Poverty is a serious problem that does not disappear from Latin America. It occurs unevenly and due to different causes. Find out which are the poorest countries in the territory and the possible solutions to this conflict.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

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Poverty in Latin America: causes, consequences and solutions


Poverty in Latin America is a considerable problem, this region being the most uneven of the planet. Also, the growth rate in 2014 was lower than the world average.

The body that publishes the most data on this fact is ECLAC: the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. So does the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) and the World Bank.

In recent years, there have been great changes in the territory. Between 1980 and 1990, a period known as «the lost decade«, Poverty increased from 40,5% to 48,4%, which left 204 million people in need.

During the 90s, there was a moderate reduction thanks to growth and economic openness. However, at the end of these years there was stagnation or growth of underdevelopment in some countries.

It is in the XNUMXst century when a notable decline is manifested, which has slowed down at present, so we are once again in a period of growth paralysis.

Since 2012, the poverty rate in Latin America and the Caribbean has stagnant. In 2014, 168 million people lived in a situation of deprivation, which represents 28,2% of the population. Likewise, homelessness occurred in 70 million people.

Poorer countries

There is a marked inequality between the different territories, since some of the Latin American countries are ten times richer than others, so the scarcity is not distributed evenly.

According to data provided by the World Bank, the ranking of the 10 countries poorer of Latin America is as follows:

  1. Honduras
  2. Guatemala
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Colombia
  5. Bolivia
  6. Venezuela
  7. Ecuador
  8. El Salvador
  9. Peru
  10. Mexico

The countries in which poverty has increased the most between 2010 and 2014 are Uruguay, Peru and Chile. On the other hand, taking into account the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the richest countries in the territory are Chile, Panama and Uruguay.

Causes and consequences

There are numerous causes of underdevelopment, both in South America and Central America. Throughout history, the main reason has been social inequality in relation to income and the distribution of poverty.

Regarding employment, workers' wages are usually low, with job insecurity. In addition, there are gaps when it comes to finding work between people of different sex, age, area, ethnicity and race.

With regards to Public Management, highlights corruption, low investment in human and physical capital, and insufficient economic and social policies appropriate to the situation.

The inflation that exists in many Latin American countries devalues ​​the currency and causes prices to rise. This inflation is often accompanied by high taxes and restrictions on entrepreneurship.

In relation to globalization, the deforestation of large natural areas has caused drought in some areas, as well as the disappearance of fauna and flora, and the expansion of commercial crops.

Large estates, large agricultural holdings, are concentrated in a few hands, while small territories are distributed among many owners, which produces tensions and confrontations and prevents a proper modernization of the agricultural sector.

In addition, we find a dependence on industrialized countries, a significant burden of domestic debt and a malfunction of international markets.

These facts carry important consecuencias for the continent, among which the following stand out:

  • Violence
  • Low life expectancy
  • Malnutrition
  • Illiteracy
  • Overcrowding
  • Underemployment
  • Marginalization

Similarly, underdevelopment directly affects children, promoting child labor and school dropouts, which in turn is the result of low levels of education and little access to qualified employment.

Types of poverty

The shortage in Latin America is multidimensional, since it affects the five basic dimensions, which are housing, basic services, health, education and recreation.

However, some types of poverty stand out more, among which are the following:

  • Food: around 47 million people in South America, Central America and the Caribbean suffer from famine, that is, they are undernourished. The problem of hunger does not lie in production, but in the lack of access to food, the prices of which some families cannot afford, especially when there is a time of inflation.
  • Kids: underdevelopment in children is greater than in other age groups. Millions of minors do not have access to minimum food, education, health and housing.
  • Extreme: 11,8% of the population suffers it, since they do not have sufficient resources to cover the basic needs of food. This situation is more serious in indigenous peoples and the Afro-descendant population.
  • RuralAlthough in these areas the labor participation rate is higher, rural underdevelopment is greater than urban.
  • urban: in cities there is also a high index of precariousness. The population tends to concentrate in these areas due to the low quality of life that exists in the countryside.
  • female: there is a difference between genders, as women suffer from greater scarcity. Generally, their wages are lower, so the income of the woman is not sufficient, which is a problem in single-parent families.


Despite the fact that in recent years Latin American poverty has decreased, there has not been an increase in access to quality public services. In addition, there is still low coverage in social protection.

For this reason, investments in health, education and infrastructure should be increased, applying them correctly both in urban and rural areas.

Likewise, the Social helps for a better job placement and decent wages, especially for the most neglected sectors, such as women.

To end hunger and scarcity, several United Nations organizations are working in these territories, including UNICEF (Children), FAO (Food and Agriculture) and UNDP (Development).

From ECLAC, governments are urged to work together and in solidarity, so that with sufficient funding, policies can be assigned to reduce underdevelopment.

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