The free-market city: Latin American urbanization in the years of the neoliberal experiment

Alejandro Portes, Bryan R. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


We examine the evolution of Latin American cities in the last two decades of the twentieth century and in the first years of the twenty-first on the basis of comparable data from six countries comprising over 80 percent of the region's population. These years correspond to the shift in hegemonic models of development in the region, from import-substitution industrialization to neoliberal "open markets" adjustment. We examine how the application of the new policies correlates with change patterns in four areas: urban systems and urban primacy; urban unemployment and informal employment; poverty and inequality; and crime, victimization, and urban insecurity. We present detailed analyses of each of these topics based on the latest available data for the six countries. We conclude that significant changes in patterns of urbanization have taken place in the region, reflecting, in part, the expected and unexpected consequences of the application of the new model of development. Implications of our findings for each of the four areas examined and for the future of the region are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-82
Number of pages40
JournalStudies In Comparative International Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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