Briefing Paper

Leandro Prados de la Escosura

Substantial gains in world human development have been achieved since 1870, but research shows that the main improvement actually occurred between the First World War and 1970.

Human Development as Positive FreedomPhoto by 1xpert /iStock.

Summary points:

  • Substantial gains in world human development have been achieved since 1870, but research shows that the main improvement actually occurred between the First World War and 1970.
     
  • Across-the-board advances took place in life expectancy and education between 1920 and 1950, a phase during which there was a major backlash against economic globalization. This is evidence of a development puzzle: economic growth and human development do not always go hand in hand.
     
  • Between 1913 and 1970 the absolute gap between most countries in the OECD and the rest of the world widened, with different regions experiencing mixed success in catching up. Since the 1970s the performance of developing regions has varied greatly.
     
  • Despite initial successes in lifting human development, the socialist experiments of the 20th century failed to sustain momentum and then (with the exception of Cuba) stagnated and fell behind prior to the socialist model’s ultimate demise.
     
  • Education has been the driving force behind the limited catching-up of developing regions in terms of long-term human development. In terms of life expectancy,these regions achieved significant gains only during the first (early-life) health transition. Since 1970, while most OECD countries have experienced a second (later-life) health transition, all developing regions have fallen behind.
Project: Shifting Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy 


Launch event

Human Development as Positive Freedom: A World View Since 1870
26 February 2014