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The Decline of Latin American EconomiesGrowth, Institutions, and Crises$
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Sebastian Edwards, Gerardo Esquivel, and Graciela Marquez

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226185002

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226185033.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
The Decline of Latin American Economies

Sebastian Edwards

Gerardo Esquivel

Graciela Márquez

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines why Latin America's history has been characterized by mediocre growth, rampant protectionism, very high inflation, low productivity growth, and successive crises. Two themes run through it: (a) institutions have played an important role in shaping the Latin American economies; and (b) political considerations—including, in particular, distributional struggles—have been crucial in determining economic outcomes in the region. Inequality and backwardness have been two central features of Latin American economies during the last two centuries. The region's skewed income distribution was already apparent to European travelers journeying in the Spanish colonies at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The colonial institutions and economic performance in the half-century after independence remain crucial for understanding how Latin America fell behind.

Keywords:   Latin America, protectionism, inflation, inequality, income distribution, colonies, productivity, backwardness, economic performance

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