UCL Institute of the Americas


AMERG048: Political Economy of Inequality in Latin America

Not running in 2017/8

Module convenor: Dr Néstor Castañeda


This module evaluates how and why inequality appears so deeply embedded in Latin America. It focuses on the historical roots of inequality in the region and the political and economic mechanisms that make it persistent and difficult to reduce. This module also analyzes the recent implementation of redistributive policies in the region and identifies which political and institutional factors make them more or less successful.

This module seeks to analyze the historical, economic, and political factors that explain why inequality persists in Latin America. It also seeks to assess the most recent government efforts to reduce inequality through social spending and taxation programs.

In particular, this module examines the following questions: What are the causes of the persistent inequality in Latin America? How has inequality been reinforced over time? Is there any relationship between inequality and democracy? How quickly are Latin American countries moving toward shared prosperity? Why has the decline of inequality slowed over time? How effective are the most recent redistributive programs? Are they sustainable over time?

This module is assessed by a 4,000-word essay.

Introductory reading

  • Bertola, L., Ocampo, J.A., 2012. The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence. Oxford University Press.
  • Blofield, M., 2011. The Great Gap: Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution in Latin America. Penn State Press.
  • Cornia, G.A. (Ed.), 2014. Falling Inequality in Latin America: Policy Changes and Lessons. OUP.
  • de Ferranti, David, Guillermo Perry, Michael Walton, Francisco H.G. Ferreira. 2004. Inequality in Latin America \& the Caribbean: Breaking with History? World Bank.
  • Engerman, Stanley, and Kenneth Sokoloff. 2012. Economic Development in the Americas Since 1500: Endowments and Institutions. Cambridge University Press.
  • Franko, Patrice. 2007. The Puzzle of Latin American Economic Development. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Huber, Evelyne, and John Stephens. 2012. Democracy and the Left: Social Policy and Inequality in Latin America. Chicago University Press.
  • Mahoney, James. 2010. Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press
  • Sen, Amartya. 1992. Inequality Reexamined. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Thorp, Rosemary 1998. Progress, Poverty and Exclusion: An Economic History of Latin America in the 20th Century. Inter-American Development Bank.