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Table of Contents


Move Toward Capitalism

Free Trade

Measures of Economic Development

Economic Activities

Economic Systems


More Developed vs. Less Developed

Human Development Index






Economic Geography: A Global Study


Economic Geography is the study of how people earn their living, how economic systems vary by area and how economic activities are spatially interrelated and linked. We cannot evaluate the infinite variety of all the people of the earth and how they make their living. Economic geographers seek consistencies and attempt to develop generalizations to understand the variations.

All over the world, economies are undergoing an economic adjustment process. This process is described by many different names like structural adjustment, globalization, export oriented industrialization and sometimes simply economic development. Generally these changes involve a movement from more government involvement in the economy to less government involvement or from command economies to capitalist economies.










Global Trends


I. A Move Toward Capitalism

CAPITALISM: An economy where economic resources are privately owned and economic decisions are answered by the marketplace with a limited role for government

COMMAND ECONOMY: An economic system where economic resources are owned by the government and the government makes all economic decisions

Comparing the Broad Social Goals of Command and Market Economies






ownership of resources

government ownership

private ownership

decision making

centrally planned

by the market


social good

self interest and profit

prices and wages

set by the government

often distorted

set by the market

change with market



full employment

low inflation

low standard of living


more equal distribution

economic efficiency

periods of unemployment

periods of inflation

high standard of living

wide range available

less equal distribution


corruption=self interest

lack of incentives

distorted prices


monopoly= inefficiency


changing prices







Mixed Economic System

o   ALL economic systems are mixed systems containing features of both command economies and capitalist economies.

o   PURE capitalism and PURE command economies do not exist.

o   Economies vary along a continuum between pure capitalism and pure command economies.


Structural Adjustment: A series of economic policies designed to reduce the role of government in the economy by replacing government control with market incentives. The goal is to promote private initiative and private investment, thereby creating jobs and economic growth.



    1.  Privatization (selling government owned assets to private owners)

    2.  Promotion of Competition

    3.  Limited and Reoriented Role for Government

    4.  Price Reform: removing government price controls, letting the market set prices

    5.  Joining the World Economy through freer trade

    6.  Macroeconomic Stability: lower government budget deficits and less government spending to reduce inflation and promote private investment


    Benefits: A market-based economic system achieves efficiency. Fewer resources are wasted.

    Problems: Common problems associated with structural adjustment include: initial periods of inflation, unemployment and a less equal distribution of income.

    Because of these problems, structural adjustment policies have become quite controversial.











II. Free Trade


    Benefits of Free TradeThis container ship has just left Brunsbüttel Locks and moves towards Kiel Canal, Germany.

o   Scores of studies have shown that lowering trade barriers makes everyone better off.

o   Citizens in countries that have an average tariff rate of 4% or less have an average per-capita income of $17,000 compared to only about $2,000 for those in countries where tariff rates are 20% or more.

o   Countries with open trade policies register economic growth at an average rate of 4.5% annually -- compared to only 1% among those with closed borders.

o   GDP among countries with open policies has grown an average of 2.3% annually -- contrasted to growth of only 0.7% annually among those with restrictive policies.

o   Protectionism costs the world economy upward of $450 billion a year.

o   Numerous free-trade pacts signed over the past ten years have contributed mightily to the US economy.

o   Trade accounts for almost 25% of US GDP.

o   More than 12 million US workers owe their jobs directly to exports.

o   The goal of economic activity is to produce more products for us, NOT to make us work more.

o   Free trade leads to a more efficient use of resources (productive efficiency) and higher standards of living.

o   Free trade changes the jobs in a formerly closed economy but it has little effect on the unemployment rate.

o   Free trade is morally good. In fact it is great, because it has integrated previously marginalized, poor people into the world economy and provided them with higher standards of living.

o   Free trade is better and more powerful than bureaucratic elites and their “North-South dialogues”. Free trade is real, powerful and beneficial because it will transfer power from developed countries to developing ones.

o   Leftist critics of free trade (the anti-globalization movement) are in fact conservative, they want to retain the status quo.

o   Free trade refers to the lowering of trade barriers and the liberalization of economic policies and labor laws.

o   Free trade creates losers, but it creates more winners than losers.

o   Free trade creates jobs. Millions of jobs. Maybe not great jobs, but a job in a factory is better than no job at all.

o   Free trade can be stopped, but this requires a more powerful state that can repress individual rights and freedoms. This is undemocratic.

o   Free trade is associated with democracy. Where we have free trade, we will generally have democracy and more freedoms.

