What were the economic effects of the Cuban Revolution? Were living conditions improved for the average Cuban? I'm looking for objective criteria like average income, wealth distribution, life expectancy, literacy and similar.
The economic effects of the Cuban Revolution were somewhat of a mixed bag, and depending on the timeline you are interested in the immediate impact was negative, whereas on a longer timeline it was more positive.
The following paraphrases, and quotes relevant parts from Jose Pérez's work Cuba: Between Reform & Revolution
The loss of so much skilled labor led to a serious decline in services because of the shortage of expertise that could aid in the central planning undertaken by Castro's government. Additionally, the US trade embargo against Cuba that began in February 1962 did not help the situation.
The Cuban economy was hit terribly hard by the revolution. The following paraphrases and quotes relevant parts from Jan Rogozinski's work A Brief History of the Caribbean
The Cuban economy would at first shun sugar and tobacco production as they were seen as relics of the country's colonial past. This led to a huge rise in Cuba's trade deficit, mostly with the USSR and Soviet Bloc nations. Cuba would go back to tobacco and sugar in 1965 out of need. The dismal state of the economy was not good, but as Pérez points out there were some positive outcomes eventually:
The caloric intake of the average Cuban increased after the revolution, but since this was due to rationing there was little to no diversity in the diet. Pérez makes the claim that by the 1970's malnutrition had been all but wiped out.
Similarly, education increased so that the percentage of the population completing sixth grade increased from 20% in 1953 to 32% in 1970.
So all in all, there was a large impact. The immediate impact was very negative on the country. This was a combination of the exodus of people, and the hit to the economy. After time the impact became more positive, but is somewhat of a mixed bag. People's life expectancy went up, caloric intake increased, per capita income was redistributed, and literacy went up. These increases were not without cost.
For further reading see:
I'm Cuban (1984- leave cuba in 2009), and I'll try to be the most unbiased possible.
In Cuba exist two currencies the
Local citizens are paid in CUP.
The avg salary is 500 CUP ~ 20 USD by month
The health system and all kind of Education include elemental, Bachelor, Master, etc are free.
1/2 Kg (1 lb.) of chicken breast 25 CUP ~ 1 USD
1 liter (1 qt.) of whole fat milk 20 CUP ~ 0.80 USD
1 pair of Adidas trainers 50 CUC ~ 60 USD
1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas 1 CUC ~ 1.10 USD
4 rolls of toilet paper 4 CUC ~ 5 USD
2 tickets to the movies 4 CUP ~ 0.20 USD
1 Peugeot 508 (2013) 262,185.50 CUC ~ 288,404.05 USD Google it, shock
The internet access is very retristed, in this link you can see the price of the different packets http://home.enet.cu/informaciones/tarifas.htm
Here another link to the cuban version of craiglist http://www.revolico.com/
The vast majority of Cuban make business in the black market to survive.
The 20% of population have more than 60 years. Reference
Draw your own conclusion
The effects of the Cuban revolution has been wholly negative. Not only was it immediately highly negative for the economy, as any civil war is, the planned economy instigated by the communist government in Cuba has, as all planned economy, stifled the Cuban economy and doomed the country to poverty.
During the early 20th century Cuba was a prosperous country. In the graph below we can see that Cuba post war is richer than for example Italy. It was poorer than UK, France and Sweden, but richer than Spain and Portugal, to give you an idea. Basically, the country was as rich as an average European country, and one of the five most developed countries in the region.
But while the European countries quickly got their economy back on track, and in Italy's case from 1947 begins a steady economic climb for several decades, Cubas economy gets a big drop when the revolution starts in 1953, and another in the end of the revolution. Civil war is never good for the economy.
But what is significant is that after the revolution, Cuban economy does not recuperate. It doesn't start growing until the 70's. This is in a large part because of increased trade with the Soviet Union, who buy things from Cuba at an inflated price, in an effort to make Cuba a socialist success story.
In 1990, when USSR collapses, so does Cuban economy, which falls back into it's pre-revolution levels. Cuban economy has then slowly gotten better, apparently in part because small private companies are now allowed to operate, so the heavy crush of the planned economy has been loosened.
Despite this Cuba today is by all accounts a poor country, with a GDP per capita around the same level as China, a country that in 1960 had only 10% of Cubas GDP, and as late as 1993 had only half of Cubas GDP.
Although you of course can claim that these later economic problems are not an effect of the revolution, but of the economic policies of Castro, I think this is actually what is asked for. Some blame can also fall on the US embargo, but again that embargo is an effect of Castro policies (namely the expropriation of foreign companies by the Castro government), so that is again an effect of the Revolution.
And for quality of life measurements, the best we have is life expectancy:
Notice how Cuba's life expectancy is increasing rapidly already before the revolution. The increased life expectancy under socialist rule can not be attributed to the revolution. In 1980, Life expectancy reached that of Italy. Then it started lagging.