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Encyclopedia > Development geography

Development geography is the study of the Earth's geography and its relationship with economic development. It is very closely related to economic geography and development economics. This branch of human geography is intertwined with resource distribution and consumption, demographics, soil quality, topography, climate and natural disasters. As the world is divided into the More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs, also called Developed countries and First World Countries) and Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs, also Developing countries and Third World Countries) wealth (both money and materials resources) is unequally distributed among the world's population with large consequences for people's lifestyles and the environment. In development geography geographers study spatial patterns in development and try to find by what characteristics they can measure economic development. They seek to understand both the geographical causes and consequences of varying development. Economic geography is the study of the widely varying economic conditions across the earth. ... Development economics is a branch of economics that deals with the study of (i) macro - the causes of long term economic growth, and (ii) micro - the incentive issues of individual households and firms, especially in developing countries. ... Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the systematic study of patterns and processes that shape human interaction with the environment, with particular reference to the causes and consequences of the spatial distribution of human activity on the Earths surface. ... Demographics is a shorthand term for population characteristics. Demographics include age, income, mobility (in terms of travel time to work or number of vehicles available), educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, and even location. ... Surface of the Earth Topography, a term in geography, has come to refer to the lay of the land, or the physiogeographic characteristics of land in terms of elevation, slope, and orientation. ... A developed country is a nation that enjoys a relatively high standard of living through a strong high-technology diversified economy. ... A developing country is a country with a low income average, a relatively backwards infrastructure and a poor human development index when compared to the global norm. ...

Measuring Development

There are many methods that geographers use to quantify and compare the development of different countries and they have different strengths and weaknesses.

Quantitative Indicators are numerical indications of development.

  • GNP per capita measures the value of all the goods and services produced in a country, excluding those produced by foreign companies. This figure is widely used but has many problems. It does not take into account the distribution of the money which can often be extreme unequal as in the UAE where oil money has been collected by a rich elite and has not flowed to the bulk of the country. GNP does not measure whether the money produced is actually improving people's lives and this is important because in many MEDCs where there are large increases in wealth over time but only small increases in happiness. The figure rarely takes into account the unofficial economy, which includes subsistence agriculture and cash-in-hand or unpaid work, which is often substantial in LEDCs. In LEDCs it is often too expensive to accurately collect this data and some governments intentionally or unintentionally release inaccurate figures. The figure is usually given in US dollars which due to changing currency exchange rates can distort the money's true street value so it is often converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) in which the actual comparitive purchasing power of the money in the country is calculated (fOOk).
  • Social (demographic) indicators include the birth rate, death rate and fertility rate.
  • Health indicators include nutrition (calories per day, calories from protein, percentage with malnutrition), infant mortality and population per doctor.
  • Economic indicators include unemployment rates, energy consumption and percentage of GNP in primary industries.

Composite Indicators combine several quantitative indicators into one figure and generally provide a more balanced view of a country. Usually they include one economic, one health and one educational indicator. Measures of national income and output are used in economics to estimate the value of goods and services produced in an economy. ... UAE redirects here; for other uses of that term, see UAE (disambiguation) The United Arab Emirates is an oil-rich country situated in the south-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, comprising seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The (total) fertility rate of a population is the average number of child births per woman. ... Nutrition is the study of the relationship between diet and states of health and disease. ... For early system failures, see failure rate. ... Dorothea Langes Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers in California during the Great Depression. ...

  • The HDI (Human Development Index) is now the most widely used composite indicator. A number is calculated between 0 and 1 taking into account the most important measures: GNP per capita, the adult literacy rate, the school enrollment rate and life expectancy. It was started by the United Nations in 1990 to replace GNP as a more accurate way of measuring development. A HDI between 1 and 0.8 is considered high, 0.8 and 0.6 is considered medium and 0.6 to 0.4 is considered low.
  • Other composite measures include the PQLI (Physical Quality of Life Index) which was a precursor to the HDI which used infant mortality rate instead of GNP per capita and rated countries from 0 to 100. It was calculated by assigning each country a score of 0 to 100 for each indicator compared with other countries in the world. The average of these three numbers makes the PQLI of a country.
  • The HPI (Human Poverty Index) is used to calculate the percentage of people in a country who live in relative poverty. In order to better differentiate the number of people in abnormally poor living conditions the HPI-1 is used in developing countries, and the HPI-2 is used in developed countries. The HPI-1 is calculated based on the percentage of people not expected to survive to 40, the adult illiteracy rate, the percentage of people without access to safe water, health services and the percentage of children under 5 who are underweight. The HPI-2 is calculated based on the percentage of people who do not survive to 60, the adult functional illiteracy rate and the percentage of people living below 50% of median personal disposable income.
  • The GDI (Gender-related Development Index) measures gender equality in a country in terms of life expectancy, literacy rates, school attendance and income.