    Criticisms of Free Trade

o   Free trade increases inequality in the world.

o   Free trade increases poverty in the world. Or at least, it does not decrease it.

o   Free trade creates a “race to the bottom” in terms of workers’ rights, wages, environmental standards and child labor as states, regions and even towns compete to attract mobile business.

o   Free trade is un- or anti-democratic. Transnational corporations are immune from voters. Free trade strips power away from democratic institutions.

o   Free trade is racist and/or sexist. Free trade generally privileges white male executives. Free trade generally punishes people of color and women. Advocates of free trade are mostly white men. Critic of free trade are often people of color, people from poorer countries, women.

o   Free trade is basically a new form of colonialism and exploitation.

o   Free trade destroys traditional cultures that have developed over millennia.

    All recent US presidents, a majority of the US Congress and a majority of the US public support the removal of trade barriers.

    Some very vocal groups do often argue that free trade will hurt the US, but they are definitely in the minority.

    Countries around the world are lowering their trade barriers. Many are signing bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with their neighbors.


    Why do most economists support free trade?

Do you think like an economist? Take this Quiz.

Most economists would answer "A" to all questions on the quiz. The goal of economic activity is to produce more products for us, NOT to make us work more.

Free trade leads to a more efficient use of resources (productive efficiency) and higher standards of living.

Free trade changes the jobs in a formerly closed economy but it has little effect on the unemployment rate.


Optional Resources

Crossing Borders: The Globalization Debate

Geography and Economic Growth from Marginal Revolution University (2:32)

Puzzle of Growth: Rich Countries and Poor Countries from Marginal Revolution University (8:32)

Trade and Economic Growth Part I

Trade and Economic Growth Part II

Job Losses Unfairly Tarnish Benefits of Free Trade

NAFTA Benefits Arizona

More Trade, Less Poverty

Costs and Benefits of Globalization (PDF)

The Three Faces of Globalization (PDF)

Gap between Economic Elite and General Public Created Not by Differences in Expertise but in Priorities

We, the Economy Films: Chapter 4: What is globalization?

o   What is the global trade system? What does it mean to have a globalized economy? And is it good for us? Seven experts break it all down as a troupe of comedic actors enliven the commentary.

o   What happens when jobs disappear? Detroit has been the poster child for the loss of well-paid manufacturing jobs, but this trend impacts communities all over the country. How does a great American city bounce back?

o   Is China's boom good for our economy? China is often portrayed as America’s greatest economic competitor and even accused of not playing fair. But is it possible they could be a key ally in US economic development?

o   What do human rights have to do with the economy? As consumers in a rapidly growing world economy, we have an insatiable appetite for the next greatest electronic gadget, like smart phones and TVs. But can we consume cheap imported products without exploiting someone in the supply chain?

For some excellent discussions about globalization and many related topics, try SUNY’s site












Measures of Economic Development


Economic development is a difficult concept to define and to achieve. Economists often use an increase in GDP per capita as the measure of economic development.

The present trend in economic development aid is often stated as TRADE, NOT AID, which favors the removal of restrictions on trade with poorer countries (LDCs) rather than increased financial aid. (As a percent of GNP, the US is NOT a leader in foreign aid donations.)

EXPORT ORIENTED INDUSTRIALIZATION: an economic development strategy which emphasizes production for export and few restrictions on imports … the leading development strategy today … South Korea

IMPORT SUBSTITUTION INDUSTRIALIZATION: an economic development strategy which restricts imports to generate a domestic market for the country's products … common in the past, less common today … India, Sri Lanka


Economic Development

Change in China's Growth-at-Any-Cost Model


Measures of Economic Development

1. GNP per capita: the total market value of all final goods and services produced by a country in one year. It is a measure of economic activity, or how much is produced in a country. The more that a country produces per person, the more "developed" it is assumed to be.

 2. Population Growth

 3. Occupational Structure of the Labor Force: Economic geographers divide economic activities into primary activities, secondary activities and tertiary activities. (Some add quaternary activities and quinary activities.)

o  PRIMARY ACTIVITIES are those that directly remove resources from the earth. Generally they include agriculture, mining, fishing and lumbering.

o  SECONDARY ACTIVITIES involve converting resources into finished products. These are manufacturing activities.

o  TERTIARY ACTIVITIES comprise the service sector of the economy. Tertiary activities include retailing, transportation, education, banking, etc.

