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New Series on Inequality | YSI Latin America Working Group

The YSI Latin America Working Group is organizing a series on inequality.

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1) “Community Mobilization Around Social Dilemmas: Evidence from Lab Experiments in Rural Mali”

Speaker: Maria Laura Alzua

Date: September 4th, 9 AM ET

BIO: Maria Laura Alzua received her PhD in Economics from Boston University. She is a researcher of the National Science Council (CONICET) and Senior Researcher at the Center for Distributional, Labor and Social Studies at Universidad Nacional de La Plata (CEDLAS), Argentina. Her main research interests are development economics, labor economics and program evaluation.


Community mobilization is a key feature of community-based development projects. Community mobilization requires facilitating communication between village members and between leaders and the rest of the community. Is communication an effective device through which mobilization may foster collective action? Does informing the community on how to reach a better social outcome key? Should we expect the effectiveness of community-based programs to depend on the quality of leadership in the community? In rural communities of Mali, we find evidence of high levels of cooperation as measured by a standard public good game. Communication between players increases contributions to the public good. Passing of information through a random community member also improves cooperation, and leadership skills matter. We also find suggestive evidence that changes in behavior are mediated through changes in beliefs. The experiments are embedded in a larger randomized controlled trial designed to evaluate the impact of a community-based sanitation intervention. As such, our results are relevant for a large population. Finally, we find that the program help strengthen the capacity for collective action.

2) Recent developments on perceptions of the income distribution and attitudes towards redistribution”

Speaker: Guillermo Cruces

Date: September 25th, 10 AM ET

BIO: Guillermo Cruces (PhD in Economics, LSE) is the deputy director of the Center for Distributive, Labor and Social Studies (CEDLAS) at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina (UNLP). He is also a researcher at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET).

His research is focused on labor economics, distributional analysis and social protection policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. He teaches at the graduate and undergraduate level at the Economics Department of the UNLP, and he is invited professor of labor economics at the Universidad de San Andrés (UdeSA), Argentina. He is in charge of CEDLAS’ labor markets program, and he is the project leader of the CEDLAS-based and IDRC-funded research program on Labour markets for inclusive growth in Latin America. He has published in journals such as the Journal of Public Economics, the Journal of Population Studies, Labour Economics, Journal of Development Studies and Economia, and he has edited books and contributed to collective volumes and reports.

He has worked previously for the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions and for the Development Studies Division of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. He has also been a researcher at STICERD, London School of Economics and Political Science, where he obtained an MSc and a PhD in Economics. He has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (2013).

3) Recent Trends in Inequality and Poverty in Developing Countries” (Alvaredo, F. y Gasparini, L. (2014)), in Atkinson and Bourguignon (eds.). Handbook of Income Distribution, vol.2, chapter 10, Elsevier.

Speaker: Leonardo Gasparini

Date: October 29th, time TBD

BIO: After receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1997, Leonardo Gasparini returned to Argentina to join the faculty of the Universidad Nacional de La Plata as a Professor of Economics and the founding Director of its Center for Distributional, Labor and Social Studies (CEDLAS). Long concerned with poverty and inequality in Latin America, Mr. Gasparini has been a consultant in this area for the United Nations and the UN Development Program and International Labor Organization, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and others. Among his honors are the Premio Fulvio Salvador Paganini (2001), awarded by the Fundación Arcor, and the World Bank’s Regional Spot Award (2003).

Mr. Gasparini’s extensive list of publications includes the following: “On the measurement of unfairness: an application to high school attendance in Argentina,” Social Choice and Welfare, 19 (2002), 795-810; “Characterization of inequality changes through microeconometric decompositions. The case of Greater Buenos Aires,” in The Microeconomics of Income Distribution Dynamics in East Asia and Latin America, ed. F. Bourguignon, F. Ferreira, and N. Lustig (Oxford UP, 2004); “Equality of opportunity and optimal cash and in-kind policies,” Journal of Public Economics, 90, Nos. 1-2 (2006), 143-169; “Capital accumulation, trade liberalization, and rising wage inequality: the case of Argentina,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, 55, No. 4 (2007), 793-812; and “Growth and income poverty in Latin American and Caribbean: evidence from household surveys,” Review of Income and Wealth, 53, No. 2 (2007), 209-245.

During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, Leonardo Gasparini, in conjunction with Walter Sosa Escudero and Martín Cicowiez, is completing a textbook tentatively titled Poverty and Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean. Concepts and a toolkit for quantitative analysis. The book will be accompanied by a web page that features STATA do files and the data sets used in the compilation of the text, which students then can download to assist them in compiling their own analyses of various topics.


This chapter reviews the empirical evidence on the levels and trends in income/consumption inequality and poverty in developing countries. It includes a discussion of data sources and measurement issues, evidence on the levels of inequality and poverty across countries and regions, an assessment of trends in these variables since the early 1980s, and a general discussion of their determinants. There has been tremendous progress in the measurement of inequality and poverty in the developing world, although serious problems of consistency and

comparability still remain. The available evidence suggests that on average the levels of national income inequality in the developing world increased in the 1980s and 1990s, and declined in the 2000s. There was a remarkable fall in income poverty since the early 1980s, driven by the exceptional performance of China over the whole period, and the generalized improvement in living standards in all the regions of the developing world in the 2000s.