The Sociology of Development Handbook 9780520963474, 0520963474

The Sociology of Development Handbook gathers essays that reflect the range of debates in development sociology and in t

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The Sociology of Development Handbook
 9780520963474, 0520963474

Table of contents :
List of Tables and Figures
Introduction: A Manifesto for the Sociology of Development
1. Engendering Development: The Evolution of a Field of Research
2. Population and Development
3. Strengthening the Ties between Environmental Sociology and Sociology of Development
4. The Sources of Socioeconomic Development
5. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Global North and Global South
6. Magic Potion/Poison Potion: The Impact of Women’s Economic Empowerment versus Disempowerment for Development in a Globalized World
7. Land Use and the Great Acceleration in Human Activities: Political and Economic Dynamics
8. Age Structure and Development: Beyond Malthus
9. Development, Demographic Processes, and Public Health
10. Education and Development
11. The Sociology of Subnational Development: Conceptual and Empirical Foundations
12. Sociological Perspectives on Uneven Development: The Making of Regions
13. Migration and Development: Virtuous and Vicious Cycles
14. Tertiary Education and Development: Strategies of Global South Countries to Meet Growing Tertiary Demand
15. Migrant Networks, Immigrant and Ethnic Economies, and Destination Development
16. The State and Development
17. Women, Democracy, and the State
18. War and Development: Questions, Answers, and Prospects for the Twenty-first Century
19. Neoliberalism, the Origins of the Global Crisis, and the Future of States
20. Crisis and the Rise of China
21. Conflict and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa
22. Social Movements and Economic Development
23. Globalization and Development
24. Transitions to Capitalisms: Past and Present
25. Quantitative Growth and Economic Development through History
26. The Great Divergence: Why Did Industrial Capitalism Emerge in Europe, Not China?
27. Global Commodity Chains and Development
List of Contributors

Citation preview


Gregory Hooks


Shushanik Makaryan


Paul Almeida, David Brown, Samuel Cohn, Sara Curran, Rebecca Emigh, Hi-fung Hung, Andrew Jorgenson, Richard Lachmann, Linda Lobao, and Valentine Moghadam




Gregory Hooks


Shushanik Makaryan


Paul Almeida, David Brown, Samuel Cohn, Sara Curran, Rebecca Emigh, Hi-fung Hung, Andrew Jorgenson, Richard Lachmann, Linda Lobao, and Valentine Moghadam


University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit University of California Press Oakland, California © 2016 by The Regents of the University of California Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Hooks, Gregory, editor. Title: Sociology of development handbook / Gregory Hooks, Editor. Description: Oakland, California : University of California Press, [2016] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: lccn 2016004218 | isbn 9780520277786 (cloth : alk. paper) | isbn 9780520277793 (pbk. : alk. paper) Subjects: lcsh: Economic development—Sociological aspects. | Civilization, Modern—21st century. Classification: lcc hd75 .s6393 2016 | ddc 306.3—dc23 LC record available at ClassifNumber PubDate DeweyNumber′—dc23 CatalogNumber Manufactured in the United States of America 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


List of Tables and Figures


Introduction: A Manifesto for the Sociology of Development




Engendering Development: The Evolution of a Field of Research 21 •

Valentine M. Moghadam


Population and Development


László J. Kulcsár


Strengthening the Ties between Environmental Sociology and Sociology of Development 69 •

Jennifer E. Givens, Brett Clark, and Andrew K. Jorgenson


The Sources of Socioeconomic Development





Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Global North and Global South 129 •

Jeff rey T. Jackson, Kirsten Dellinger, Kathryn McKee, and Annette Trefzer



Magic Potion/Poison Potion: The Impact of Women’s Economic Empowerment versus Disempowerment for Development in a Globalized World 153 •

Rae Lesser Blumberg


Land Use and the Great Acceleration in Human Activities: Political and Economic Dynamics 190 •

Thomas K. Rudel


Age Structure and Development: Beyond Malthus


David L. Brown and Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue


Development, Demographic Processes, and Public Health



Joshua Stroud, Philip Anglewicz, and Mark VanLandingham


Education and Development




The Sociology of Subnational Development: Conceptual and Empirical Foundations 265 •

Linda Lobao


Sociological Perspectives on Uneven Development: The Making of Regions 293 •

Ann R. Tickamyer and Anouk Patel-Campillo


Migration and Development: Virtuous and Vicious Cycles


Sara R. Curran


Tertiary Education and Development: Strategies of Global South Countries to Meet Growing Tertiary Demand 340 •

