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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CIPR talk series Critical Issues in Democratic Governance to host political economist Dr. Katrina Burgess

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Join the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies in welcoming Dr. Katrina Burgess as part of the fall speaker series Critical Issues in Democratic Governance, on Friday, November 16, in 110A Jones Hall. Dr. Burgess will give a talk titled Courting Migrants: How States Make Diasporas and Diasporas Make States.

The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to cipr@tulane.edu.

Katrina Burgess (Ph.D., Princeton University) is Associate Professor of Political Economy of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She is author of Parties and Unions in the New Global Economy, which won the 2006 Outstanding Book Award for the best publication on labor issues granted by the Section on Labor Studies and Class Relations of the Latin American Studies Association, and co-editor with Abraham F. Lowenthal of The California-Mexico Connection. She has also published numerous book chapters, as well as articles in World Politics, Latin American Politics & Society, Studies in Comparative International Development, South European Politics and Society, Comparative Political Studies, Politica y gobierno, and International Studies Review. Dr. Burgess has also served as Assistant Director of the U.S.-Mexico Project at the Overseas Development Council in Washington, D.C. and Associate Director of the California-Mexico Project at USC in Los Angeles.

Patterns of migrant engagement in politics back home cannot be understood without examining the ways in which homeland states reach out to their migrants. Since states engaged in what can be called diaspora-making are unable to deploy many of the tools of rule within their borders, they are especially reliant on the cultivation of loyalty. The agents, motives, and loyalty-cultivation strategies of diaspora-making have important implications for whether homeland parties mobilize voters abroad, as demonstrated by the contrasts between Mexico and the Dominican Republic.