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Created: 2001-04-12
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The Convergence Club

J. Bradford DeLong

April 2001

map key:
dark purple--members of convergence club
light purple--perhaps members of convergence club
green--former members of convergence club
olive--perhaps former members: not clear they ever really belonged

  • William Baumol proposed thinking about the worldwide pattern of growth in terms of the "convergence club": which economies have already effectively removed or are narrowing the gap between their productivity levels, living standards, and industrial structures and those found in the world's industrial core? And which are still falling further behind in relative terms?
  • In the middle of the nineteenth century, the world's "convergence club" was very small: Britain, Belgium, and the northeastern United States. There were other rich economies (the U.S. south, for example) but they had very different industrial structures; and industrialization was spreading to still other economies (Germany, for example) but they were not yet relatively rich.
  • By 1900 the world's "convergence club" had spread to include much of North America, the southern cone of South America, Australia and New Zealand, western Europe, perhaps South Africa, and Japan.
  • By the interwar period Stalin's Soviet Union had clearly joined the convergence club, as had Brazil and Peru, as had the southern United States, as had the French-ruled regions of North Africa. Moreover, there were signs that perhaps coastal west and east Africa were also diminishing the relative gap.
  • The post-World War II period sees an astonishing shift in the convergence club
    • East Asia joins, and after 1980 China and India join too.
    • The Soviet Union leaves the convergence club, as does the southern cone of Latin America, as do those parts of Africa that had looked to be closing the relative gap in the interwar period.

Professor of Economics J. Bradford DeLong, 601 Evans Hall, #3880
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax

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