Declining Inequality in Latin America: A Decade of Progress?

Reviewed by Richard Feinberg

In This Review

Declining Inequality in Latin America: A Decade of Progress?
By
Brookings Institution Press, 2010
253 pp. $34.95
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Latin America is infamous for its yawning gaps between the very rich and the very poor. It is big news, therefore, that this deeply entrenched disgrace is showing signs of reversal. Over the last decade, according to the number-crunching economists assembled in this book, inequality measurably declined in 12 of 17 countries. The volume attributes this to two factors: the massive expansion of elementary schooling during the past decades, which narrowed the earnings gap between high-skilled and low-skilled workers, and carefully targeted government programs that transferred cash to the poor. (Democratization has helped, too.) The persistence of this redistributive momentum will depend, the editors contend, on progressive tax reforms. This is an important, evidence-rich study that directly challenges the notion that globalization inevitably widens income gaps in developing nations.