In This Review

Left Behind: Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean
Left Behind: Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean
By Renos Vakis, Jamele Rigolini, and Leonardo Lucchetti
World Bank Group, 2017, 44 pp

In this timely and well-researched report, World Bank economists survey recent findings on the state of chronic poverty in Latin America, which afflicts 130 million people—one in five of the region’s inhabitants. They also assess a growing array of policy interventions that are proving effective in combating this scourge, although progress remains very uneven across and within countries. Some of their recommendations echo the conventional wisdom that guides U.S. antipoverty programs: for example, that well-informed social workers can play a vital role in encouraging the poor to access public assistance, and that policymakers must recognize the importance of helping poor people overcome psychological obstacles such as hopelessness and depression. The authors emphasize the importance of quantifiable results and call on governments to seek out cost-effective “tweaks,” coordinate poverty-reduction efforts across public agencies, and design programs that will be consistent with budgetary resources and bureaucratic capabilities. Public policies, they argue, should also align with a country’s social contract and shared political vision: an easy goal to affirm in theory, but one that is too often elusive in practice.