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L AT I N A M E R I C A N C L A S S S T R U C T U R E S Their Composition and Change during the Neoliberal Era1 Alejandro Portes and Kelly Hoffman Princeton University Abstract This article proposes a framework for the analysis of social classes in Latin America and presents evidence on the composition of the class structure in the region and its evolution during the last two decades corresponding to the years of implementation of a new economic model in most countries The paper is an update of an earlier article on the same topic published in this journal at the end of the period of import substitution industrialization Relative to that earlier period the present era registers a visible increase in income inequality a persistent concentration of wealth in the top decile of the population a rapid expansion of the class of micro entrepreneurs and a stagnation or increase of the informal proletariat The contraction of public sector employment and the stagnation of formal sector labor demand in most countries have led to a series of adaptive solutions by the middle and lower classes The rise of informal self employment and micro entrepreneurialism throughout the region can be interpreted as a direct result of the new adjustment policies We explore other less orthodox adaptive strategies including the rise of violent crime in the cities and migration abroad by an increasingly diversified cross section of the population The impact that changes in the class structure have had on party politics and other forms of popular political mobilization in Latin American countries is discussed During the last decade of the twentieth century Latin America experienced a momentous change as country after country abandoned the autonomous industrialization path advocated by its own intellectuals of an earlier period and embraced a new model of development based on open economies and global competition Neoliberalism as this model is dubbed is actually a throwback to an earlier era when



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