November 9, 2016

Dimensions of Poverty and Inequality in Latin America

Dimensions of Poverty and Inequality in Latin America

In the last two decades, the world has achieved a vast improvement in social living conditions for the global poorest population. The 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report unveils an outstanding world performance: people living under extreme poverty declined from 47 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2015, falling from 1.9 billion to 836 million.


However, extreme poverty remains an unavoidable humanitarian emergency. Today, about one in five persons in developing regions lives in poverty. These pressing conditions are deepened by ongoing social and environmental crises as well as the rise of barriers to access basic human rights. According to the UN, the highest poverty rates are found in small, fragile and conflict-affected areas around the world.


In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, its 17 goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, emerged as a renewed universal agreement on the path towards social development, aiming to continue and reinforce the MDGs commitments.


The Agenda centers the international efforts in ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. To do so, it proposes a multidimensional poverty approach by measuring deprivation of health, education and nutrition together with the income estimation of poverty.


Furthermore, the Agenda leads to a new trend on social development when setting the goal of reducing inequality within and among countries. This approach was mainly driven by the global economic performance after the 2008 financial crisis, moving the analytical focus of social development from economic growth to inequality.


Likewise, the forces behind the post-crisis economic dynamic, namely, lower rates of economic growth and soaring inequality among both, high-income and developing countries, brought forward a new geography of poverty and inequality in the world.


As the latest report on Poverty and Shared Prosperity by the World Bank (WB) mentions, in 1990 half of the poorest people of the world lived in East-Asia and the Pacific. Yet, in 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa alone account for 50.7 percent of people living under the poverty line.


In regard to inequality, global trends also modified from those in the 90´s. While global inequality has steadily decreased for the last two decades, within-country inequality became a driving force for social unrest and falling of living conditions. In addition, developing countries tend to exhibit higher levels of inequality than developed ones. Latin America, for instance, is the most unequal region in the world in spite of the multiple efforts carried out by the governments and the slightly decline in inequality experienced in the last decade.


All in all, according to the WB Report, even immersed in a less favored economic and social setup, the global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 is still attainable. The compulsory step is directing all efforts to reducing inequality, along with social policies addressing the multifactorial roots of poverty in each country.


This special issue relates to the double challenge of fighting poverty and inequality in Latin America. The articles analyze specific dimensions of poverty, as health and social security. In addition, it discusses the development challenges in Latin America with regard to the UN 2030 Agenda and the incorporation of the SDGs to the region. As usual, we also try to put some ideas on the table. An article, therefore, sums up some policy strategies targeting inequality, as a key element to reduce poverty.

US Climate Policy under President Trump: Why the Sky is Dark, but not Falling
Development Challenges in Latin America and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
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About Silvia Elena Meza

Silvia Elena Meza

Silvia Elena Meza is former Director of Evaluation and Monitoring at the Mexican Ministry of Social Development. She holds a Master’s degree in Economics from El Colegio de Mexico and is a specialist in Social Policy design. She has extensive experience in evaluation of social policies related to poverty, women, vulnerable groups and NGOs.

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