 4. Urbanization: he percentage of a country's population who live in urban areas. Urban areas generally means in towns and cities of 2,500 or more people. Currently just less than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Generally as countries develop urbanization increases.

 5. Consumption per capita: Consumption per person is a good indicator of development. The richer a country is, the more its citizens consume.

 6. Infrastructure: the foundations of a society: urban centers, transport networks, communications, energy distribution systems, farms, factories, mines and such facilities as schools, hospitals, postal services and police and armed forces.

Stranded passengers wait inside a stalled train as they wait for the services to resume after a power outage in New Delhi, India.

 7.  Social Conditions

o   literacy rate

o   life expectancy

o   health care

o   caloric intake

o   infant mortality

o   other



[More about measuring development below.]














Economic Activities


One way to view economic activity is along a continuum of both increasing complexity of product or service and increasing distance from the natural environment.

In general more money/profit is made the higher the activity.

Primary industries are tied to the natural resources they gather or exploit. Location is determined on the availability of these resources.

The other activities -- secondary, tertiary, quaternary -- are increasingly divorced from the condition of the physical environment. Location is less and less important and these activities are movable.



A. Primary Sector Activities: Extraction or GrowthEMPLOYMENT IN AGRICULTURE MAP

    1.  hunting and gathering

    2.  agriculture and herding

        a.  environmental issues (Green Revolution)

            o   salinity

            o   groundwater depletion

            o   genetic losses

            o   pollution

            o   deforestation

        b.  sustainability

                        Farmers Around the World



Grow Food For













Africa (average)



    3.  gathering (forestry, fishing)STRUCTURE OF US ECONOMY BY SECTOR


    4.  extraction

        a.  mining

        b.  oil


Extreme Energy Goes Global

GEOG 1303 Margin Notes: Primary Sector

Tragedy of the Commons



B. Secondary Sector Activities: Manufacturing and Processing, also construction and power production (value-added)

     1.  traditionalCement Factory Panorama At Night - Michael Utech More

            a.  fixed costs (supplies, minimum wage)

            b.  location factors (land, labor, transportation, taxes, interdependence)

            c.  outsourcing (competitive advantage)

            d.  transnational corporations

    2.  high tech

            a.  regionally concentrated

            b.  specialized by area



C. Tertiary Sector Activities: Services (quaternary, quinary)

    1.  low level: local services

    2.  tourism

    3.  high level: skill based, spatially dispersed



D. Patterns of Change

    1.  dependency theory: development in one place requires under-development somewhere else


    2.  cumulative causation: buildup of advantages from an initial advantageChange in British Economic Activities over Time

        o  self-propelling process

        o  agglomeration

        o  attraction to core

        o  depletes periphery


    3.  spread effects

        o  positive impact of growth in core

        o  lower costs in periphery provide goods and services to core

        o  may start own cumulative causation cycle


    4. normal individual and country changes

        o  improvements in technology allow for mechanization ... particularly important in agriculture

        o  raw materials run out or become too expensive to mine

        o  workers prefer well paid, less “dirty” tertiary jobs to primary jobs

        o  increased tertiary employment results from improvements in technology

        o  secondary industries decline in MDCs because of competition from NICs that have cheaper labor costs



E. Working in LDCs vs MDCx

Most people in MDCs have formal jobs in which they have regular hours, a weekly set wage, reasonable working conditions and pay taxes.

In LDCs, while many people do have formal jobs many have Informal jobs. These jobs don't involve the payment of taxes, are often unskilled and labor intensive, require little money to set up and offer no protection to the worker if they are sick or fall on hard times. Examples of informal jobs include shoe shining, beach vendors and small shanty town businesses. All rob governments of valuable tax money but provide an income for people with next to nothing.












Economic Systems


For the most part, national economies fall into one of three major types of system.


    In a subsistence economy, goods and services are created for the use of the producers and their kinship groups; there is a limited cash economy.

    In commercial / market economies, producers or their agents freely market their goods and services ... supply and demand.

    In planned economies, which are associated with communist-controlled societies, government agencies control supply and prices.


