Latin America is known for its poor record of income equality, but the 2014 Social Inclusion Index from Americas Quarterly reveals that in terms of civil, women’s and LGBT rights, several Latin American nations outstrip even the United States.
The Index pulls together data on 21 different variables, including GDP growth, enrollment in secondary school, access to housing and formal employment, financial inclusion by gender and political rights, to name a few.
The Social Inclusion Index approaches development from a multidimensional perspective, considering many factors that go beyond the scope of cut-and-dried economic growth. This year’s report is the third in the Americas Quarterly series and it reveals an encouraging amount of poverty reduction and social inclusion in the region.
Uruguay remains at the top of the Index, receiving high scores in women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights and formal job access. According to the Index, the U.S. lags behind four Latin American countries on women’s rights, including Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru.
Argentina and Costa Rica are tied in second place, scoring well due to high spending on social programs and women’s rights. The United States falls into fourth place because, although its social spending is the highest in the region, murder rates, particularly femicide, remain high, as well.
The report also points out that some of the region’s larger economic powers like Brazil and Mexico could greatly improve their scores by placing more emphasis on women’s rights, access to education and access to formal jobs. For example, only 37 percent of the working population in Mexico has access to formal employment. Increasing this number has great potential to reduce poverty.
Significant economic growth and increasing stability in Latin America means that more and more people are emerging from poverty and entering the middle class. This trend is allowing for important conversations on social inclusion to take place.
There are still many gaps in security, gender equality and inclusiveness in Latin America. The region remains the planet’s murder capital and violence against women is rampant. Yet the Social Inclusion Index does reveal positive change and provides valuable direction for further progress.