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Economic Mobility and the Rise of the Latin American Middle Class

by Francisco H. G. Ferreira Julian Messina Jamele Rigolini Luis-Felipe López-Calva Maria Ana Lugo Renos Vakis

After decades of stagnation, the size of Latin America's middle class recently expanded to the point where, for the first time ever, the number of people in poverty is equal to the size of the middle class. This volume investigates the nature, determinants and possible consequences of this remarkable process of social transformation. We propose an original definition of the middle class, tailor-made for Latin America, centered on the concept of economic security and thus a low probability of falling into poverty. Given our definition of the middle class, there are four, not three, classes in Latin America. Sandwiched between the poor and the middle class there lies a large group of people who appear to make ends meet well enough, but do not enjoy the economic security that would be required for membership of the middle class. We call this group the 'vulnerable'. In an almost mechanical sense, these transformations in Latin America reflect both economic growth and declining inequality in over the period. We adopt a measure of mobility that decomposes the 'gainers' and 'losers' in society by social class of each household. The continent has experienced a large amount of churning over the last 15 years, at least 43% of all Latin Americans changed social classes between the mid 1990s and the end of the 2000s. Despite the upward mobility trend, intergenerational mobility, a better proxy for inequality of opportunity, remains stagnant. Educational achievement and attainment remain to be strongly dependent upon parental education levels. Despite the recent growth in pro-poor programs, the middle class has benefited disproportionally from social security transfers and are increasingly opting out from government services. Central to the region's prospects of continued progress will be its ability to harness the new middle class into a new, more inclusive social contract, where the better-off pay their fair share of taxes, and demand improved public services.

From Political to Economic Awakening in the Arab World

by Francisco H. G. Ferreira Julian Messina Jamele Rigolini Luis-Felipe López-Calva Maria Ana Lugo Renos Vakis

The popular grievances that have fueled the Arab Spring since 2010 demonstrate that past development paradigms have failed to achieve the inclusive and sustainable growth expected by Arab populations. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have failed to develop a strong private sector that is linked with global markets, survives without state assistance, and generates productive employment for young people. One key symptom of this maldevelopment is that, with the exception of the petroleum sector, MENA remains the least trade-integrated region in the world. The Deauville Partnership, launched by the Group of Eight (G8) in Deauville, France, in May 2011, is thus strategic and timely. At the request of the G8, this report provides an analytical framework for increasing trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) for Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia (the Partnership countries). Increased trade and FDI is a key means by which Partnership countries can achieve a path of sustainable growth that reduces youth unemployment. Moreover, trade and investment can also show short-term results. The G8 countries, Turkey, the Gulf states, and other Deauville partners can help the new Arab democracies achieve their objectives in two main ways: by effectively expanding market opportunities and by supporting domestic regulatory reforms. To start implementing a long-term vision of increased trade and investment integration, based on an integrated economic space in the Mediterranean basin, the Deauville Partnership could focus on five priority areas. These are helping Partnership countries adapt to a fast-changing trade, FDI, and jobs landscape; improving market access opportunities and market regulations; fostering competitiveness, diversification, and employment; facilitating trade and mobilizing trade finance and diaspora resources; and promoting inclusiveness, equity, and sustainability of the structural transformation brought about by the process of integration. The success of the Arab political awakening will greatly depend on the emergence of such an economic awakening that can generate quality employment for the millions of young Arab men and women who seek jobs and a decent life.

Latin American Entrepreneurs

by Daniel Lederman Julian Messina Jamele Rigolini Samuel Pienknagura

Entrepreneurship -- manifested in the entry of new firms or products into new markets, or substantial improvements in technological capacity or process innovation by incumbent firms -- is widely considered to be an important ingredient for long term economic development. This report argues that entrepreneurship is also a source of employment generation, export growth, and resilience during economic downturns. Although the conventional wisdom suggests that Latin American and Caribbean countries underperform relative to China and other emerging markets in terms of its entrepreneurial dynamism, this report provides evidence suggesting that the region is characterized by substantial entrepreneurship. The main challenge in the region is not a lack of entrepreneurs, but rather their relatively low level of innovation and the slow growth of incumbent firms. The report discusses the nature of new entrants into markets and the factors that might help stimulate private-sector innovation after firms have survived the initial test of market competition.

Left Behind: Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean

by Jamele Rigolini Renos Vakis Leonardo Lucchetti

One out of every five Latin Americans or around 130 million people have never known anything but poverty, subsisting on less than US$4-a-day throughout their lives. These are the region´s chronically poor, who have remained so despite unprecedented inroads against poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean since the turn of the century. Left Behind: Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean takes a closer look at the region's entrenched poor, who and where they are, and how existing policies need to change in order to effectively assist them. The book shows significant variations of rates of chronic poverty both across and within countries. Within a single country, some regions show incidence rates up to eight times higher than the lowest. Despite the higher rates of chronic poverty in rural areas, chronic poverty is as much an urban as a rural issue. In fact, considering absolute numbers, urban areas in many countries, including Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, have more chronic poor than rural areas. Undoubtedly the region has come a long way during the decade in terms of poverty reduction, guided by a mix of sustained growth and increased levels in amounts and quality of public spending and programs targeted directly or indirectly to the chronic poor. While improving endowments and the context where the chronic poor live is a necessary condition going forward, the decade's experience suggests that it may not be enough to reach the chronic poor. The book posits that refinements to the existing policy toolkit " as opposed to more programs " may come a long way in helping the remaining poor. These refinements include intensifying efforts to improve coordination between different social and economic programs, which can boost the income generation process and deal with the intergenerational transmission of chronic poverty by investing in early childhood development. Equally important though, there is an urgent need to adapt programs to directly address the psychological toll of chronic poverty on people's mindset and aspirations, which currently undermines the effectiveness of the existing policy efforts.

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