Qualitative Indicators include descriptions of living conditions and people's quality of life. They are useful in analysing features that are not easily converted to numbers such as freedom and security. The UN Human Development Index (HDI) measures poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, and other factors. ... Literacy is the ability to read and write. ... Life expectancy is the average ass of years remaining for a living being (or the average for a class of living beings) of a given age to live. ... Main article: League of Nations The term United Nations was coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, to refer to the Allies. ... The physical quality-of-life index (PQLI) is an attempt to measure the quality of life or well-being of a country. ... HPI, or Hobby Products International, is a leading manufacturer of radio controlled models including the monster truck Savage, the 4wd stadium truck Nitro MT2, and the 2wd stadium truck Rush. ... GDI is short for Graphics Device Interface or Graphical Device Interface, and is one of the three core components or subsystems of Microsoft Windows. ...

Data Example

HDI rank Country GDP per capita

(PPP US$) (HDI) 2002

Human development index

(HDI) value 2002

3 Australia 28,260 0.946
72 Brazil 7,770 0.775
147 Zimbabwe 2,400 0.491

Source UN Human Development Report (HDR). The UN Human Development Report is the standard for most development statistics worldwide and provides them freely on their website.

Geographic Variations in Development

It is important to grasp just how unequally distributed the world's wealth is. Economic growth over the past 50 years has been impressive. In general richer countries are improving at a faster rate than the poorer countries because they have more money to invest in improvements.

"Global wealth also increased in material terms, and during the period 1947 to 2000, average per capita incomes tripled as global GDP increased almost tenfold (from $US3 trillion to $US30 trillion)... Over 25% of the 4.5 billion people in LEDCs still have life expectancies below 40 years. More than 80 countries have a lower annual per capita income in 2000 than they did in 1990. The average income in the world's five richest countries is 74 times the level in the world's poorest five, the widest it has ever been. Nearly 1.3 billion people have no access to clean water. About 840 million people are malnourished." - Codrington, Stephen. Planet Geography 3rd Edition (2005) Page 97 [1]

The most famous pattern in development is the North-South divide. The North-South divide is the divide which separates the rich North or the developed world, from the poor South. This line of division is not as straightforward as it sounds and splits the globe into two main parts. The North-South divide is the divide which separates the rich North or the developed world, from the poor South otherwise known as the developing or third world. ...

The "North" in this divide is regarded as being North America, Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The countries within this area are generally the more economically developed. The "South" therefore encompasses the remainder of the Southern Hemisphere, mostly consisting of LEDCs. Another possible dividing line is the Tropic of Cancer with the exceptions of Australia and New Zealand. It is critical to understand that the status of countries is far from static and the pattern is likely to become distorted with the fast development of certain southern countries, many of them NICs (Newly Industrialised Countries) including Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico and others. These countries are experiencing sustained fast development on the back of growing manufacturing industries and exports. The category of Newly industrializing countries (NICs) is a social/economic classification status applied to several countries around the world by political scientists and economists. ...

Most countries are experiencing significant increases in wealth and standard of living. However there are unfortunate exceptions to this rule. Noticeably the former Soviet Union has experienced major disruption of industry in the transition to a market economy. Many African nations have recently experienced reduced GNPs due to wars and the AIDS epidemic, including Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone and others. Arab oil producers rely very heavily on oil exports to support their GDPs so any reduction in oil's market price (currently unlikely) can lead to rapid decreases in GNP. Countries which rely on only a few exports for much of their income are very vulnerable to changes in the market value of those commodities and are often derogatively called banana republics. Many developing countries do rely on exports of a few primary goods for a large amount of their income (coffee and timber for example), and this can create havoc when the value of these commodities drops, leaving these countries with no way to pay off their debts. For other uses, see Banana republic (disambiguation). ...

Within countries the pattern is that wealth is more concentrated around urban areas than rural areas. Wealth also tends towards areas with natural resources or in areas that are involved in tertiary (service) industries and trade. This leads to a gathering of wealth around mines and monetary centres such as New York, London and Tokyo.

Causes of inequality

There are many reasons why some countries develop faster than others. They can be placed under 5 headings using the mnemonic SHEEP, but there is much overlap:

  • Social

The more money a country has, the more it can spend on health care, education and birth control. Social traditions that discourage birth control increase birth rates and impede the economic development of poor countries. Different societies value hard work, material gain and social cohesion differently and this will clearly have an effect on growth and efficiency. Also, there is the vicious "poverty cycle." This is when the general attitude in developing countries is to have large amounts of children, as they are a guarantee, almost insurance for later life. However, it is hard to cope with large amounts of children, this leads to over population in a country and therefore more poverty. The cycle then starts again.

