IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A Half-Century of Development


  • Cooper, Richard


Development as a global policy objective dates from the 1940s. Relative to expectations then, the world economy performed outstandingly well during the second half of the 20th century. Worldwide growth in average per capita income exceeded two percent a year (historically unprecedented), many poor countries became rich, infant mortality declined, diets improved, longevity increased, diseases were contained if not vanquished. Poverty on the World Bank definition of $1 a day (in 1985$) declined dramatically, and the number of persons in poverty was halved despite a more than doubling of the world population. Variations occurred over time and space, with rapid growth being concentrated in Europe and Japan early in the period, then moving to east Asia, southeast Asia, and south Asia. Growth in the 1950s and especially the 1960s exceeded that in later decades. Examples of high growth could be found in every continent, but on average sub-Saharan Africa fared much less well than other regions. Declines in national per capita income were rare, and concentrated in Africa. Civil disorder was a common but not the universal cause of low growth. Median world income gained relative to the well-off, but both spurted ahead of the poorest. World exports grew more rapidly than output, often leading the way. Many countries gradually shifted their exports from primary products to labor-intensive manufactured goods, and as development proceeded to more sophisticated manufactures and services. The fraction of the labor force devoted to agriculture declined significantly. One country after another achieved social stability, created the right incentives for effort and risk-taking, and engaged constructively with the world economy, which facilitated economic growth. Those that lagged failed to meet one or more of these conditions. Civil and political liberties also spread during this period, although less certainly and less securely. On the whole, it was a good half century for mankind. The substantial poverty and misery that still exists should not lead to neglect or even denial of these achievements.

Suggested Citation

  • Cooper, Richard, 2005. "A Half-Century of Development," Scholarly Articles 3677048, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3677048

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2002. "Growth Is Good for the Poor," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 195-225, September.
    2. Helliwell, John F., 1994. "Empirical Linkages Between Democracy and Economic Growth," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(02), pages 225-248, April.
    3. Bates, Robert H, 1993. "The Politics of Economic Policy Reform: Review Article," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 2(3), pages 417-433, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Yuefen Li & Bin Zhang, 2008. "Development Path of China and India and the Challenges for their Sustainable Growth," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(10), pages 1277-1291, October.
    2. Osakwe, Patrick N. & Ben Hammouda, Hakim, 2006. "Financing Development in Africa: Trends, Issues and Challenges," MPRA Paper 1815, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Charles Kenny, 2009. "There's more to life than money: Exploring the levels|growth paradox in income and health," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(1), pages 24-41.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3677048. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Office for Scholarly Communication). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.