Economic Growth Had Little To Do With Increases In Human Development: UNDP

women in bangladesh photo

photo: Ranier Ebert via flickr.

Right up front, I warn you that this one is sort of wonky. But everyone should really pay attention as the implications of economists George Molina and Mark Purser of the UNDP's research are pretty big. Times of India has gotten ahold of an as-yet-unreleased report, produced for the 20th anniversary Human Development Report, which shows that between 1970-2005 economic growth had little do to with increases in human development. Not that there haven't been increases in development as measured by the Human Development Index--there decidedly have been--but these can't be correlated with economic growth, still less globalization. Rather (quoting from Times of India),

They had to do with decision by states to expand their educational and health systems, coupled by initiatives of the international community to enable access to vaccines and antibiotics said Francisco R Rodriguez, Head of Research Team, Human Development Report Office, UNDP, commenting on Molina and Pursers paper. The increase in human development is actually an example of how state intervention works, he added.

Furthermore, the paper found that empowerment of women broadly and household-level decisions about family planning and female schooling were strong drivers of increases in human development over time.

Fast Growing Economy Doesn't Guarantee Development
In general, Molina and Purser found "the forces that drive economic growth are not the same as the ones that drive human development." In fact, with the exception of China and South Korea, the nations with the greatest increases in HDI were not the ones showing greatest economic increases. What's more several poor nations have caught up with richer nations in the non-income aspects of HDI.

We've Known This, But Report Reinforces...
To some degree we've actually known this for a while. There's been plenty of work done showing that past a very modest level of income happiness, life satisfaction, as well all the other components that go into measuring human development are disconnected from economic growth. Past that low threshold, social decisions play a large role than strictly economic ones.

Now let's just hope this new research has some impact outside of policy circles, dispelling the all to prevalent notion that more, more, more is the way forward and that GDP is actual a measurement of progress.

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More on Human Development:
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