Mary M. Kritz


Migrant Networks, Immigrant and Ethnic Economies, and Destination Development 362 •



The State and Development


Samuel Cohn


Women, Democracy, and the State Kathleen M. Fallon and Jocelyn Viterna



War and Development: Questions, Answers, and Prospects for the Twenty-first Century 440 •

Gregory Hooks


Neoliberalism, the Origins of the Global Crisis, and the Future of States 463 •

Richard Lachmann


Crisis and the Rise of China


Ho-fung Hung


Conflict and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa


Zoë Marriage


Social Movements and Economic Development




Globalization and Development


Nina Bandelj and Elizabeth Sowers


Transitions to Capitalisms: Past and Present


Rebecca Jean Emigh


Quantitative Growth and Economic Development through 597 History •

Rosemary L. Hopcroft


The Great Divergence: Why Did Industrial Capitalism Emerge in Europe, Not China? 620 •

Dingxin Zhao


Global Commodity Chains and Development Jennifer Bair and Matthew Mahutga

List of Contributors Index . 677






Development Theories, Policies, and Social Outcomes, 1950s–2011


Dynamic Changes in the Developing World, 1950–2010




Civil War Onset by Decade


Average Profit Rate in Various Types of Industrial Enterprises, 2007 and 2009 • 492


Dominant Economic Development Strategies and Forms of Collective Action • 529




Divergence in Economic Performance since 1950 (1990 PPP Dollars)


4.2. Proximate, Intermediate, and Ultimate Sources of Growth and Development • 100 9.1. 14.1.

Mortality Cause by Country Income Level, 2008


Absolute Numbers of the Tertiary Age Population Enrolled in Tertiary Studies by World Region, 1970–2009 • 343

14.2. Percentage of the Tertiary Age Population Enrolled in Tertiary Studies (Gross Enrollment Ratio), 1970–2009 • 344



Global Numbers of International Mobile Students, 1975–2009

• 346

14.4. Numbers of and Change in International Students by Destination Region, 2000–2010 • 348 20.1.

Dynamics of China’s Developmental Model


20.2. Purchasing Manager Index of China (Official and HSBC indices), 2006–13 • 494 20.3. Increase in National Income Generated by One Unit of Fixed Asset Investment, 1981–2009 • 495 20.4. Share of Export, Consumption, and Investment in China’s GDP, 1980–2009 • 496 20.5. Composition (%) of Average Rural Household Income, 1986–2009 25.1.

Laborers’ Wages around the World, 1375–1825

• 498


25.2. Subsistence Ratio for Laborers: Income Relative to the Cost of Subsistence Basket, 1375–1875 • 601 25.3.

World Population Growth through History

• 605

25.4. GDP per capita as a Percentage Share of U.S. GDP, Major Emerging Market Regions, 1995–2007 • 611 25.5.

Africa and Other Developing Regions Make Up an Increasing Share of World Population, 1950–2050 • 613



INTRODUCTION A Manifesto for the Sociology of Development

Samuel Cohn and Gregory Hooks

1. Development is the number one problem facing the world today. Development problems come in two forms: a.

The poverty that comes from insufficient development, and


The poverty, injustice, ecological degradation, and social pathology that come from poorly executed development.

2. Social scientists need to pay more attention to development because it is both the cause of and the solution to much that is wrong with the world. 3. Because sociologists have developed a rich body of theory and analysis that speaks to the questions of insufficient development and misguided development, they can speak in a profound way to address these issues. 4. Sociologists have been largely excluded from policy discussions involving development that have centered on the work of economists, area specialists, and urban planners. Our literature is different than theirs and complementary to theirs—making the inclusion of development sociologists necessary for balance and completeness. 5. Development Sociology has been marginalized within the field of sociology— despite the centrality of development problems both to the founding figures of the discipline and to the evolution of the great sociological debates. 6. Development Sociology cannot be limited to the study of the currently poor nations. The origins of the prosperity of the currently wealthy nations, and