Very few people in the world are exclusively members of one of these systems. In a given country one of these three economic systems are dominant, but also changing.



The Flow of Goods

The flow of goods is the response to the uneven distribution of resources.


Edward Ullman observed that spatial interaction is effectively controlled by three flow-determining factors:

Complementarity: For two places to interact one place must have a supply of a product for which there is an effective demand in another place. Keep in mind the buyer must desire the product and have the ability to pay.

Transferability: an expression of the mobility of a product and is a function of:

    The value of the product

    The distance measured in time and money

    The ability of the commodity to bear the costs of movement

    Transferability is not a constant condition.

Intervening Opportunity: Goods will move only in the absence of a more attractive alternative which may be closer or cheaper. Examples: Sand, Fruit in California, Job Opportunities



Location of Economic Activities

The following factors can effect the location of secondary economic activities:

Raw Materials: The processing of raw materials tends to take place near where the material is found.

Material orientation: the tendency of an economic activity to locate near or at its source of raw materials.

Power Supply: Some power supplies are not mobile. Such was the case in the early part of the Industrial Revolution when water power sites localized textile works. Fuel supplies (initially charcoal, later coking coal) drew the iron and steel industries to where fuel supplies are plentiful.

Labor: Labor is also a spatial variable affecting location decisions and industrial development. Some activities require cheap unskilled labor and others demand highly trained/educated labor.

Market: Goods are produced to supply a market demand. Therefore, the size, nature and distribution of markets may be as important in industrial location decisions as are raw materials, energy, labor or other factors. When the transportation charges for sending finished goods to market and are a relatively high proportion of the total value of the good, then the attraction of location near to the consumer is obvious and market orientation results.

Energy: often needed in manufacture of goods

Capital: businesses need money in order to get started

Land: for secondary industry, large areas of flat cheap land are often needed and room to expand is preferred

Transport: roads, rivers and rail offer ways for businesses to move inputs and finished products

Government policy: the British government used to give money to companies to locate in depressed areas




Some industries engage in weight reduction to minimize transportation costs.

    Copper smelting

Some industries operate on a weight gaining production to minimize costs.

    Soft drinks

Finished goods and raw materials can be moved several ways including:

    Water transportation





The transportation method used will be dependent on the value and the physical form the product.



Major Manufacturing Regions of the World

There are four commonly recognized major manufacturing regions of the world including:

    Eastern Anglo America

    Western and Central Europe

    Eastern Europe

    Eastern Asia

These may be the most prominent areas right now but some of the secondary areas are becoming more and more important.

Anglo-American Manufacturing Belt

Although declining in importance, the Anglo-American industrial belt is still a major force in world industrial production. The beginnings of the Anglo American manufacturing belt first emerged in New England in the early 19th century where water was used to power the industries and later to the cities on the East Coast. The core of development was across the Appalachians into the interior along the Ohio River Valley and the Great Lakes.

This area peaked in the 1950s and 1960s and has been declining as an industrial area (Rust Belt).

La Frontera

North America’s fastest growing industrial region lies along the US-Mexican border. This area is called La Frontera by the Mexicans that are employed there. This is a product of NAFTA and outsourcing by US and foreign firms who piece together products for duty-free import to the US. These industrial plants are called maquiladoras.

Western Europe

Western Europe is where the Industrial Revolution began and this area has been a source area for the diffusion of industrialization across the globe. By 1900, Europe accounted for 90% of the world’s industrial output. This has dropped significantly especially after World War II. Like the US, much of this industrialization was fueled by good transportation network, abundant amounts of coal and iron ore deposits.

Eastern Europe

The industrial areas of Eastern Europe were under Communist control from World War II to 1990, with an emphasis on heavy industry. This industry was for the most part, poorly planned, technologically antiquated and had poor waste disposal and handling practices, which resulted an industry that poisoned many areas and is not competitive in a global economy.

Eastern Asia

The Eastern Asia sphere is rapidly becoming the most productive of the world’s industrial districts.

Japan: second ranked in the world

China: has a rich resource base, massive labor force and a nearly insatiable market-demand … is industrializing rapidly and ranks among the top ten of industrial products produced.

Four smaller Asian economies: Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore -- have become major manufacturing and trading forces in the world market.


