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Volume 61 / Social Sciences

ECONOMICS: GENERAL


JAMES W. FOLEY, Associate Dean, School of Business Administration, University of Miami, Coral Gables


IN HLAS 59 I COMMENTED that the preponderance of economic literature on Latin America analyzes the impact of market liberalization. Such remains the case today.

A general study of market liberalization programs that is particularly noteworthy is the volume by Stallings, Growth, Employment and Equity: The Impact of the Economic Reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean (item #bi2002001398#). Also quite interesting is a volume by Clark, Gradual Economic Reform in Latin America, which analyzes the merits of "gradualism" versus "shock therapy" in the implementation of economic reforms (item #bi2002001374#), as well as an article by Arminio Fraga, which evaluates the effectiveness of "Washington Consensus" policies (item #bi2005000406#).

Articles on Latin American financial markets were especially impressive during this biennium. Noteworthy contributions on the regions' stock markets were written by Meric (item #bi2003000418#) and Ortiz and Arjona (item #bi2003000415#). Also impressive was an article by Morias and Portugal on bond markets (item #bi2002001420#). Tavlas effectively analyzed the pros and cons of various exchange rate regimes (item #bi2005000743#). Starr and Jameson produced excellent articles on "dollarization" (items #bi2001003731# and #bi2004003722#, respectively). I also recommend an edited volume by Larrain that summarizes the Latin American experience in this area during the 1990s (item #bi2002001385#).

Estache, Gonzalez, and Trujillo examine the impact of privatization in an article that quantifies productivity improvements resulting from privatization (item #bi2004003746#). Also worthy of note is an issue of The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance (Vol. 41, No. 5, 2001), which contains nine articles on privatization in the region.

Social security and pension systems continue to receive increasing attention with most articles analyzing the privatization of formerly public pension systems and the shift from "defined benefit" pension to "defined contribution" programs. In this area I particularly liked articles by Mesa-Lago (item #bi2004003719#) and Bertranou (item #bi2005000742#). I also recommend a special issue of The Developing Economies (item #bi2005003733#), which is entirely devoted to a comparative analysis of Asian and Latin American social security systems. On the general issue of "safety net" programs for the poor, sick and elderly, I recommend a volume by Lustig, Social Protection for Equity and Growth (item #bi2002001392#).

Integration continues to be extensively analyzed and evaluated. Of the various trading blocs in the region, Mercosur seems to have received the most attention from the region's scholars. I particularly liked an article by Alcorta on technological "knowledge sharing" among Mercosur countries (item #bi2003000562#), as well as more general articles by Martínez Zarzoso and Valencia Parrilla (item #bi2002002865#) and Rubin Tansini and Vera (item #bi2002002860#).

Specialists in Latin American labor and labor markets will want to consult a review essay by Joanna Swanger covering eight books on the regions labor markets in the Latin American Research Review (item #bi2005003732#). I also recommend a special issue of World Development devoted in its entirety to case studies of various rural nonfarm labor markets (item #bi2004003740#). I also found interesting a comparative study by Marshall on the impact on labor markets of similar economic policies implemented in Argentina, Mexico, and Peru (item #bi2001006900#).

During the biennium I was struck by the relative paucity of studies related to the informal sector, the military, women, agriculture, and the environment. Nevertheless, in the area of women's studies, I recommend an article by Deere and León on the gender distribution pattern of rural land (item #bi2005000747#) and an edited volume by de Villota on the impact of globalization on the welfare of women (item #bi2002001344#). An article pertaining to agriculture by Quiroz and Opazo updates the Krueger-Shiff-Valdes study on government price intervention in the agricultural sector (item #bi2001001396#). On the environment, I recommend an article by Bhattarai and Hammig, which statistically tests cross-countries the Environmental Kuznet Curve (item #bi2004003737#), and a special section of World Development, which provides case studies on the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation (see items #bi2004003745# and #bi2004003744#).

Miscellaneous works that caught my attention include an article by Glen Biglaiser describing how Latin American economists who received their graduate training at the University of Chicago and then returned to their home states now dominant the economics profession in their countries (item #bi2003006916#). Readers who teach courses on the economic development of the region will want to examine an excellent text by Patrice M. Franko entitled The Puzzle of Latin American Economic Development (item #bi2002001353#).

Finally, I conclude by reiterating sentiments expressed in the last several volumes of the Handbook: the literature on the region continues to grow in quantitative sophistication. As a result, "grand models" of theories of development are rarely found in the literature today. Instead, authors use elaborate mathematical and econometric techniques to analyze mostly narrow economic phenomenon. This is due to 1) the greater availability of reliable data sets, 2) the increased emphasis on quantitative techniques in graduate economics programs over the last two to three decades, and 3) the general availability of computers.

Although this trend toward greater quantitative sophistication is welcomed by professional economists, it is unfortunate that those not trained in the discipline area, for the most part, are unable to thoroughly understand and critique the methodology being employed and the resulting conclusions. This trend is, however, in all probability irreversible as the profession of economics now emulates the past growth and development of the physical sciences.


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