Economist 5 Aug 2011 by The Economist Group

By The Economist Group

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The Poor Try to Protect Their Long-Term Welfare in CrisesAs Long As Their Assets Permit Third, the poorlike those with more wealthare reluctant to permanently compromise their family's future during economic crises perceived to be temporary. This is especially true of parental decisions about their children. The poor do not, for example, frequently pull their children out of school during bad timesalthough they do when the recession is severe. But the fact that some educational and health outcomes are hurt during especially bad times may be as much the result of the government's inability to maintain the quality of social services as the household's decision to invest less during crises.

The risk of becoming unemployed is of concern in the region and elsewhere, and public responses to help workers deal with this risk take up a full chapter (Chapter 6). Finally, the subject of appropriate social insurance and social protection against the risk of poverty is considered in some detail (Chapter 7). We summarize the findings of these chapters here. LAC's Volatility Is HighBut Has Not Risen in the 1990s Like most developing regions, LAC suffers from high economic volatility, well above the levels experienced by industrial economies.

Inequality stands as the region's other big pending issue. Indeed, as noted earlier, inequality and insecurity are related. Increased economic opportunities tend to enhance income mobilitythe chances of moving up or down the distribution ladder. Thus, these added opportunities for economic improvement may come along with greater risks of moving down or being left behindhence the concern with insecurity and inequality. The social costs of insecurity should not be downplayed. Uncertainty about future employment and income has a direct adverse impact on welfare, because most households and workers care not only about the level of their standard of living, but also about its certaintyas the survey evidence above clearly illustrates.

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