The paper reviews the steady and widespread decline in income inequality which has taken place in most of Latin America over 2002-10 and which––if continued for another 2-3 years––would reduce the average regional income inequality to pre-liberalization levels. The paper then focuses on the factors, which may explain such inequality decline. A review of the literature and an econometric test indicate that a few complementary factors played an important role in this regard, including a drop in the skill premium following a rapid expansion of secondary education, and the adoption of a new development model by a growing number of left-of-centre governments which emphasizes fiscally-prudent but more equitable macroeconomic, tax, social expenditure and labour policies. For the region as a whole, improvements in terms of trade, migrant remittances, FDI and world growth played a less important role than expected although their impact was perceptible in countries where such transactions were sizeable.
Cornia, G.A. Inequality Trends and their Determinants: Latin America over 1990-2011. UNU-WIDER, Helsinki, Finland (2012) 48 pp. ISBN 978-92-9230-472-0 [Working Paper No. 2012/09]