We conclude with a discussion of these challenges and of specific actions that are necessary to accelerate development in the region.


Latin America Economic development Primary export-led growth Import substitution industrialization (ISI) Debt crisis Washington consensus Institutions State capacity Poverty Inequality 

JEL Classification

N16 O1 O2 O54 
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mauricio Cárdenas
    • 1
  • Steven M. Helfand
  1. 1.