their contemporaneous struggles to maintain their standards of living in the face of the crises of mature capitalism, are fundamental to the study of development per se. 7. Development Sociology cannot be trivialized by being considered a subbranch of globalization. Many of the most important forces determining the extent both of development itself and of the woes caused by development are strictly local—occurring within nation-states. Yes, international and world-systemic forces of economic and cultural exchange are important and need to be considered. However, analyses that subordinate development to the study of globalization miss many fundamentally local origins of political, economic, social, demographic, and gender-based institutions. The distinctive character of unique societies and institutions is lost by the “All-That-Matters-Is-U.S.Culture-Spreading” parochialism of viewing everything exclusively through a globalization perspective. 8. No country is more important than the rest in the study of development. In the early twentieth century, the world studied Victorian Britain as the key archetype of development. Mid-century, the world considered the United States to be the beau ideal. In the 1980s, Japan supposedly held the secret of economic growth. Currently, the world pays the most attention to recent industrializing nations such as India and China. Exclusive focus on the wealthiest and fastest-growing cases excludes the lessons that can be learned from countries where growth is occurring less dramatically. Often, the fastest growers are outliers, with unique institutions and advantages that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Therefore, careful attention needs to be paid to “the rest of the world,” which may hold the key to the lessons that truly generalize. 9. Development Sociology is strengthened by the diversity of theories and approaches that it embraces. The field comprises many separate subdisciplines, each contributing important insights and findings that are critical to both promoting growth and protecting the people of the world from the by-products of pathological forms of development. Development Sociology is an orchestra with many different instruments. One needs all the sections and all the timbres to get the full, rich symphonic sound. All the subdisciplines of Development Sociology need to be heard—and it is important for specialists within the various areas of Development Sociology to talk to each other. This volume, The Sociology of Development Handbook, strives to place points one through nine on center stage. It reasserts the centrality of the sociology of development to sociology as a whole. It highlights the contribution of sociologists to the field of development. It showcases the ideas and insights of development sociologists and demonstrates the relevance of these ideas and insights to the fundamental problems of the world, both in



the Global South and in the Global North. Thus, this handbook takes one of the most important bodies of scholarly work ever created to speak to the question of human misery. Development brings connotations of social change, more specifically of change that reduces misery. This manifesto strives to put sociology’s insights at the center of intellectual work about human misery and to place the implications of its research at the forefront of public policy. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the economistic understanding of development. Although the criticisms and alternatives put forth by sociologists have contributed, the most influential critiques have come from economists (such as Paul Krugman, Jeffrey Sachs, and Amartya Sen) and from political actors (social movements, practitioners, and policymakers) in the Global South (Shah 2009, 10–11). Contemporary approaches exemplify a concern for: (1) “human development,” emphasizing human capabilities and freedoms (Sen 1999); (2) inclusiveness, especially with regard to gender (see the chapters by Rae Lesser Blumberg and Valentine Moghadam in this volume); and (3) an institutional turn that situates economic dynamics in a broader social, cultural, and political context (Evans 2005). The emphasis on inclusiveness and human capabilities coupled with an institutional turn shifts development studies to a terrain in which the full potential of sociological contributions can be realized. To take full advantage of this intellectual opening, sociological insights and research must be deployed to define the agenda and answer the central questions. This is a central challenge confronting the sociology of development.


Before reviewing theoretical approaches, it is important to distinguish the sociology of development from globalization studies or the study of the Third World. For the purposes of understanding the causes and consequences of development, the latter categories conflate an entire field of scholarly inquiry with one currently popular theory or one interesting geographical area. Development has many causes and has occurred in many human societies. Because development has followed very different paths, understanding the past comparatively sheds light on contemporary dynamics and challenges. It is a pervasive social phenomenon. It occurs in rich countries and poor countries. It has long-standing historical roots. It has its origins in a rich texture of social, cultural, economic, and political factors that can range from the most local and micro-level to truly global factors at the macro-social level. Globalization, by contrast, is a theory (or, more precisely, a set of theories) that attempt to understand economic and cultural interchange operating at a world-wide level (Schaeffer 1997; Ritzer 2011). Most globalization theorists (but not all) argue that the world is becoming rapidly homogenized and that transnational actors are particularly important in shaping local economic, cultural, and political outcomes.



