Thursday, August 5, 2010

World Poverty Rates Graph

The photos Mat linked to reminded me of this graph I found a while ago--probably linked from Cafe Hayek--and just hadn't gotten around to posting it here. I believe MENA = Middle East & North Africa.
Some thoughts generated by this graph:
1. People were worse off in East Asia than in Africa before 1980.
2. Maybe it's time to buy some stocks in African companies on the chance that economic development starts to take off there. There are a couple of ETFs that track Africa or Africa + the Middle East. Could Africa pull it off or will they languish in poverty for decades to come? I would bet on the former.
3. Don't believe anyone who insists that life on earth is getting worse (at least materially).
4. How many of our crises are crises of affluence? In other words, we only have time to worry about the social issues of the day because we're not subsistence farmers.


  1. I use this exact same graph in my class when I talk about technology driving economic growth.

    Most (or at least a fair portion of) the poverty reduction in East Asia is due to the green revolution.

    We had a former professor come and speak last week who is now currently the director of the Social Sciences division at the International Rice Research Institute. They're still developing new varieties of rice that are drought tolerant, flood tolerant, disease tolerant, etc., but they haven't had any new variety (or germplasm, I have no idea what the difference is) adopted on a wide scale since the 70s.

  2. I figured it was the opening of Japanese and Korean markets. I hadn't thought about the Green Revolution. But, that makes sense. If you are spending less time and resources on subsistence that allows you to invest in other activities and have folks with specialized skills. Since most of the data for East Asia are driven by what happens in China then the Green Revolution effect would definitely outweigh whatever happened in Japan and Korea.

    I've never really contemplated the differences between germplasm and a variety. My impression is that germplasm is a larger source of genetic diversity while a variety is just one line that is developed by crossing varieties from different germplasm backgrounds.

  3. Trade liberalization is probably the other main component of the decrease in poverty since 1970 in Asia.

    Hmm. Some plant scientists giggled at a water conservation meeting I was at a few months ago when the economics group mentioned research into drought-tolerant varieties of crops. "Don't you mean germplasms?" they asked like a bunch of 1980s-era high school movie bullies. I hate them so much.