Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy: The Latin American Experience

Issue Date October 2008
Volume 19
Issue 4
Page Numbers 69-79
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"The Latin American Experience” argues that democratic stability requires policies that limit the society’s degree of substantive economic and social inequality. A case in point is Latin America, long recognized as having one of the world’s most unequal distributions of income and wealth. Observing growth patterns over the long run reveal that while the region has been capable of sustaining impressive growth for periods of a generation or more, they are almost always interrupted by political crisis and instability driven ultimately by a “fight for shares” on the part of excluded social groups. The solution to this problem lies not just in continuing economic growth, but in sustainable social policies targeted at the poor. While populist leaders have been putting poorly designed policies in place, Latin America has also seen the emergence of well-designed anti-poverty programs like conditional cash transfers that have for the first time demonstrably lessened the degree of economic inequality.