[Excerpt] This is a paper on earnings mobility in Argentina during the macroeconomic growth and contractions that have characterized that nation’s economy from 1996 to the present. Since 1996, real GDP growth has fluctuated widely. For most of the 1990s, Argentina was seen as a model of successful policymaking. Having pegged its exchange rate to the dollar under a currency board type arrangement in 1991, Argentina had succeeded in ending hyperinflation, reducing inflation rates to single-digit levels. Greater economic stability attracted foreign investment inflows, contributing to an acceleration in economic growth; indeed, even as lenders withdrew their financing in East Asia in 1997, capital inflows continued to Argentina. Then, Argentina entered into a prolonged recession. The combination of the hard peg of the local currency to the U.S. dollar and excessive borrowing led to an unsustainable fiscal situation and, ultimately, to the collapse of the economy at the end of 2001 (See Figure 1). Gross Domestic Product fell by 13.5 percent from the second quarter of 2001 to the second quarter of 2002, and the share of the population in poverty reached 58 percent in October 2002, versus 38 percent in October 2001, according to the official moderate poverty line.
This paper addresses the distributional consequences of these macroeconomic events. (Note: Here and throughout the paper, “distribution of income” means the entire density or cumulative distribution function; it does not mean “inequality.”) Who benefited the most from Argentine economic growth? Who lost the most in economic decline? Are those who started rich getting richer in growth periods and losing more in recessionary periods, or is it the other way around? Are the answers to these questions the same for all measures of initial advantage?