Speaker: Pedro Mendes Loureiro (University of Cambridge)
Abstract: During the 2000s and early 2010s, there was a widely documented process of income redistribution in Latin America, which has recently been interrupted or reversed in most countries as a result of and through economic and political crises.
Brazil, one of the most unequal countries in the region, having experienced a decrease in inequality close to the region’s average. This was followed, however, by a particularly severe crisis since 2014. This talk adopts intersectionality as an analytical tool to explore how the shape and intensity of income inequality changed across race, class, and gender dimensions in Brazil from 2003-2013 (during the Workers’ Party administrations).
Based on data from household surveys, Dr Mendes Loureiro decompose the overall Gini index of labour-market income over groups defined by the individuals’ class position, gender and race. He argues that there were four main processes that decreased overall levels of inequality: lower unemployment, low-skilled labour formalisation, higher minimum wages, and greater demand for low-skilled workers in sectors producing wage-goods (eg food and lodging, housing and personal services).
He shows how these processes not only decreased inequality in general, by raising lower incomes but also closed income gaps against the dominant position of white men. Nevertheless, during this period non-white men, white women, and non-white women continued to have greater odds of being in more vulnerable class positions and, in each class position, to have lower income.
Therefore, certain constitutive gender and racial relations were not transformed – on the other hand, it was the particularly fragile initial position of these non-privileged groups that allowed them to enjoy improvements during the analysed period.
The conclusions underscore the multi-faceted and multi-determined nature of inequalities in Brazil, in which race, class, and gender emerge as mutually enforcing, structuring factors – requiring, therefore, similarly broad strategies to reach a more equal society.
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About the speaker
Dr Pedro Mendes Loureiro is University Lecturer in Latin American Studies at the Centre of Latin American Studies and the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge (CLAS-POLIS).
Primarily a political economist, at the heart of his work is a commitment to interdisciplinarity and pluralism, with interest ranging wide across the social sciences. His research encompasses different aspects of the political economy of Latin America, focusing on inequality, structural change and development strategies.