Some development processes are closely tied to globalization. Others are not. Dependency theorists and world-systems theorists have developed compelling models that prioritize external constraints on growth that are brought about by world markets, international economic exchange, and the imperialism of the stronger nations (Frank 1967; Arrighi 1994; Babones 2009). Modernization theorists (Hoselitz 1954)—and, using a completely different logic, world culture theorists (Boli and Thomas 1999)— have emphasized the widespread diffusion of Western ideology and organizational practices. However, many processes continue to be quite local—and are based on distinctive, particularistic arrangements that have their basis at the micro rather than the international level. Countries, regions, and even villages get a vote in how they develop, and they have some ability to make independent decisions (maybe trivial, maybe profound) based on their own unique circumstances. Two obvious examples come from the spheres of demography and state-led development. Development is heavily shaped by demographic factors. The exact timing of declines in fertility and mortality has enormous consequences for female labor force participation, investment in education, and saving for old age. Some of these declines undoubtedly have international origins. American transnational organizations and foreign aid programs were instrumental in promoting the use of effective contraception in much of the Third World (Poston and Bouvier 2010, chap. 13; Hodgson and Watkins 1997). The rise of Western education helped to lower fertility, and the rise of Western medical and public health techniques helped to lower mortality. However, individual choices involving fertility or health practices often came from local considerations, such as the opportunities for female employment given the exact mix of industries and farming practices in an area, the extent to which a region’s government has been aggressive or not in promoting education and women’s access to education, the role of local religious institutions’ interpretation of doctrine regarding the desirability or non-desirability of contraception, and cultural norms involving family size, sexuality, dating, and marriage. Many nations have resisted the adverse economic impacts of globalization by creating states that work to produce locally controlled and endogenous growth. The developmentalist states of East Asia are the most famous cases of this (Wade 1990; Woo-Cumings 1999). However, the import substitution regimes of mid-century Latin America as well as the “dependent developers” (states that permitted multinational penetration but then restricted the autonomy of these corporations by hard bargaining and regulation) all limited the impact of international market forces on local growth (Prebisch 1950; Evans 1979). Although the ability of semi-peripheral nations has been constrained or facilitated by international geopolitical considerations (Cumings 1984), much of the impetus for the creation of these regimes was local, and it was based on factors such as state autonomy, the weakness of the agrarian elite, and discretionary developmentalist mobilization within the military or the academic community (Chibber 2006; Johnson 1982).



Of course, one of the most important determinants of the path of development in the late twentieth century was the rise of market reform in the formerly Communist bloc. Those nations approached the question of market liberalization in very different ways, varying from the near neoliberalism of Albania to the continued autarky of North Korea to the sophisticated developmental statism of China. The determinants of which direction the various countries took was nearly always local—with subtle differences in legislation or in state finance having profound effects on subsequent outcomes (Stark and Bruszt 1998; Walder 1994). Just as the study of development is not the study of globalization, it is also not exclusively the study of the Third World. Development is a general process of economic growth, including all of the social change that is associated with both growth and the retardation of growth. The experiences of Europe and America are not irrelevant to the study of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Likewise, the study of the historical origins of capitalism and industrialization are not irrelevant to an understanding of the contemporary period. Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism ([1904–5] 1976), Karl Marx’s Capital ([1867] 1976), and Immanuel Wallerstein’s The Modern World-System (1974) are all classics in the sociology of development that deal with the causes of economic growth in Europe before 1900. The tensions between agrarian elites and merchants in seventeenth-century Britain that are analyzed by Richard Lachmann (2000) are profoundly relevant to a class alliance theory of Latin American development such as that put forward by Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1971). The problems that a regional developmentalist might face in understanding the continuing economic decline of Upstate New York can be informed by a consideration of parallel processes in other developed settings, such as Wallonia (Belgium), or by the challenges of underdeveloped regions in poorer nations, such as northeastern Brazil. Any assessment of Military Keynesianism—or the role of military spending in the promotion or retardation of economic growth—has to consider not only the classic case of Wilhelmine Germany and the role of the military-industrial complex in mid-century America but also the unresolved question of the impact of military spending on the semiperipheral economy of Israel and the unexamined issue of the role of the military in the rapid growth of China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Moreover, it continues to be an open question whether the smallscale civil wars of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Latin America—all fought with imported arms—impeded or was irrelevant to the larger path of economic growth. Development is a process that combines all of the social, economic, political, and cultural forces that make up a society—as well as both local and global dynamics—and interweaves contemporaneous events with historical legacies. Development is profoundly synthetic. There are few analytic traditions, methodologies, theories, regions, or historical periods that do not inform this process in some way. It therefore follows that the study of development needs to be profoundly synthetic, as well. Development sociologists are and need to be intellectually and theoretically diverse. They need to be aware of the full range of scholarship in their own field, of course, as well as in economics, political science, history, anthropology, gender studies, and area



studies. Just as importantly, scholars in economics, political science, history, anthropology, gender studies, and area studies need to be aware of the work being done in development sociology. Qualitative and ethnographic works make a contribution. Archival work makes a contribution. Statistical and econometric work makes a contribution. Intellectual cross-fertilization is vital, both across the subspecialties of development sociology and between development sociology and the other disciplines that study development. This handbook is an attempt to speak to both of these needs. The basic traditions of the subfields of development sociology are systematically laid out, allowing scholars within our discipline to see a mapping of the state of our art as it now exists. Non-sociology scholars can also examine this volume and see the contribution our field can make to the study of development within other fields. By breaking down the barriers that have divided academicians from each other, we hope to create an informed understanding of the very complicated business of development—which too long has been hampered by partial models, constrained methodologies, and parochial concerns not only of academic disciplines but also of schools within each discipline. It is time to break down the walls and to synthesize.


