CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Human Development

Human Development

Despite recent improvements, Latin America continues to be noted for its high levels of poverty and inequality as well as its protracted dependence on primary exports. The balancing of economic development and social policies has been a constant theme in the region, yet it has been accomplished haltingly, and to varied degrees across countries. The vaunted promises of economic liberalization in the 1990s stoked the expectations of the masses, mobilized politically in the advent of concurrent democratization processes. But the reform process, incomplete as it was, failed to deliver on those promises. The result was a general repudiation of liberalizing reforms and a dangerous disenchantment with the institutions of representative democracy. Most countries then shifted towards a greater preoccupation with strong institutions and active state participation in social policy. This participation took different forms, ranging from conditional transfer programs targeted to the most vulnerable social sectors, to far-ranging proposals for twenty-first century socialism. Together with strong economic growth most of these programs brought significant reductions in poverty and broadened the ranks of an emergent middle class. Inequality also registered progress, though not universally. Questions remain, however, regarding the sustainability of these gains. Strong demand for commodities, mainly from China, has lessened incentives to seek diversification of productive structures. If the current uncertainty affecting global growth lowers this demand, the consequences to economic growth in the region could be adverse. While macroeconomic prudence is well established in most countries (with Venezuela and Argentina as possible exceptions) and debt burdens are generally low, currency flows are resulting in the appreciation of exchange rates which are hurting export competitiveness. Slow productivity growth in most countries also limits growth. Coupled with meager tax revenues, this restricts the capabilities of states to invest in the human and physical capital necessary to foster equitable and sustainable development in the long-term.

Key general research questions in this area include the following:

  • What, if any, will be the dominant paradigm guiding economic reform?
  • How can the region overcome the obstacles to governability posed by the new inclusiveness of its political systems?
  • How can states foster greater human security without democratic reversions?
  • How do the efforts of states compare in the fight against poverty and inequality? Are there standards of measurement?
  • How can states prioritize their use of resources to maximize human wellbeing?
  • How can state capacities be bolstered to deliver the requisites of strong and sustainable increases in human development?
  • What can states do to foster innovation, productivity, and overall competitiveness?
  • How can states move their productive structures away from natural resource dependence?

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Critical Issues in Democratic Governance: Spring 2019 CIPR Series

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Latin America faces major threats to democratic governance, but there are also new opportunities for grassroots mobilization and social policy expansion. In Critical Issues in Democratic Governance the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research will host speakers to discuss emerging issues that have surfaced in democratic governance in the region. In Brazil, the AIDS movement constructed a powerful new advocacy coalition, with coordination between bureaucrats and activities. In Argentina and Brazil, there are sharp contrasts in the social welfare policies that governors and mayors have implemented, with profound consequences for livelihood of the poor and marginalized. Finally, the outbreak of violence across Latin America, under democratic regimes raises questions about how criminal organizations compete for influence over transnational illicit networks and infiltrate the state.

Spring 2019 Schedule

February 8, 2019
State-Sponsored Activism: Bureaucrats and Social Movements in Democratic Brazil
Jessica Rich, Marquette University

February 22, 2019
4:00 – 6:00 PM
Greenleaf Conference Room in Jones 100A
Uneven Social Policies: The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America
Sara Niedzwiecki, University of California, Santa Cruz

April 5, 2019
Homicidal Ecologies: Illicit Economies and Complicit States in Latin America
Deborah Yashar, Princeton University

Please RSVP to cipr@tulane.edu.