Graph of the Week

Created: 2000-08-31
Last Modified: 2000-09-12
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Graph of the Week: World Productivity Inequality

J. Bradford DeLong

August 2000


  • The world's spread in relative productivity and wealth covers a range of nearly fifty-fold, from the United States down to Afghanistan or Mozambique.
  • The richest countries in the world are all located in the temperate zones--and all escaped having communist governments.
  • The moderately-poor countries of the world are either former communist countries, or tropical countries that have suffered from rapid population growth, bad public health, and low investment throughout the twentieth century.
  • The really poor countries of the world are African countries where, it seems, everything has gone wrong--plus Afghanistan.
  • The temperate non-communist countries today are rich because their environments gave them an edge in the spread of people, ideas, institutions, and technologies from the similar environments of the industrial revolution's northwest European heartland.
  • Will the tropics stay so relatively poor? It is doubtful. Population growth rates will fall as countries pass through the demographic transition. Public health will improve. And over time tropical countries will shift out of poor-productivity agriculture into their comparative advantage in service exports and light manufacturing.

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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