Globalization and Social Justice in Latin America in the Past Twenty Years

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Globalization with a neoliberal orientation has been criticized by many observers for a variety of reasons including social polarization and widening the gap between the rich and the poor. This article focuses on the implications of globalization for social justice in eleven Latin American (LA) countries that have historically suffered from socioeconomic injustice, and empirically investigates whether globalization has served social justice in those countries. It looks at the trajectories of opening up to the global markets and tracks the trends in poverty and inequality over the past 20 years, and links them within panel data models to estimate the impact of globalization on social justice. Descriptive results reveal distinct patterns of high and persistent poverty and inequality across the countries during this period, with some modest decline in poverty but no clear direction for inequality. Estimation results indicate that globalization reduces poverty but increases inequality, once country fixed effects are accounted for. Population dependency and unemployment exacerbate the effects of globalization on poverty and inequality, whereas economic growth and social security spending mitigate them. They also suggest that the experiences of poverty and inequality are country-specific. The findings suggest job creation, sustained economic growth as well as an effective and sustainable social security system as appropriate policies to deal with poverty and inequality in LA.