Automotive plant using industrial robotics technology



High Tech Activities

High tech industries include:


    Information packaging/manipulation (software)

    Electronics, computers (hardware)


    Medical technologies (pharmaceuticals)


Location of High Tech Activities

At least five location tendencies of high tech industry have been recognized:

    Availability of first quality communication and transportation facilities

    Proximity to major universities and research facilities

    Avoiding areas with unionized labor

    Locally available venture capital

    Location in regions of major metropolitan areas with favorable quality of life














Development can be defined as the extent to which the resources of an area or country have been brought into full productive use. Development may also imply the degree of modernization or how economically advanced a place is; what is the dominant way that people make a living.

Geographers attempt to classify and group countries along the development continuum in ways that are spatially informative. In the broadest sense the most developed countries stand in easy contrast to the least developed, but there are many countries that fall somewhere in-between these two extremes.


Third World Countries

The term third world is used many times to describe underdeveloped countries. This term was first used to describe a political situation, but has changed meaning and is used now to describe the least developed parts of the world.



    First World

    Second World

    Third World



The Costs of Development

Development comes at a cost.

Industrialization: Environmental degradation and safety

Large development projects (dams)



Barriers to Development

Natural resources must be used more efficiently and their supplies expanded. Resource distribution is very uneven as is evidenced by the wealth of the OPEC countries. Often ownership of natural resources is an issue if they belong to corporations in industrially advanced countries. However, weak resource bases are not necessarily impossible to overcome as Switzerland, Israel and Japan have shown.

Overpopulation is the rule. An annual population growth of approximately 1.8 percent in these countries means that their populations doubleWorld Population Growth By Developed And Developing Regions approximately every 35 years. This compares to an average 0.7 percent rate of population growth in advanced countries. It means that economic growth must be very rapid to make any gain on population.

Population growth accelerates with economic growth as better living conditions extend life.

Birth rates remain high as medical care and sanitation cut infant mortality.

Population growth hinders development because large families create obstacles to development. They reduce the ability of households to save, more investment is required to keep up with increases in the labor force, an overuse of agricultural land may occur and massive urban problems are generated.

High unemployment and underemployment are characteristics of developing countries with rates in the vicinity of 15 to 20 percent. This may become worse as rural populations migrate to cities in the hope of finding jobs that are not there. Underemployment occurs when workers are employed less time than desired or at jobs that do not fully utilize their skills.

Low labor productivity occurs because there has not been enough investment in physical or human capital. Furthermore, often there is no entrepreneurial class. Higher education is often oriented toward the humanities rather than technical areas, and some of the best workers have migrated from their home countries, causing what is called the "brain drain."

Capital accumulation is an important focus. All developing countries suffer from a lack of capital goods — factories, machinery and equipment, public utilities, etc. Better equipped workers would improve productivity. Increasing the stock of capital goods is crucial because of the very limited possibility of increasing the supply of arable land. Once begun, the accumulation of capital may be cumulative if it can raise output faster than the population grows. Domestic capital formation must come as a result of domestic saving. A nation cannot consume everything it produces if it wants to invest in the future. Savings potential is not promising in the poorest countries and may require foreign investment in these countries. Another concern has been capital flight, which occurs when citizens who have been able to save transfer their savings to developed countries for safety and higher returns. This is a significant problem. Obstacles to investment include the lack of investors but also the lack of incentive to invest. Education and skilled workers as well as an adequate infrastructure are needed to encourage private investment. One potential bright spot is in-kind or nonfinancial investment in the form of surplus labor working on the improvement of the infrastructure and other capital improvements.

Technological advance is a somewhat separate process from capital formation. In some cases developing countries are able to transfer new technologies that are capital-saving. Technological borrowing has aided the rapid growth of the Pacific Rim region. OPEC nations have benefited in similar ways and the former Soviet bloc countries and republics are seeking western technology. On the other hand, developing countries often require technology appropriate to their resource mixes and must develop their own.

Sociocultural and institutional factors: One intangible ingredient is the "will to develop." Tribal allegiances may take precedence over national identity. Religious beliefs and observances may restrict the length of the productive workday. A caste system may allocate labor inefficiently. The lack of land reform is an obstacle in predominantly agricultural countries.



Measuring Development

Between 1965 and 1995 significant economic progress was made in both the developed and underdeveloped countries of the world.

