By John A. Booth
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Extra info for Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change, 5th Edition
Even in Costa Rica, with the region’s highest national average income, the wealthiest tenth (decile) of the people earned, on average, 25 times more income than the poorest tenth. 4 Percent of population over 25 with no schooling, c. 0 Gini index of education inequalitya, population ages 25–65, c. 7 72 Ratio of incomes of wealthiest 10% to poorest 10% of population, c. 1 Gini index of income inequalitya, c. 00 (perfect inequality); the higher the index score, the greater the inequality among members of a population.
The dignity, determination, and remarkable humor of the Central American people must be taken as a cause for hope. Poverty in Central America has not always been inevitable. But we believe it is increasingly difficult these days for isthmian governments to reduce poverty—even assuming national leaders and other elites might acquire a new determination to move in that direction. In sum, Central America is small in size and population, poor in resources, and beset by problems. As the twenty-first century began, these problems affected mostly the region’s own people, although emigration, elevated levels of violence, and an increase in drug trafficking held some threat for the region’s Latin American neighbors and for the United States.
Even in relatively prosperous Costa Rica severe economic difficulties afflict many. Most experts and observers of the region recognize that poverty constitutes a persistent crisis of great human cost and cries out for social and economic reforms. Common sense betrays us, however, if we attempt to explain Central America’s 1970s and 1980s rebellions as simply the product of poverty. Most of the world’s population lives in poverty, yet rebellion by those worst off is rare. Poverty alone cannot account for the revolts in Nicaragua, El Salvador, or Guatemala.
Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change, 5th Edition by John A. Booth