Bloomberg View’s Justin Fox writes, with charts, about the slow economic growth over Latin America over the past century. Only Chile shows signs of converging strongly and consistently towards high-income levels.
[E]vident in [Hans] Rosling’s animations is the great breakout to much-higher living standards that the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand made in the 1800s, followed by the great catchup in Asia since the middle of the 20th century. Some African countries have begun making big strides, too, although sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s poorest region by far.
Then there’s Latin America and the Caribbean, whose part in this story has always intrigued and saddened me. In the 19th century, some of the countries and colonies to the south of the U.S. were among the world’s most affluent. In the 20th century most of them have become much more affluent in an absolute sense (Haiti is the tragic exception). They have nonetheless lost relative ground, especially during the past half-century, as rich countries just got richer and Asian nations broke through to wealth.
[. . .]
Compared to these other, more dynamic economies, Latin America seems to have been making hardly any progress. I’m not even going to try to go into all the possible reasons for this, in part because they vary greatly among countries. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think either U.S. imperialism or persistent bad luck is a satisfactory explanation for Latin America’s slow growth. Clearly these — with the possible exception of Chile — have not been among the world’s best-managed economies. And that really is too bad.