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The impact of economic policy and structural change on gender employment inequality in Latin America, 1990–2010

Elissa Braunstein and Stephanie Seguino

Keywords: Latin America; gender; labor markets; minimum wage; government spending

Latin America experienced a decline in household income inequality in the 2000s, in sharp contrast to growing inequality in other regions of the world. This has been attributed to macroeconomic policy, social spending, and increased returns to education. This paper explores this issue from a gender perspective by econometrically evaluating how changes in economic structure and policy have impacted gendered employment and unemployment rates, as well as gender inequality in these variables, using country-level panel data for a set of 18 Latin American countries between 1990 and 2010. Three variables stand out as having consistent gender-equalizing effects in the labor market: social spending, minimum wages, and public investment. Less important or consistent were the effects of external factors (such as terms of trade), economic structure, and GDP growth.

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