Since the early 1990s, a market‐orientated policymaking in Latin American countries did nothing to secure decent and productive jobs or eliminate gender inequities. It served, rather, to limit social investments that were needed to increase wellbeing, social cohesion, and, eventually, productivity. The pioneering scholarly work of the authors in this thematic issue, using either qualitative or quantitative methodologies, deepens our interdisciplinary understanding of the causes and dynamics of inequality and exclusion in these countries. Contributions are organized in three dimensions: (a) the commodification of health care, (b) gendered social norms, and (c) fragile life and violence. Based on our authors’ findings and suggestions, an agenda for change emerges that emphasizes autonomy from external pressures, community action and representation, eradication of the patriarchy, and expansion of social protection programs.