LABOR: The Low Skill Trap


Political scientist Ben Ross Schneider explains the "low-skill trap," where workers in unequal societies have little opportunity or incentive to improve their job skills and contribute more to the economy.

Chile has been widely praised by economists, political scientists, and international organizations as the model of economic and political development in Latin America. Its high economic growth rates since the late 1980s, combined with the strength of its state institutions and political parties, have caused many Latin American scholars to turn their attention to Chile in order to learn lessons on how to promote economic and social development across the region. However, this perception has changed over the last two years, as massive student protests against the government have shone a spotlight on discontent with the country’s model of economic development among important segments of Chile’s population. This reaction is particularly puzzling not only because of Chile’s elevated rates of GDP growth but also because Chile has the highest college enrollment rate in the region. How can we explain the widespread dissatisfaction with Chile’s “successful” model?

Andrés Schipani
Publication date: 
August 16, 2012
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article