Three decades of class inequality in Brazil and Argentina

Pedro Mendes Loureiro


This paper explores and compares the patterns of income inequality in Brazil and Argentina, from 1980 to 2013, focusing on their class dimension. Applying a neo-Marxist typology of class positions to household surveys, the Gini coefficient of household per capita income is decomposed into inter- and within-class components using the ANOGI method. This allows for a finer decomposition, providing insight into how income is stratified or not along class fractions. As it also reveals how each fraction relates to all the others, including the extent to which their incomes overlap and hence occupy or not the same space, it offers the basis for a class relational account of the phenomenon of inequality.

The identified trends are then interpreted in terms of changes to the class structure, to the relative income of class fractions and the concentration of such incomes, and, finally, to changes in stratification (how the incomes of different classes overlap). The patterns are explained in terms of the wider transformations of the countries’ political economy, seen through the periods of the debt crisis, neoliberalism and neodevelopmentalism. The paper finds an increase of class inequality during neoliberalism and an inflection afterwards, but confined to changes within categories of workers. Differences in the two national trajectories are explained by changes to their productive structure, as well as popular and class mobilisation dynamics, with greater gains for workers associated to more organised struggles. In both cases, however, and despite differences in degree, the relative position of capital and social stratification more broadly were never challenged during neodevelopmentalism, highlighting the class conciliation dynamics under place.

Latin America - The Pink Tide - neoliberalism - inequality - class inequality