  • Historical

Historically colonialism has probably had the largest influence on development. It channeled resource wealth towards Europe and North America at the expense of many African, South American and Asian countries which did not receive reasonable prices for their goods. European colonizers build strong industries from this wealth while not investing in such development in their colonies. At the end of colonialism many countries were left without the social, economic or political structures that encouraged development so poverty became entrenched. In many cases artificial borders were drawn which did not reflect the desires of the local inhabitants, leading to civil wars or social instability. Other historical influences can include incompetent governments or a retention of tribal lifestyles that prevented countries from developing economically. World map of colonialism at the end of the Second World War in 1945. ...

  • Economic

Countries with resources such as iron ore, oil and coal are likely to develop industrially more easily because they do not have to import these resources, leading to debt. Their extraction and sale create jobs and transport systems while giving certain countries trade and political leverage over others. The resources can also earn large sums of money in trade, allowing a country to invest in other industries. Many European nations developed during the industrial revolution on the back of coal and iron industries. However, the fact that many resource-rich (oil in particular) African and Middle-Eastern nations have not developed economically while their resources are mined demonstrates that these factors are not sufficient in themselves. Often kleptocracies develop around these industries and grow very rich while investing little in the country's population itself. Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are two examples of this. In fact the wealth generated can often help to entrench an incompetent dictatorship in power or even lead to destructive resource wars as has occurred in Africa. Kleptocracy (sometimes Cleptocracy) (root: Klepto+cracy) literally means rule by thieves. ...

  • Environmental

Natural hazards including flooding, droughts, earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, hurricanes, diseases, illnesses and pests all prevent economic development. Large natural disasters can set countries back greatly in their economic development, as in periodic flooding of Bangladesh. Volcanos and floods can often have both positive and negative effects as they bring in nutrient rich sediment. Areas around volcanoes and flooding deltas are often heavily populated, as in Egypt, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Diseases such as malaria which thrive in tropical climates and AIDS which is endemic in Africa prevent people from working and create an economic burden on society. Pests such as locusts reduce agricultural output and make it more difficult for a country to earn sufficient money to escape from subsistence agriculture. Reliable sources of water are necessary for productive agriculture and to a lesser extent industry. Human induced environmental problems include desertification, salinity, water pollution, land clearing and many more. Desertification is caused by poor land management removing the nutrients necessary for plant growth. It is a worldwide problem with massive consequences for the countries it affects. Salinity is caused by poor irrigation techniques. Water pollution from industry can include acids and bases, poisonous minerals and material with a high BOD which cause algal blooms. This pollution makes it more difficult for a populations to access fresh water. Logging initially brings in investment but often land with trees removed is of far reduced agricultural value and is vulnerable to desertification. Logged rain forests are especially vulnerable to mineral leeching due to high rainfall and often become worthless. As tourism is now a major source of income for most LEDCs it is necessary to care for natural resources which can bring in this long-term source of wealth. Subsistence agriculture is agriculture carried out for survival — with few or no crops available for sale. ... Ship stranded by the retreat of the Aral Sea Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi arid and dry sub-humid areas into desert, resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities. ... Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Bod may have the meaning of: Bod, the Tibetan name of Tibet Bod, a town in BraÅŸov county, Romania Bod is a BBC childrens television programme from 1975. ...

  • Political

Countries are far more likely to develop when they have stable governments that well macro-manage the economy and invest in national infrastructure, trade, environmental management and avoid civil wars. The rule of law is necessary to make investors feel confident enough to send their money into a country. Clear legal rules on property ownership provides people the opportunity to use the property for collateral on loans for capital development, or sell some property to achieve capital for other endeavors. Ensuring workers rights can mean that workers receive more money and can pull themselves out of poverty but can have the effect of encouraging multinationals to leave the country and seek other countries with fewer restrictions. It has been suggested that good governance is a prerequisite for economic development and most aid-donor countries now recognise that much of their money has achieved nothing due to corrupt recipients. For this reason standards of governance are now requirements for most aid money. Unfortunately, many governments, especially in Africa, are either unable or unwilling to help their own countries develop and without this support a country can rarely progress.

Issues to come:

Access to food, education and shelter



Environmental Sustainability of development

See also

Sources A boy from an East Cipinang trash dump slum in Jakarta, Indonesia shows his find. ... Aid is assistance, often financial, provided to developing countries by developed countries. ... Demography is the study of human population dynamics. ...

Codrington, Stephen. Planet Geography 3rd Edition (2005) Section A [2]

  Results from FactBites:
Development geography - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2284 words)
Development geography is the study of the Earth's geography and its relationship with economic development.
It is very closely related to economic geography and development economics.
This branch of human geography is intertwined with resource distribution and consumption, demographics, soil quality, topography, climate and natural disasters.
Economic development - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1244 words)
Economic development is the development of economic wealth of countries or regions for the well-being of their inhabitants.
The economic development process supposes that legal and institutional adjustments are made to give incentives for innovation and for investments so as to develop an efficient production and distribution system for goods and service.
The first approaches to development economics assumed that the economies of the less developed countries (LDCs), were so different from the developed countries that basic economics could not explain the behavior of LDC economies.
  More results at FactBites »



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