Contradictory dynamics are at work with regard to economics and the sociological study of development. For most of the past half-century, economic theories and economistic reasoning dominated the study of development (academic and policy). Development was reduced to economic growth, industrialization, or capital accumulation (Pieterse 2010). In the 1950s and 1960s, the sociology of development did not disagree—and, as a result, it was more prominent than it is today and shaped larger policy debates on social conditions in the Third World, albeit using models that are now considered outmoded. The sociological contribution typically focused on modernization, specifically the growing social complexity and division of labor that facilitated and resulted from economic growth (Eisenstadt 1974). Positing that modern societies possessed a set of characteristics that had allowed them to advance economically, modernization theory focused on strategies to facilitate a transition from traditional (concentrated in the Global South) to modern (Global North) economies (Rostow 1960). Complementing and informed by modernization theory, functionalism argued that the features of 1950s Anglo-American society represented universal adaptive advantages. In this sense, functionalism was an offshoot of development sociology. The development aspect of functionalism was made most explicit in Neil Smelser’s Social Change in the Industrial Revolution (1959), a book that devoted half of its space to explaining the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Modernization theory—and the American development economics that coexisted with it—were blind to relationships of exploitation and domination between the richer and the poorer nations and blind to patriarchic gender relations that were pervasive



throughout the world and in development efforts of the period. In some respects, development sociologists and economists collaborated fruitfully on several benign policy initiatives that probably improved human welfare and raised standards of living. The functionalists favored increasing education as a tool for promoting modern attitudes, reducing ethnic discrimination as an intervention to diminish ascriptive limits on individual achievement, promoting female labor force participation (for much the same reason), expanding democracy as a proactive policy to dampen social conflicts, expanding welfare states as a strategy for societal legitimation, supporting population control as an integral part of moving social functions from the family to larger social units, and (less helpfully) inducing urbanization and the creation of capital-intensive high technology factories to promote economic growth. Development economists and sociologists shared the urban industrial bias embedded in modernization theories, and they believed that the expansion of education, mass media, and fertility control would serve as the foundation for this shift. This led to some interdisciplinary collaboration in development projects. The most important of these was the receptiveness of the development community to initiatives by demographers to combat the “population bomb.” This led to well-funded and well-designed programs to promote the use of modern contraception in the Global South, which had a marked impact on reducing levels of fertility throughout the lessdeveloped world and were integral to promoting the rates of rapid economic growth now observed in East Asia. However, as sociological theory outgrew functionalism, it also advanced beyond the limits of the reductionist market-based models of development economics practiced at the time. Two fundamental critiques of the modernization perspective powered new and bold initiatives within development sociology: the rise of neo-Marxist and dependency theory–related considerations of the international reproduction of underdevelopment, and the feminist critique of theories of development and the policies that flowed from these theories. We consider each in turn.


Beginning in the 1960s and gaining momentum thereafter, sociological theories turned away from Talcott Parsons’s functionalism and his interpretation of Émile Durkheim and Max Weber. Theorizing turned to Marx and to critical interpretations of Weber, emphasizing power and inequality. With the mainstream approach reducing development to economic growth (or stagnation), the richness of social life and sociology’s concern for power, institutions, gender, race, ethnicity, and culture were too often treated as afterthoughts or ignored altogether. In this context, the “sociology of development abandoned modernization theory for underdevelopment theory, world systems’ analyses, and state orchestrated growth” (Burawoy 2005, 6). Sociologists played a prominent role in



