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Change of pace: Accelerations and advances during the Millennium Development Goal era


  • McArthur, John W.
  • Rasmussen, Krista


This paper presents a quantitative investigation of trends before and after the establishment of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to determine which trajectories changed where, and to what scale of human consequence. We perform three empirical assessments: a count of countries that accelerated their rate of progress post-2000; statistical t-tests for differences in mean country rates of progress; and a determination of the incremental lives saved or improved (or not) due to accelerated progress above pre-MDG trends. We find that low-income countries and sub-Saharan African countries had positive acceleration on a majority of indicators and accounted for much of the world’s post-2000 accelerations. Middle-income countries typically registered larger cumulative gains but less acceleration over the period. The greatest advances were in matters of life and death. At least 20.9 million and as many as 30.3 million additional lives were saved due to accelerated rates of progress, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for approximately two-thirds of the total. Primary school completion also showed considerable overall acceleration, leading to at least 74 million more children having finished primary school. Other measures of basic needs – including undernourishment, access to water and access to sanitation – showed mixed patterns of acceleration. Headcount rates of extreme income poverty declined at an accelerated rate in most regions. Environmental indicators showed no systematic evidence of faster progress.

Suggested Citation

  • McArthur, John W. & Rasmussen, Krista, 2018. "Change of pace: Accelerations and advances during the Millennium Development Goal era," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 132-143.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:132-143
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.12.030

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lange, Simon & Klasen, Stephan, 2017. "How the New International Goal for Child Mortality is Unfair to Sub-Saharan Africa (Again)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 128-146.
    2. Jacob, Arun, 2017. "Mind the Gap: Analyzing the Impact of Data Gap in Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) Indicators on the Progress toward MDGs," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 260-278.
    3. Charles Kenny, Andy Sumner, 2011. " More Money or More Development: What Have the MDGs Achieved- Working Paper 278," Working Papers 278, Center for Global Development.
    4. Fukuda-Parr, Sakiko & Greenstein, Joshua & Stewart, David, 2013. "How Should MDG Success and Failure be Judged: Faster Progress or Achieving the Targets?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 19-30.
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    1. McArthur, John W. & Rasmussen, Krista, 2019. "Classifying Sustainable Development Goal trajectories: A country-level methodology for identifying which issues and people are getting left behind," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 1-1.


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