For Social Panorama of Latin America, the main challenge is to foster a more in-depth examination of social gaps and the mechanisms that reproduce or decrease them. The previous edition of Social Panorama homed in on inequality gaps and their intergenerational reproduction and paid particular attention to the formative years of individuals, their transition to adult life and the role of social expenditure and transfers in meeting the needs of new generations during their early years. It showed how the life cycle path is determined by differences in skill development and how inequality and poverty become entrenched as people move from one stage of life to the next.
The 2011 edition of Social Panorama of Latin America takes a more in-depth look at the chain that produces and reproduces social gaps; it addresses other spheres as well. It focuses on how structural heterogeneity (productivity gaps in the national economies), labour segmentation and gaps in social protection are linked along the chain. Demographic factors such as fertility differentiated by education and income level are discussed, as are more specific patterns of risk and exclusion like those impacting young people in the Caribbean.These gaps make for an ambivalent scenario in the region, combining structural tendencies that reinforce them with recent, favourable developments that open new possibilities for advancing towards less unequal societies with broader access to well-being. Poverty and inequality are decreasing in the region; the main reasons are, first, rising labour income and, second, increasing public transfers to the most vulnerable sectors. But the productive gaps are still rigid, and there is still little mobility for specific groups in low-productivity sectors (especially women in lower-income socioeconomic groups) whose income has not increased. Fertility is declining substantially and can mean greater possibilities for well-being among families with fewer dependents.