Catching up to Argentina

By Razib Khan | January 23, 2012 2:19 am

You may not have noticed, but Google has been spiffing up its Data Explorer. Poking around you see nice illustrations of phenomena which you otherwise may just read about. For example, Argentina has been one of the classic illustrations in economic history of stagnation. To a great extent it peaked around 1900, and development has been erratic since then. This is clear when you see how much its neighbors and other Latin American nations have caught up:

This bar graph illustrates it better:

By the way, would you have guessed that Puerto Rico’s total fertility rate is considerably below that of non-Hispanic whites on the mainland? I had no idea.

MORE ABOUT: Data Analysis
  • kevin-turvey
  • Tony Mach

    Cubans are living long compared with others in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • Frederick

    This graphic would be much more informative if it was at Purchasing Power Parity, rather than using raw U.S. $ – there is *no* *way* that Venezuelans are economically better off than Argentines – that number is wildly skewed by petroleum exports.

    Argentina’s decline has been a relative one rather than a real one, Argentina is still much more proseperous today than it was 100 years ago, it’s just that some other countries have grown even faster and a few have surpassed it, Chile being the most notable example. One legacy of its past relative prosperity is that its income distribution is somewhat more equal than Brazil or Mexico, which is why Argentina “feels” so much more middle class and prosperous than those two countries (although Brazil is making great strides recently to reduce inequality). It may be noted also that Argentina actually has a higher birth rate than Mexico or Brazil, so GDP per capita may skew lower to account for more children – household income may be a better measure.

    Puerto Rico’s young and ambitious have been moving to the (rest of the) U.S. for decades, first to NYC and the northeast, more recently to Orlando and south Florida, to the extent that there are now more Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. off the island than on the island. PR and Michigan were the only two states/jurisdictions to suffer a population loss between 2000 and 2010. Maybe those left behind are older and generally less vigorous and that explains the lower fertility rate?

  • Razib Khan

    #3, every time i use PPP people complain it is misleading. every time i don’t, people complain.

  • Peter

    Why do Black nations lead the way in the region? In 2004, they were the top 3. Is it due to the British link?

    They’re all small countries, possibly that’s the main factor.

    Puerto Rico’s young and ambitious have been moving to the (rest of the) U.S. for decades

    While the bulk of the Puerto Rican migration to the Northeast has run its course, when it was going strong I can assure you it was not comprised of the island’s ambitious people.

  • Frederick

    #4 :-) damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Actually I don’t think raw GDP vs. PPP are going to diverge much in this case, apart from the Venzuelan outlier.

    #1 – a certain few British-Caribbean countries are at the top, most notably Barbados and the Bahamas, two countries that have been stable liberal democracies since independence and arguably the most culturally “British” of the islands (both actually have sizable white and mixed Afro-European populations, for example the green-eyed Rihanna from Barbados). Also Trinidad is high up there with its mixed African and Indian population, it has a developed industrial and petroleum-based economy. By contrast, Guyana is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere while Jamaica, the largest of the British-Caribbean countries, is a notorious train-wreck economically, though it has managed to maintain a turbulent democracy since independence.

  • Peter

    Jamaica, the largest of the British-Caribbean countries, is a notorious train-wreck economically

    Jamaica’s not doing all that badly on the GDP scale compared to the other larger countries in its region. Comparable to the Dominican Republic, better than the Central American countries other than Panama and Costa Rica, way better than Haiti.

  • Frederick

    #7 – Jamaica is certainly not the worst-off country in the hemisphere economically, much less the worst-off in the world; I was responding to a poster who said that the “Black nations lead the way in the region” – my point was that it wasn’t as clear-cut as that. Jamaica *is* a basket-case compared to Barbados and the Bahamas, but definitely not compared to Nicaragua or Haiti. Jamaica, though, has as many people as all the other British-Caribbean countries combined, so to exclude it from the “Black nations” isn’t really logical.

  • Paul Rain
  • Daniel Gonzalez

    Well on a few points here for my first comment:
    -Barbados (pop 350k ) and Trinidad (Pop 1.2M) ressemble more a small city than a country, besides Barbaods economic numbers are inflated by the use of the island as a tax haven for U.S. corporations due to its proximmity to Florida and acceptance of the US dollar as legal currency.
    -When PPP is used Argentina fares much better than in this graph, in fact it’s the country with the highest gdp per capita in South America(17k usd per capita, 2nd one is Chile at 16k per capita) and unlike Mexico/Brazil etc.. and that prosperity is not concentrated in a few mega oligarchs a la Carlos Slim.
    True ARG did have a few bad decades (notably the 80’s and 90’s) but after it hit rock botton in 2001 when poverty reached 54% of the population, they took some radical measures:
    -Eliminated 1;1 convetibility with the USD
    -Fired every neoliberal economist (the kind of economists that sign FTA’s and like to lecture fired factiry workers on the benefits of “free trade’) most notable one that was fired Domingo Cavalho.
    -Started a drastic merchantilistic policy, devaluing the local currency, facilitating government sponsored small business loans, etc..
    Nowadays poverty is around 9% (huge turnaround in just a decade)


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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