How high is poverty, inequality, and corruption in the United States and how does it compare to Latin America?
- Luis Fajardo
- BBC Monitoring
We all know the impact of concerns about poverty and corruption on Latin American elections.
But how much influence do these two factors have on American politics, which culminated in the midterm elections on Tuesday, November 8?
To answer this question, it may be helpful to map first How serious is the problem in the United StatesCompared to what is happening in Latin America.
In general, poverty problems are of a different magnitude in Latin American countries, compared to what happened in the United States.
It is also true that the public perception of institutional corruption is more serious in many Latin American countries, compared to what occurs in the North American country.
But, as many experts told BBC Mundo, this does not mean worrying about poverty and corruption Do not affect Also in the elections in the United States.
Both are seen as recurring problems that persuade Americans, in many cases, to vote one way or the other.
Various orders of magnitude
Of course, it is complicated to compare poverty in the United States, the most powerful country on Earth, with that of Latin American countries.
Not the same It is considered poorer in the United States than anywhere else.
According to the US Census Bureau, a household of two adults and two children is classified as poor if the household income does not exceed US$26,000 per year. About 12% of the US population Go to this category.
However, for example, a Colombian family making the same amount of money, equivalent to about 10 million Colombian pesos per month, would be widely considered part of the middle class in that South American country.
When trying to measure poverty in the United States versus poverty in Latin American countries, persistent changes in the value of their respective currencies, differences in cost of living, availability of state aid and other socioeconomic factors mean that salary amount alone is not the only variable to consider.
The world bank Try creating an index that takes into account some of these differences in cost of living and currency values to estimate the percentage of the population living on less than $2.15 a day, adjusting for the purchasing power of different currencies.
Thus, they came up with an estimate of the number of people facing the hardships of extreme poverty in each country.
measured like this, 1% of the US population lives in extreme poverty.
France Press agency
According to this method, there are fewer extreme poor people in Chile, with this vulnerable population accounting for 0.7% of the total.
In contrast, according to the World Bank, this percentage in Mexico reaches 3.1%, Guatemala 9%, Colombia 10.8%, Honduras 12.7%, and Haiti 29%.
United nations It has another mechanism, the Human Development Index mechanism, which, in addition to salary, studies the access of the majority of the population to the material conditions of well-being.
On an index of 0 to 1, where the number 1 reflects the societies with the highest level of human development, Chile, with a score of 0.855, is very close to the 0.92 obtained by the United States.
Mexico, Brazil and Colombia got 0.75. While Bolivia is only 0.6 and Haiti barely 0.53.
Finally, there is the perspective of relative poverty and inequality.
In many countries, the political impact of poverty It is amplified by the feeling of inequality.
If the poor feel that the rich have too much, it may increase their sense of anger at the system.
The genetic index It measures the degree of inequality in society. The lower the number, the lower the inequality.
According to World Bank information, this indicator reaches 41.5 for the United States. The same index ranks Uruguay at 40.2, which is a society that, in this measure, is more equal.
On the other hand, the Gini index rose to 48.9 for Brazil, and to 54.2 for Colombia, which is one of the worst countries in the world in this sense.
So when making a comparison of poverty and inequality between Latin America and the United States, the first clarification to be made is this: which country is in Latin America, a region with huge internal differences in anti-poverty outcomes.
Effects on American Politics
Anyway, experts point out American povertyalthough often much lower than in Latin America, It has important implications for politics.
So thinks Shelly Barnes, director of policy at the Kairos Center, a New York-based think tank that searches for solutions to poverty in America.
“The common narrative about the poor in America is that they do not participate in elections and do not care about politics. We have found that this is not true. In 2020, nearly 60 million low-income people voted in the presidential election,” Barnes says in a conversation with BBC Mundo.
Barnes uses the example of the recent 2020 election in Florida to show the importance of the issue of poverty in the American political world.
He points out that it was a country won by Republicans, a party whose policies have traditionally been associated with more support for big business.
But Barnes remembers that “the same voters in Florida approved in a referendum a measure to raise the current minimum wage in the state.”
However, the expert is concerned that many times “Our policy does not respond to the needs or limitations of these people.”
He warns that, as in many other countries, anxiety about poverty that it might generate in the United States is fueling other political phenomena such as populism.
“We’ve seen this in the past decade,” Barnes explains, referring, for example, to the “use of racist rhetoric” by some politicians in response to the electorate’s concern about deteriorating levels of material well-being.
Concerns about corruption
Aside from poverty, another recurring topic of discussion in contemporary Latin American politics is corruption.
In general, but not always, measurements of the perception of corruption make US institutions better off than those of Latin American countries.
But no one denies that it is also a very topical issue in the politics of the North American country.
Transparency International It is one of the organizations that attempts to qualify and compare the public perception about the degree of corruption prevailing in many countries with an index.
The latest version of the index indicates this Denmark It is the country with the lowest perception of corruption, with a score of 88 out of 100.
The United States reached the 27th place with 67 points, a result that puts it on the same level as Chile, and is overtaken by Uruguay, which is in the 18th place with 73 points.
Instead, Colombia came in 87th with 33 points. Argentina ranks 96 with Brazil, Guatemala 150 and Venezuela 177, barely beating three countries in this table: Somalia, Syria and South Sudan.
Discussing corruption, however, shakes up American politics as much or more than many Latin American countries.
Just remember that one of Donald Trump’s battle cry in his victorious 2016 presidential campaign was His promise to “drain the swamp”the then candidate also referred to corruption in Washington, a city that was created on a swamp.
Gabriel Sanchez, an expert associated with the Brookings Institution Research Center in Washington and a professor at the University of New Mexico, told BBC Mundo that discussion this year had often focused on issues of alleged electoral corruption.
The controversy surrounding the 2020 presidential election and the defeat of Trump was a sign of the American public’s perception of corruption, despite the fact that no evidence of fraud in the said elections was found.
“It was a vision p levelsAnd theInaccurate information rope targeting Latinos This electoral cycle, primarily to Spanish-speaking Latinos. Much of this content focuses on Trump’s continued assertions about allegations of the theft of the 2020 election, which helps fuel perceptions of corruption among some Latinos.”
The expert outlines the implications of this debate for Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“It’s evident in places like Arizona, where there are many candidates who have stuck to Trump’s 2020 campaign message on electoral corruption. If another court election happens now, it could take several days to calculate the results, which could fuel the accusations.” Election fraud is generating greater concern about corruption.
In an interconnected and interconnected world, political speeches From different parts of the world it is becoming more similar, even between different regions like the United States and Latin America.
Although such indicators are shown on issues such as corruption and poverty, citizens’ anger about these issues helps explain at least some of the election results in both places.
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