developing critical theoretical approaches that drew attention to power, inequality, gender, and race (McMichael 1996). As critic of the mainstream, the sociology of development highlighted the underside of economic growth, linking growth in the Global North to underdevelopment and distorted development in the Global South. Underdevelopment theory rejected the orthodox economistic theories of development and its sociological companion, modernization theory. Relationships rooted in imperialism and colonialism were at once fundamental to the rise of the West and central to the structural underdevelopment of the rest of the world (Amin 1977; Baran 1957; Baran and Sweezy 1966; Evans 1979; Frank 1978). Theories of underdevelopment emphasized conflict, imperialism, and exploitation to explain poverty in the Global South, and these themes were also emphasized in the study of race, class, and poverty in the Global North. The emphasis on underdevelopment and uneven development was woven into an integrated and far-reaching theoretical system by Wallerstein in The Modern World-System. The world-systems approach emphasized the economic and geopolitical development of Western Europe and linked this to the relative decline of Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America. That is, the development of affluent nations cannot be understood in isolation from relations of exploitation with other regions of the world, and placing Europe and North America on a pedestal obscures and underestimates the importance of East Asia, especially China, in the past, at present, and in the future. The turn to underdevelopment theory marked a significant divergence between development sociology and development economics. Traditional economists have always been lukewarm, at best, about arguments that market processes lead to suboptimal outcomes. Intellectual differences became hardened after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many economists and policymakers, enthralled by neoliberalism, enthusiastically embraced laissezfaire and a complete deconstruction of the state, and they proclaimed that a market economy—freed of institutional impediments—would rapidly bring about robust economic growth, an improvement in standards of living, a reduction of social inequality, and thriving, fair democracies (Williamson 1990). Neoliberal reforms failed miserably—and they failed precisely because they ignored the institutional and social realities that are the main focus of development sociology. Although powerful political and economic actors remain committed to neoliberalism, there are powerful countervailing forces at work. For example: 1. Neoliberal development policies assumed that demolishing the state would increase growth by eliminating bureaucratic obstacles to free enterprise and reducing market distortions stemming from government corruption. Development sociologists had argued that the state is fundamental to creating the institutions that produce economic growth—and that instrumentalist control of new states by local elites would ensure the reproduction of corruption and class privilege. As anticipated by sociological theories and critics, the gutting of tariff barriers, state enterprises, educational systems, health systems, and the



social safety net led to a drastic fall in economic growth and welfare. Moreover, old elites were able to reproduce their oligopolistic advantages under the new institutional arrangements. 2. Neoliberal development economists argued that opening any and all markets to foreign capital would produce dramatic growth from new investment. Development sociologists made the case that foreign direct investment can often be harmful by promoting capital repatriation, stifling local research and development, and substituting capital-intense for labor-intense production. In fact, many of the old problems associated with multinational corporations returned (though, to be fair, few development sociologists in 1990 would have predicted the dominance of Nike-ism and labor-intense global outsourcing). 3. Traditional (and neoliberal) development economists saw the dynamics of Third World debt simply in terms of protecting the integrity of international capital markets and eliminating the moral hazard associated with nonrepayment of debt. Development sociologists could have warned that draconian repayment plans—and the reduction of state capacity associated with them— would have led not only to delegitimation of international capital and the rise of antiglobalization processes but also to an exacerbation of regional and ethnic tensions, the rise of indigenous mobilization against the development project, and an increase in violence, crime, and narcotraffic as a financially depleted state lost its capacity to effectively control international crime cartels. All of these were “social” rather than “economic” factors, but the consequences they had for economic life was enormous. 4. Ignoring the political and institutional preconditions for growth made traditional development economics poorly equipped to predict the rise of the dirigiste East Asian tiger economies—and their overwhelmingly superior performance in comparison to the more free market Latin American, East European, and African economies. This poor empirical fit became particularly marked in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when the nations that recovered the most quickly were precisely those that eschewed the neoliberal recommendations of the International Monetary Fund in favor of maintaining political controls over critical aspects of economic life. In contrast, such patterns were far more consistent with the models of development sociology that emphasized exactly the kinds of programs that were widespread in East Asia.


At the same time as neoliberal reforms were failing, feminist scholars were criticizing traditional development economics for an excessively market-oriented approach that



