- It's a good question. Colonial Latin america was certainly much richer than Colonial Northern America. The peso was certainly the premier currency of the hemisphere.
- Generally, the US became wealthy after the revolutionary war. As wars go, the US revolutionary war was not particularly destructive. The government was stable for almost 70 years before it collapsed.
- The revolutionary wars were unbelievably destructive in Latin America. Most of the countries went into a terrible period of decline afterwards. Governments were often unstable and assasinations were common.
- I think a lot could be blamed on the huge class distinctions in society in Latin America. Certainly when you have slave or cheap labor you don't have an industrial revolution. The American South never developed an industrial revolution.
- Without the industrial base, when the death rates went down in the 1930's, the population exploded.
However, with the falling fertility rates in Latin America there is a possibility that their standard of living will increase rapidly. Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile already have lower fertility rates than the US. Mexico is not that much higher than the US. The census Bureau predicts that US will have a higher fertility rate than every country in the western hemisphere (except Haiti and Paraguay) by the year 2050. Coupled with continued immigration, it is possible that some Latin countries will have as high or GDP per capita than the US in a few decades.