Monday, March 29, 2010

The Second Most Unequal Country in the Americas?

I've seen this article from Mercopress a few places today, where it says that Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. The article is quoting from a UN-Habitat report, but unfortunately the report seems to have been released down at the World Urban Forum and isn't available online. The report looks at the what percent of all income goes to the top 10%. The article says that Brazil is the worst, with 50.6% going to the top 10%, followed by Mexico and Argentina, although in a later paragraph it appears that the numbers for Colombia and Chile are both higher than in Mexico. First off, I don't even think the report is looking at overall levels of inequality, the paper was presented at the World Urban Forum, and based on this IPS article from a few days ago, what the paper looks at is inequality in urban areas. But hey, for the purpose of this post lets assume these numbers are right. Based on a paper last year by a Emmanuel Saez from Cal Berkely, this would actually make the US the second most unequal country in the study. Using numbers from 2007, Saez finds that the top 10% in the US get 49.7% of the income. Pretty god damned amazing. Now not all measures of inequality are created equal, so this is a dangerous game, but I really wanted an excuse to post this graph, so there you have it.

Clearly, inequality in LatAm is still really bad and no doubt one of the main issues that needs to be confronted, but following the development path of the US and the economic policies that have been pushed on the region for far too long is not gonna get them there.

Also, I'd like to point anybody looking for good numbers on inequality in Latin America to the Socio-Economic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean (SEDLAC), and they just updated their database too!

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