reduced all actors to genderless profit maximizers producing and exchanging goods in cash-based markets. Such analyses failed to understand the importance and contribution of the creation of goods by women in households—a crucial omission in the analysis of subsistence economies (Boserup 1970). This omission continues to be relevant, even as market relations grow in importance, both because of the prevalence in the secondary sector of family micro-enterprise and because of the importance of the reproduction of the labor supply to the capitalist waged sector (Rai 2002). Scholars contributing to the gender-in-development literature also examined the claim that economic actors are narrowly economic beings who are indifferent to questions of gender, power within the family, or sexuality. They argued, in contrast, that gender scripts, patriarchy, struggles for personal autonomy, and cultural understandings regarding identity, affective relationships, and morality were as least as important as profit maximization per se and would produce different social outcomes than those that would be expected strictly from profit maximization. The omission of women’s contribution to the economy has led to a wide variety of errors. The economic value of women’s work was profoundly underestimated in subsistence agriculture and in the informal sector (Benaria 1992; Boserup 1970). In a subsistence economy, not measuring the primary source of food and clothing production led to absurd undervaluation of the contributions of peasants to the economy and calls into question the accuracy of GDP statistics (Jerven 2013). More seriously, just as the comparable-worth theorists showed that occupations are undervalued because they are staffed by women (England 1992), in development, agriculture and micro-enterprise were undervalued by modernization theorists and development economists. This oversight is a direct result, in large measure, of women producing these goods and providing these services. The results for theory and practice were disastrous. In the 1960s and 1970s, development economists recommended the wholesale moving of people out of the countryside into the city, and out of farming into heavy industry, which produced massive disarticulation, created large numbers of unemployed urban slum dwellers, gutted food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, and created the mammoth social inequalities that continue to plague the Global South today (Szirmai 2005). Contemporary development thinking has taken the feminist critique to heart and has revalorized both domestic agriculture and the informal economy—placing especial emphasis on supporting women’s productive roles in both sectors (FAO 2011; Yunus and Jolis 2003). Although the implementation of these initiatives often leaves much to be desired from a feminist or progressive standpoint (Visvanathan and Yoder 2011), these do represent improvements that have directly emerged from the gender and development literature. The feminist critique of modernization theory and development economics has also asserted the primacy of patriarchy and gendered scripts as independent determinants of development outcomes. Among the most important of these are the reproduction of gendered differentials in pay and the incorporation of these differentials into manufacture within global commodity chains, the seizure of agricultural and trading opportuni-



ties by men, the restriction of female education, and severe restrictions on female employment in public settings. Feminist scholars were among the first writers to note the predominance of cheap female labor in light manufacture in international commodity chains (Fernández-Kelly 1984; Dunaway 2001); essentially, Nike-ism is gendered. In the Global South, women work in textile and computer factories despite very low wages. Superficially, this is unremarkable, since there is surplus labor in nearly all underdeveloped economies—making wages low for men and women alike (Lewis 1954). However, the literature on women in global sweatshops shows that, even in the poorer nations, women’s wages are lower than those of men (Benaria 2001). A gendered structure of privilege exists that gives men higher salaries and women lower salaries even under conditions of chronic labor market slackness. This lowers women’s wages below those expected by market levels. Furthermore, this gendered inequality increases the amount of global production that gets outsourced to the Third World beyond that expected by gender-blind processes. Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson (1981) reinforce this argument by arguing that the female manual dexterity sought in such work settings has its origins in the social construction of gender difference. An even larger distortion of market outcomes by gendered process is the male capture of occupations and work settings that represent prime economic opportunities. This includes the removal of women from activities that were previously female and in which they had accumulated significant human and social capital. Within formal urban labor markets, this occurs through occupational sex-typing (Cohn 1985). In agricultural or informal settings, it occurs when men seize newly profitable farming or trading activities that had previously been women’s work (Boserup 1970; Heyzer 1986). These seizures are made possible by national and local authorities who control access to land, capital, or water and deal only with male cultivators and male family members. In a number of countries, political authorities restrict travel by female traders, forcing them to cede the more lucrative long-distance business to men (Boserup 1970; Heyzer 1986). The motivations for this are almost always cultural. For example, within the Middle Eastern context, Moghadam (1993) argues that such exclusion stems both from some traditional Islamic views and from a male indifference to profit maximization associated with the presence of a rentier state. The by-product of such exclusion is often underdevelopment. As women entrepreneurs are forced out, their accumulated human and social capital is removed as well, lowering the total potential activity of the sector. Blumberg (2009) argues that gender is a key “missing variable” that predicts important development outcomes. At the macro-level, increasing female education raises GDP growth rates (Dollar and Gatti 1999). At the micro-level, gender exclusion leads to reduced crop yields (Jones 1983). At the social level, societies with high female labor force participation are less likely to have deadly armed conflict within their borders (Caprioli 2005). And, at the level of human welfare, countries with high women’s status have lower infant mortality even after controlling for other measures of development (York and Ergas 2011).




