LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Today, the unemployment rate of graduates
entering the U.S. job market and the widening
gap between rich and poor have begun to
fray the edges of the American Dream.
The topic of our Spring issue, social inclusion, is a deeply personal issue for me and for the AQ edi- torial team. Social inclusion—the basic idea that development goes beyond reducing economic inequality to include notions of equal opportunity, political voice, human dignity, and rights—defines a central
mission of Americas Quarterly. It is a theme and ethos
that we strive to reflect in every article, every issue and
in our own office.
As a U.S. citizen who works on Latin America (from
Park Avenue in New York), I have had access to economic
and social opportunities I could never have imagined
growing up. I grew up in a rural town that had been hollowed out by the decline of local manufacturing. Neither
of my parents finished college. In most Latin American
countries—and certainly in many parts of the United
States even today—the odds of my overcoming such
barriers would have been pretty slim.
In my case, the odds were strengthened by my parents,
who believed in education as if it were religion: it could
save, heal, ennoble, and provide a life after Horseheads,
New York (yes, the name of my hometown).
The economic and professional benefits of a university
education then (in the late 1980s) were still credible and
real. Today, the unemployment rate of graduates entering the U.S. job market and the widening gap between
rich and poor have begun to fray the edges of an American Dream built on the ideal that education is a ticket
to opportunity and a stable, secure economic future.
You need only look at measures of opportunity and
social mobility—such as the World Bank’s Human Opportunity Index, or work by Florencia Torche of New
York University—to see how all too often, the deck is
stacked against those Latin Americans who don’t al-
PHOTOGRAPH BY RAFAEL FUCHS
ready have a comfortable cushion of resources, family
connections and access to good schools.
It is in this spirit that I’m excited to unveil our Social Inclusion Index on page 114. We have combined 15
indicators of economic growth, social policy, political
rights and participation, and access to public and private
goods, to measure how well countries in the region are
ensuring social inclusion. The index comprises 11 countries for which we had household data; for each, we disaggregate the results by gender and race/ethnicity. In a
region marked historically by exclusion and racism, it
was particularly important that we highlight the differences across social groups and score countries collectively on how they fared in providing for all citizens.
As you’ll see, where possible we have included the U. S.
in the measurements. Unfortunately, we didn’t have
data for educational access for this first iteration of the
index. But with recent reports and anecdotes about immigrants’ lack of access to quality education (see Suárez-Orozco on page 142), it is hard to be as optimistic as my
parents were 20 years ago.
More than the potential of education to improve one’s
standard of living, my mother and father taught me
that education was valuable in and of itself, providing
a sense of pride, empowerment and freedom that was
as important as the economic opportunity allowed. If
I can impart one thing to my seven-year-old son, it will
be a love of the power and beauty of education that his
grandparents taught me. My hope is that, 20 years from
now, a person’s worth will still be measured by his or
her level of education, intellectual curiosity and work
ethic, and not where they came from—as my parents,
perhaps naively, believed. It’s time to restore that essential element of the American Dream.
—Christopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012