Most developed 3.5%

Developing 5.3%

The most developed countries still account for 75% of the world’s exports and dominate the international financial markets.


There are several ways to measure development.

Gross National Product

The gross national product (GNP) measures the total market value of goods and services produced in an economy within a given year. The GNP is a fairly accurate way to measure wealth in commercial (cash) economies.


Purchasing Power Parity

The GNP is not the best way to measure development in subsistence economies; the GNP systematically understates the real value of goods and services in a non-cash economy. A different index has been developed called the purchasing power parity (PPP) which takes into account the wealth of economies where goods and services are not cash exchanges.


Energy Consumption

Per capita energy consumption is a common measure of technologically advanced nations. Industrialized countries use about ten times more energy than lesser developed countries. The cost of energy makes it prohibitive for lesser developed countries to purchase.


Workforce Engaged in Agriculture

The percentage of the workforce engaged in agriculture is almost invariably associated with economic development. The higher the percentage; the lesser developed. The lower the percentage; the more developed.


Non-Economic Measures

Development can be measured by other indices including education, public services and health. Wealth brings many services to an economy (education and health care) and it is hard to separate these indices and the wealth of a place. Therefore the patterns of underdevelopment remain the same even when non-economic indices are used to measure development.



Explanations of UnderdevelopmentWHY ARE POOR COUNTRIES POOR?

There are several geographic and demographic factors that can be used to explain the underdevelopment of a place including:

    Location (Climate)


    Resource poverty

    Characteristics of the Population

In many cases these explanations may be valid, but there are always exceptions.


Does location matter? It appears that tropical areas of the world are underdeveloped and that mid-latitude areas are developed, but there are exceptions.

    Afghanistan, North Korea, Mongolia

    Singapore and Malaysia



Accessibility is a prerequisite for development. No advanced economy can flourish without a well-connected transport network and the least developed countries of the world are many times characterized by their isolation from regional and world route ways.

Countries that are landlocked (without access to the ocean) are particularly susceptible to underdevelopment. It is this isolation, not the culture that restricts the progression to more technologically advanced forms of economic structure.


Resource Poverty

Resource poverty is also used to explain underdevelopment, but there are exceptions.



Some economists maintain that reliance on natural resource wealth by lesser developed countries undermines growth by interfering with the development of industry.

    Ivory Coast


Population Characteristics

Characteristics of the population that may impede development include:

    Age (Population Pyramids)

    Fertility Rates


    Ethnic Groups



Geography and Development

There is no single or simple explanation of underdevelopment that accounts for any one place in the world. Development may be impeded when a country has many of the geographic and/or demographic characteristics that have been described. The history of a place can also be a factor. Keep in mind that these are obstacles to development, but it does not mean that these places will not develop.




One way to look at development is to look at the history of a place.

Core-periphery models are based on the observation that within many spatial systems sharp territorial contrasts exist in wealth, economic advancement and growth between economic heartlands (urban cores) and outlying subordinate zones (periphery).

The growth of the core is at the expense of the periphery. In the most optimistic view of development, the core-periphery model has four stages.

    A pre-industrial society

    The core-periphery stage

    Spread effects

    Fully integrated economy

Core-Periphery: Circular and Cumulative Causation

During stage 2 as innovations are developed and the core area becomes more and more prosperous a cycle of Circular and Cumulative Causation (CCC) gets set in motion which polarizes development in the core while the periphery is milked of surplus labor, raw materials and profits. The growth of the core is at the expense of the periphery.CORE-PERIPHERY MAP


Core-Periphery: Global Scale

On the international scene, core-periphery contrasts are discerned between prosperous core areas (US, Western Europe and Japan) and the underdeveloped (Third World) periphery. The least developed areas provide the raw materials and the core areas produce the finished goods which have much higher profit margins. This is an example of circular and cumulative causation on a global scale.



In many cases the least developed countries of the world are former colonies which were used to extract raw materials for the industrialized countries of the world while under the rule of the colonial power. While almost all of these former colonies are now self ruled they still provide the raw materials to the developed part of the world … thus the term neocolonialism.


The Core-Periphery: National Scale

This idea can also be seen within countries where the urban-core will take in the raw materials (labor, energy, food) from the periphery and produce the finished goods which are sold to the periphery and have much higher profit margins than the raw materials.

