Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Felix K. Rioja

Associate Professor and Scott and Marjorie Cowen Chair - Econoimcs

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Department Affiliation


I am an economist that studies Latin American growth and development. In particular, I have recently been studying how public policy related to public infrastructure investment affects the distribution of wealth and income in Mexico and Paraguay. When governments build more roads, highways, and water systems, how are households in various quintiles of the income distribution affected? Along with my co-authors on several published journal articles on this topic, we have found that the answers depend on how infrastructure investment is financed (by income taxes, by consumption taxes, by government borrowing, etc.). We generally find that poorer households may benefit significantly in terms of income and welfare, but that richer households may also benefit, in some cases, comparatively by even more.

In previous published research, I have also analyzed the effects of public infrastructure on aggregate economic growth in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. I had found that there is a positive effect, but this positive effect may diminish and even turn negative with excessive investment. All the Latin American countries mentioned were well below the threshold, so improving their infrastructure would lead to higher growth rates.

I have also written on the effects of the financial system on growth, poverty reduction and inequality in Latin America. As the banking and financial system was expanded in Latin America, in some countries to a larger degree than in others, those countries grew. Some of the middle income quintiles benefited, but not the poorest which lacked access to the banking and other financial services. Hence, access to financial services is a key issue for the poorest households in the region. Related to this, I am more recently working on how micro finance institutions fulfill dual objectives of profit and social outreach.

For many years, I served as the director of the PhD and masters programs in economics at my previous institution, Georgia State University. I teach a seminar course on Latin American development, as well as macroeconomics and global economics courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

  • Ph.D., Economics, Arizona State University, 1997
  • M.A., Economics, University of Virginia, 1992
  • B.S., Economics, James Madison University, 1989
Academic Experience
  • Associate Professor, Tulane University, 2018-
  • Associate Professor, Georgia State University, 2004 – 2018
  • Assistant Professor, Georgia State University, 1997 – 2004

Research & Teaching Specializations: Macroeconomics, Latin American Development Economics

Selected Publications
  • 2017. “Public Infrastructure Maintenance and the Distribution of Wealth” (with John Gibson, paper on Mexico), Economic Inquiry, Volume 55 (1), 175 – 186.
  • 2017. “Fiscal position and the financing of productive government expenditures: An application to Latin American,” Journal of Economic Policy Reform, 20(2): 113-135.
  • 2017. “Optimal Public Debt Redux,” (with John Gibson and Santanu Chatterjee), Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Volume 83, 162-174.
  • 2014. “Productivity, Structural Change, and Latin American Development,” Review of Development Economics, 18(3): 610-624.
  • 2009. “Financial Development and the Distribution of Income in Latin American and the Caribbean,” Well-Being and Social Policy, 5(1): 1-18.
  • 2001. “Growth, Welfare and Public Infrastructure: A General Equilibrium Analysis of Latin American Economies” Journal of Economic Development, 26(2): 119-130.

Recently Taught Latin American-Related Courses: Macroeconoimc Analysis I and II

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