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Inequality of Opportunity and Intergenerational Persistence in Latin America

  • The extent to which Latin American inequality is transmitted across generations is even greater than previously thought. On average, over half of all inequality in the region today can be attributed to inherited characteristics, such as sex, race, place of birth and family background.


  • For the countries considered, inequality of opportunity was smallest in Argentina and Colombia, with an inherited share of less than 50%, and the largest in Brazil and Guatemala, with shares of around 60%.


  • Among the inherited individual characteristics that we observe, family background - particularly mother’s and father’s education – were the strongest determinants of next-generation incomes. Place of birth was also important, accounting for around a fifth of the overall effect.


  • For countries with enough surveys over time, such as Peru, we find a pattern of declining inequality of opportunity during the 2002-2012 decade, which is also marked by falling overall inequality.


  • Even controlling for place of birth and family background, race and ethnicity play a big role in countries with large indigenous populations, such as Bolivia and Peru, or a significant history of slavery, such as Brazil.

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