     East Coast of US and the interior



Trickle-Down or Spread Effects

Stage 3 is called the trickle-down or spread effect stage. As regions reach higher levels of economic development the benefits (innovations, capital) of the core spread out (trickle-down) or diffuse into the periphery. Sometimes the spread of benefits is based on location decisions that will earn more money for the core.

The Four Stages of Core-Periphery

A pre-industrial society: Hunting and Gathering

The core-periphery stage: Agriculture and CCC

The Least Developed Countries

Spread effects: Technology and Capital

The Developing Countries of the World

Fully integrated economy

The Most Developed Countries of the World

Poor, Poorer, Poorest

What Could You Buy With $241 Trillion?













More Developed vs. Less Developed


We often divide the world into two broad categories of countries:

1.  More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs)

2.  Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs)

Such a broad regionalization scheme is likely to be overly simplistic, yet it is commonly used and can be quite helpful. Often we use different terms to describe each region.


More Developed

Less Developed

Developed Countries

Underdeveloped Countries

Industrialized Countries

Agricultural Countries

First World

Third World


Have Nots

Rich Countries

Poor Countries

The North

The South


A new term that is being used a lot right now is: THE GLOBAL SOUTH


The IMF uses slightly different terms as you can see on the map above: advanced economies, in transition, less developed and least developed.

Another set of terms sometimes used is industrially advanced countries and developing countries.

  1. Industrially advanced countries (IACs) include the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and most of western Europe. They have developed market economies based on large stocks of capital goods, advanced technologies and a well-educated labor force. They have a high per capita output.

  2. Developing countries (DVCs) are 107 unindustrialized nations heavily committed to agriculture. They have low rates of literacy, high unemployment, rapid population growth and their exports are largely agricultural or raw materials. Capital equipment is scarce, production technologies are primitive, and productivity is low. More than 60% of the world’s population lives in these nations, which can be divided into two groups.

  1. The first group consists of middle-income DVCs with an average annual per capita output in 1999 of $2,000, but with a range from $756 to $9,265 per capita.

  2. The low-income DVCs are the poorest with an average output per capita of only $410 and a range to $755. Dominating this group are India, China and the sub-Saharan African nations.

  3. DVCs such as China, Malaysia and Thailand have achieved high annual growth rates in their GDPs in recent decades. Several previous DVCs, such as South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong have achieved IAC status. But many DVCs, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, have experienced declining GDPs per capita.

One set of terms that we use less and less is: First World Countries and Third World Countries. Why? Well, what is the Second World? How can you have a first and a third without a second? The Second World used to be the command economy (communist) countries of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and a few other countries. With the collapse of communism in most of these countries the Second World no longer exists.

What criteria do we commonly use to divide the world into the MDCs and the LDCs?



Some of the most commonly used Measures of Economic DevelopmentGlobal GDP at a Glance

1.  GNP per capita

2.  Population Growth

3.  Occupational Structure of the Labor Force: MDCs tend to have very little primary industry, some secondary industry and the majority of people working in tertiary or service industries. LDCs tend to have most people working in primary industries and very few workers in the secondary and tertiary industries.

4.  Urbanization

5.  Consumption per capita

6.  Infrastructure

7.  Social Conditions

    o   literacy rate

    o   life expectancy

    o   health care

    o   caloric intake

    o   infant mortality

    o   other


Great disparities exist within realms and within individual countries. Nevertheless, the terms are commonly used and we should be familiar with their meanings.

One thing we do know in making comparisons: The absolute income gap between rich and poor nations has been widening. For example, if per capital income is $400 a year in a DVC, a 2% growth rate means an $8 increase in income. Where per capita income is $20,000 per year in an IAC, the same 2% growth rate translates into a $400 increase in income.



Definitions of the Measures of Economic Development

  1. GNP per capita: the total market value of all final goods and services produced by a country in one year. It is a measure of economic activity, or how much is produced in a country. The more that a country produces per person , the more "developed" it is assumed to be.

  2. Population Growth

  3. Occupational Structure of Labor Force: geographers divide economic activities into primary, secondary and tertiary activities. (Some add quaternary and quinary activities.)

    o PRIMARY ACTIVITIES are those that directly remove resources from the earth. Generally they include agriculture, mining, fishing and lumbering.

    o SECONDARY ACTIVITIES involve converting resources into finished products. These are the MANUFACTURING activities.

    o TERTIARY ACTIVITIES comprise the service sector of the economy. Include retailing, transportation, education, banking, etc.

