This article summarizes the results of an analysis of the long-term factors affecting income distribution in five countries of the region (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico);, on the basis of household surveys made in those countries between 1979 and 1992. After a brief introduction (section I);, the article describes the methodology applied (section II); and then details the main findings (section III);. These include in particular the lower labour remuneration received by the first income deciles, associated among other things with inequalities in the educational levels attained. It is also observed that those deciles have below-average employment rates and above-average rates of inactivity. This latter phenomenon appears to be connected with household composition: the first deciles register a relatively greater presence of minors in the household, so that the burden of looking after children is greater and the cost of participating in the labour market is higher, thus leading to lower participation in it and reducing income generation. The article concludes with some suggestions for a redistribution policy (section IV);. Such a policy should seek to advance simultaneously in at least four fields: generation of productive employment, improvement of the income of the poorest households, lowering of the barriers hindering such households' access to the labour market and, finally, aspects related with population dynamics.