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Why Isn't the Whole World Developed?

  • Richard A. Easterlin (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2009

The worldwide spread of modern economic growth has depended chiefly on the diffusion of a body of knowledge concerning new production techniques. The acquisition and application of this knowledge by different countries has been governed largely by whether their populations have acquired traits and motivations associated with formal schooling. To judge from the historical experience of the world's twenty-five largest nations, the establishment and expansion of formal schooling has depended in large part on political conditions and ideological influences. The limited spread of modern economic growth before World War II has thus been due, at bottom, to important political and ideological differences throughout the world that affected the timing of the establishment and expansion of mass schooling. Since World War II there has been growing uniformity among the nations of the world, modern education systems have been established almost everywhere, and the spread of modern economic growth has noticeably accelerated.

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Rondo Cameron , “The Diffusion of Technology as a Problem in Economic History,” Economic Geography, 51 (071975), 217–30;

William N. Parker , “Economic Development in Historical Perspective,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, 10 (101961), 17;

Nathan Rosenberg , “Economic Development and the Transfer of Technology: Some Historical Perspectives,” Technology and Culture, 11 (101970), 555, emphasis added.

Douglass C. North and Robert Paul Thomas , The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History (Cambridge, 1973);

Alexander L. Peaslee , “Education's Role in Development,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, 17 (041969), 293318. Although enrollment is used here in preference to literacy because it is a more reliable indicator of the expansion of formal mass schooling, valuable work has been done to develop historical literacy data.

Alex Inkeles and David H. Smith , Becoming Modern (Cambridge, 1974);

Alex Inkeles , “The School as a Context for Modernization,” International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 14, no. 3–4 (0912. 1973), 163–79;

David C. McClelland , “Does Education Accelerate Economic Growth?Economic Development and Cultural Change, 14 (041966), 257–78;

William Form , “Comparative Industrial Sociology and the Convergence Hypothesis,” Annual Review of Sociology, 5 (1979), 125.

Marius B. Jansen and Lawrence Stone , “Education and Modernization in Japan and England,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 9 (011967), 208–32;

Roger S. Schofield , “Dimensions of Illiteracy, 1750–1850”, Explorations in Economic History, 10 (Summer 1973), 437–54;

Robert Summers , Irving B. Kravis , and Alan Heston , “International Comparison of Real Product and Its Composition: 1950–77,” The Review of Income and Wealth, Series 26, No. 1 (031980);

Everett E. Hagen and Oli Hawrylyshyn , “Analysis of world Income and Growth, 1955–1965”, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 18, no. 1, part II (101969).

John W. Meyer , John Boli-Bennett , and Christopher Chase-Dunn , “Convergence and Divergence in Development,” in Alex Inkeles , ed., Annual Review of Sociology, 1 (Palo Alto, 1975), p. 228.

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
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