  4. Urbanization: the percentage of a country's population who live in urban areas. Urban areas generally mean in towns / cities of 2,500 or more people. Currently just under half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Generally as countries develop urbanization increases.

  5. Consumption per capita: Consumption per person is a good indicator of development. The richer a country is, the more its citizens consume.

  6. Infrastructure: the foundations of a society: urban centers, transport networks, communications, energy distribution systems, farms, factories, mines, and such facilities as schools, hospitals, postal services, and police and armed forces.

  7. Social Conditions

    literacy rate                       caloric intake

    life expectancy                 infant mortality

    health care                        other

Key Development Data and Statistics

How Long Do You Have To Work To Buy...


GDP per capita














Which country produces more (has a higher GDP), India or Switzerland? Which is more "developed"?

The GDP of India is $336 billion and the GDP of Switzerland is $288 billion. India produces more than does Switzerland but everybody would agree that Switzerland is more economically advanced. Why?

The answer is population. The population of India is 988 million and the population of Switzerland is 7 million. Therefore we must compare GDP PER CAPITA. To calculate GDP per capita (or income per person) we divide the GDP by the population. The GDP per capita of Switzerland is $40,630 and the GDP per capita of India is $ 340.

Remember, always use GDP PER CAPITA when comparing the economic conditions of different countries.
















Other Ways of Measuring Wealth











































Occupational Structure of the Labor Force

As countries develop the occupational structure of the labor force changes. In LDCs most people are engaged in primary activities. In high income countries like the United states most people are involved with the tertiary sector.

























































Urbanization: the percentage of a country's population who live in urban areas
















Note the high urbanization found in the more developed countries and in South America.


Energy Consumption

Similar maps could be made for televisions per capita or cars per capita.




Infrastructure -- the foundations of a society: urban centers, transport networks, communications, energy distribution systems, farms, factories, mines and such facilities as schools, hospitals, postal services and police and armed forces

This map shows the state of development of the transportation system as a measure of its length per area of land. The darker the color the more developed is the transportation system and hence, a greater the degree of economic development is assumed.


























Social Conditions

There are other measures of economic development. Many refer to the social conditions of a country.














TFR 1950-1955 World Map

































































Human Development Index


GNP per capita is the most used indicator of development yet there are some significant problems with it. Therefore, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) computes a Human Development Index for each country each year. The human development index (HDI), is composed of three indicators: life expectancy, education (adult literacy and combined secondary and tertiary school enrollment) and real GDP per capita. (Note: for our purposes, GNP and GDP mean the same thing and they are synonymous with income.)














CIESIN has a similar classification: The Wellbeing of Nations.

















Is it appropriate to divide the world into the More Developed Countries (MDCs) and the Less Developed Countries (LDCs)?

Generally, most people would classify the following realms as LDC's:

1.  Sub-Saharan Africa

2.  South Asia

3.  Southeast Asia

4.  China

5.  North Africa and Southwest Asia

6.  Middle America

7.  South America

8.  the Pacific Realm

The more developed realms generally include:

1.  North America

2.  Japan

3.  Europe

4.  Australia / New Zealand

5.  Russia



What now?

Developing Country Policies for Promoting Growth

  1. Establish and strengthen the rule of law. Clearly defined and enforced property rights bolster economic growth by ensuring that individuals get and keep the fruits of their labor.

  2. Open economies to international trade.

  3. Control population growth.

  4. Encourage foreign direct investment.

  5. Build human capital. Programs which increase basic literacy, education and labor-market skills help enhance economic growth.

  6. Make peace with neighboring countries.

  7. Establish independent central banks.

  8. Establish realistic international exchange rate policies.

  9. Privatize state-run industries.

Developed Country Policies for Fostering Developing Country Growth

  1. Direct foreign aid to the poorest developing countries. Much of foreign aid from developed countries is strongly influenced by potential and military considerations. Only ¼ of foreign aid goes to those 10 countries whose population constitutes 70% of the world’s poorest people.

  2. Reduce tariffs and import quotas.

  3. Provide debt relief to developing countries.

  4. Admit temporary workers but discourage brain drains.

  5. Discourage arms sales to developing countries.





Copyright © 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   02/01/2022   0001

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