Roadblocks for Sustained Improvements in Life Expectancy in Latin America and the Caribbean

Palloni, Alberto, Kenya Noronha, and Mary McEniry
Working paper no. 2009-02


Future life expectancy in Latin America and the Caribbean could be compromised. Older people attaining age 60 after the years 1990-2000 are scarred by experiences that could translate into higher susceptibility to chronic conditions and higher mortality. Once dismissed as unthinkable, increases in mortality made their debut in modern societies, massively in Sub-Saharan Africa with HIV/AIDS and suddenly in the former Soviet Republics. We argue that the route to further increases in life expectancy in LAC is littered with obstacles. However, unlike Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Republics, changes in longevity in LAC may become driven neither by sudden overhaul of political regimes nor by the emergence of new diseases but, paradoxically, by conditions rooted in the unprecedented improvements in longevity that took place more than a half century ago. To support this view we assess empirical conditions characterizing two LAC countries, Mexico and Puerto Rico.