The top chart above helps to document graphically what has accurately been described as the “the economic miracle of Chile
.” Up until the early 1980s, when the first round of economic reforms (1974–1983) were starting to have a positive effect, Chile’s economic performance was among the weakest of the Latin American countries, with annual increases of real GDP per capita averaging only 0.70% from 1913 to 1983. Additional economic reforms in 1985 and 1990 that included trade liberalization supercharged Chile’s economy, and annual growth in per capita output since 1983 has averaged an impressive 4.0% per year. Before the economic reforms, with only 0.70% annual growth, it took almost an entire century for living standards to double in Chile; living standards now double every 19 years with 4.0% real growth, and that’s a real economic miracle!
A major factor in Chile’s amazing economic success has been its active pursuit since the 1990s of becoming one of the world’s most open and free markets. To help overcome its natural handicap of being a small and remote country, Chile has become a world leader in free trade, demonstrated by its free trade agreements with more than 50 countries around the world, giving its consumers and companies access to more than half of the world’s markets.
The bottom chart above illustrates a major benefit of Chile's miraculous economic turnaround: a significant increase in life expectancy relative to its South American neighbors. In 1960, life expectancy in Chile was only 57 years, much lower than Venezuela (59.5 years), Paraguay (63.8 years) and more than five years below Argentina (65.2 years). By 2009, life expectancy in Chile increased to 78.7 years, the highest in all of the Americas except for Canada (80.89 years) and the United States (79.43 years). That's an amazing increase of almost 22 years in life expectancy for Chileans, from 57 to 78.7 years, in just half a century.
Bottom Line: The "Chilean economic miracle" demonstrates that free market capitalism and free trade are the best paths to prosperity and a long life.
Thanks to Charles Musick for providing the life expectancy data.