AbstractIn this paper we analyze the reasons behind the delay of the spread of education in Latin America and its relationship with income inequality and race. While the racial composition of the population was behind the low literacy levels obtained during the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries, racial inequality and its impact on education and educational inequality decreased during the last decades of the 20th century. Nonetheless educational levels lagged behind those of the OECD countries even during the late 20th
century. We also find that the spread of primary and to a lesser extent secondary school during the 20th century can explain the sharp decrease of educational inequality during the same time period. Nonetheless this diminution of educational inequality did not have any impact on the diminution of income inequality at least during the 20th century. While this paper gives consistent results on race and inequality on human capital formation, the trends and causes of the long run evolution of income inequality till the beginnings of the 21st century are still a controversial research topic that we want to further discuss in other forthcoming contributions.