Intergenerational Mobility and Inequality: The Latin American Case

Annual Review of Sociology

Prompted by new data and a renewed concern about equality of opportunity, the study of intergenerational mobility has flourished in Latin America in the past decade. Although analysis is still restricted to a handful of countries, one conclusion appears clear: Intergenerational income mobility is weaker in Latin America than in industrial countries and is characterized by “persistence at the top,” a pattern consistent with the high levels of economic concentration in the region. However, social class mobility in Latin America does not differ from that in the industrialized world. This essay reviews two generations of mobility research since the 1960s, takes stock of current findings on economic and class mobility in Latin America, examines the linkages between mobility and macro-level factors, and engages a new literature on equality of opportunity. I suggest that the comparative understanding of mobility in Latin America can inform and inspire research in the industrialized world.