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icono de curso

Economic and Social Development in Latin America


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Elective Courses




This course discusses Latin America’s economic and social performance, focusing on two salient features: faltering economic development and persistent inequalities. In particular, it explores the following central propositions: (a) the secular foundations to the standard of living in Latin America are to be found in labour productivity and real wage levels; (b) the lack of convergence with North America and Europe over the long run can be attributed to low levels of capital accumulation both physical and human (with pervasive labour informality); (c) these accumulation and growth problems are related to the relationship with the global economy - and recurrent external crisis - and the chronic fiscal weakness of the state; and (d) recent long-term evidence suggests that income inequality has been relatively high over time but far from constant and with significant country diversity. The course combines a historical perspective with recent developments and policy issues.The first part introduces secular trends in living standards, productivity and real wages; documents the key structural transformations (urbanisation, industrialisation and demographic transition), and assess the economic development strategies of state-led industrialisation and export-led growth. The second part deals with income and horizontal inequalities and examines recent trends in inequality and policy efforts intended to close social and economic gaps.


The course consists of twelve sessions of two hours each. The first ten meetings consist of lectures with an exposition by the instructor of the main historical developments, long-term trends and policy issues. This will be complemented by discussion of selected readings with the active participation of the students. In some lectures this participation involves presenting a summary of a reading or researching and informing the class about ongoing trends on a given topic. The final two sessions are devoted to the discussion of case studies (team work) summarising and assessing recent developments in inequality and social interventions in a given Latin American country (or countries). More details will be offered at the start of the course. Classes will take place on Mondays between 14h and 16h.

The final grade will be a weighted average of the assessment of a presentation of a case study (40% of the total grade), a final written individual work (40%) of a maximum length of 2,500 words (excluding references), and class participation (20%).