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Development Policy and the Poor, Part 2: Preferential Option for the Poor


  • Charles M. A. Clark


In a previous essay (Part 1), we examined the economic arguments for development policies that placed certain groups at the vanguard of development policy, making note of the place of the poor in these arguments. In this essay (Part 2), we look at the case for making the poor the central focus of development policy, following the principle in Catholic social thought of the “preferential option for the poor.” That principle recommends evaluation of policies and outcomes first and foremost on how they affect the poor. In looking at the U.N. development agenda, from the first development decade to the millennium development goals and sustainable development goals, we can see a tension between economic growth and eradication of poverty. Over time, a shift in focus has occurred towards placing the poor at the center of development policy. By focusing on the poor and poverty eradication, development policy becomes more about human flourishing, which, ironically, produces higher levels of growth in developing countries. It does, however, lower the growth rate of developed countries, as it reduces their privileged position.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles M. A. Clark, 2021. "Development Policy and the Poor, Part 2: Preferential Option for the Poor," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 80(4), pages 1131-1154, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:80:y:2021:i:4:p:1131-1154
    DOI: 10.1111/ajes.12425

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. United Nations UN, 2015. "The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015," Working Papers id:7097, eSocialSciences.
    2. Charles M. A. Clark, 2012. "From The Wealth of Nations to Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples): Wealth and Development from the Perspective of the Catholic Social Thought Tradition," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(4), pages 1047-1072, October.
    3. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
    4. United Nations UN, 2015. "The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015," Working Papers id:7222, eSocialSciences.
    5. Alkire, Sabina & Santos, Maria Emma, 2014. "Measuring Acute Poverty in the Developing World: Robustness and Scope of the Multidimensional Poverty Index," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 251-274.
    6. Charles M.A. Clark, 1992. "Economic Theory And Natural Philosophy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 89.
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