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The Geography of Poverty and Wealth
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Andrew D. Mellinger and John L. Gallup

The text of the article, "The Geography of Poverty and Wealth," published in the March 2001 issue of Scientific American is now online. Provided below is an abstract, associated papers and datasets for the article.

If you have any questions about the data, papers, and links on this page, please contact us.


Abstract for  "The Geography of Poverty and Wealth"

Why are some countries stupendously rich and others horrendously poor? Most economists today have downplayed or neglected the role that physical geography plays in economic performance, instead they implicitly assume that all areas of the world have the same prospects for economic development. Our findings, based on newly available data and analyses using geographic information systems, suggest otherwise. Geography plays an important role in shaping the distribution of world income and economic growth.

On a global scale we examined the relationship between climate, proximity to a sea-navigable waterway, and economic development in terms of GNP per capita. Coastal regions and those near navigable waterways are far richer and more densely settled than interior regions. Moreover, an area's climate can adversely affect its economic development through higher rates of infectious diseases and lower agricultural productivity. Temperate zones near to the sea account for 8 percent of the world’s inhabited land area, 23 percent of the world’s population, and 53 percent of the world’s GNP. The very poorest regions in the world, on the other hand, are saddled with long distances to coastal-based trade and a tropical or desert ecology.

If our findings are true, aid programs for developing countries will have to be revamped to specifically address the problems imposed by geography so they can point the way to prosperity.

 

CID/HIID Research on Geography & Economic Growth

CID Recommended Links on Geography and Economic Growth




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Copyright 2001 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Last revised 2/21/2001