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The original meaning of the term indicated that existing resources had not been exploited. The word is now close in meaning to ‘poverty’, although some oil-rich underdeveloped countries have high incomes which are enjoyed by the few. Indicators of underdevelopment include: high birth rates, high infant mortality, undernourishment, a large agricultural and small industrial sector, low per capita GDP, high levels of illiteracy, and low life expectancy.

Mawdesly and Rigg (2003) Prog. Dev. Studs 3, 4 identify, between 1978 and 2001, a gradual weakening in the view that development is a global responsibility, with increasing emphasis placed on the choices (and shortcomings) of national governments; ‘the international donor community has conveniently emphasised national governance as the principal…explanation for underdevelopment, rather than factors such as unfair trade and agricultural dumping of subsidised products (global governance), in which they are implicated’ (Carmody (2008) Geog. Compass 2, 1). Power and Sidaway (2004) AAAG94, 3 provide a review of explanations for underdevelopment; easy to read with useful references and footnotes. Desmet and Ortán (2007) Scand. J. Econ. 109, 1 describe what they call rational underdevelopment: ‘the advanced region gives transfers to protect itself against low-wage competition, thus preventing the backward region from taking off, and ensuring its dominant position; the backward region accepts these transfers—and rationally chooses to remain backward—because even without transfers it is not sure to benefit from the new technology.’

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography.

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