There is now substantial interest within development economics in reconsidering general models of growth to realign them with the new empirical findings of the past twenty years (Meier and Stiglitz 2000; Chang 2003; Fine 2003). The new development economics is very exciting. Much of what is being imported, however, comes from development sociology. Development will continue to be a sociological process as much as an economic one—and the various strands of development sociology all make a contribution to the understanding of these new dynamics. Peter Evans (2005) identifies an institutional turn in the study and practice of development. This has emerged from a deep dissatisfaction with defining development in terms of capital accumulation (or amassing economic resources). Instead, Karla Hoff and Joseph Stiglitz (2001, 389) argue that development is a “process of organizational change.” Evans points out that development requires more than organizational change narrowly conceived: “Along with organizations, culture and norms are also involved. The role of power in shaping both organizational structures and culture is central” (2005, 91). Whereas the older neoclassical models could only interpret organizational change through the lens of methodological individualism and instrumentally rational choices, the broader conception advanced by Evans demands a more textured understanding of institutions. To meet this challenge and to take advantage of current opportunities, sociology’s multifaceted insights into institutions and institutional change must be integrated into the study and practice of development. Sociology’s emancipatory instincts continue to redefine the terms of debate over development, following a path blazed by the historical materialist and feminist critics of traditional development (as discussed above). There is more to human welfare and to humane development than GDP per capita alone. An ideal development would be egalitarian, nonviolent, ecologically sustainable, democratic, and nonpatriarchic, and it would respect the rights of the weak (as well as the strong). Nonideal development strategies— ones that are inegalitarian, violent, ecologically destructive, authoritarian, and exclusionary—represent classical contradictions between the forces and relations of production. They undercut the long-term viability of capital accumulation, even if these abuses have their origins in short-term profit maximization strategies. Non-emancipatory development throttles the long-term viability of development. Social justice and development often seem incompatible in the short term. Yet, in the long run, social injustice imposes steep economic and human costs. Inegalitarian development leads to social unrest and popular mobilization, as the losers in the development process choose to delegitimate the forces of economic growth and support programs more narrowly focused on redistribution. Violent development leads to a movement of talent and human energy away from entrepreneurship and investment and into defensive coercion and predation. Both property rights (in the abstract) and people’s lives and well-being (in the concrete) become



tenuous and endangered. Education and science fall by the wayside as youth take up arms rather than going to school. Governance involves channeling immediate benefits to one’s allies rather than technocratic planning. All of these lower the long-term prospects for growth. Ecologically unsustainable development leads to the exhaustion of once-plentiful mineral resources, the desertification of land, the pollution and toxification of centers of tourism and leisure (not to speak of natural beauty or biodiversity), and an increase in catastrophes of all sorts. These issues also surface when the focus is on land. Development brings an intensification of land use; the human impact on land is pronounced and poised to accelerate in the twentieth century. To understand the implications of these changes—for human societies and for the environment—demands a consideration of the bottom-up and top-down dynamics at work. Patriarchic development reduces education levels and increases fertility growth and the concomitant dependency burden. Among poverty populations, restricting women’s access to work outside the home or limiting the availability of capital to men reduces micro-enterprise, increases disarticulation, and reduces both income levels and the size of the internal market. Patriarchy also increases social conflict over gender privilege and retards the advancement of civil institutions and democracy. Development sociologists agree that development cannot be reduced to abstract economic trends and have demonstrated that a broader range of social and political factors need to be put on the agenda. However, there is less agreement on the precise definition of an alternative conceptualization of “good development” that would be a replacement for GDP per capita alone. One alternative is the “capability approach” and its shift in focus to freedoms and to “what people are effectively able to do and to be; that is, on their capabilities” (Robeyns 2005, 94). Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize laureate in economics, played a pivotal role in placing the capabilities approach at the forefront. He makes the case that the overarching goal of development must be insuring that people can “lead the kind of lives they value— and have reason to value” (1999, 18). This shift in emphasis has had a widespread impact on academia (see, e.g., Nussbaum 2003; Sen 1999), and it has transformed goal-setting in the realm of policy (Fukuda-Parr 2004). In Sen’s framework, human development is inherently linked to and built upon the expansion of human freedom (Feldman and Gellert 2006, 442). This shift has been embraced by a wide range of practitioners, with the United Nations prominent among them. Both the U.N. Development Programme Human Development Reports and the rationale for the Millennium Development Goals have been influenced by this shift (Fukuda-Parr 2003; see also Alkire 2009; Pieterse 2010). Another alternative is critical post-developmentalism. This work primarily focuses on the short-term pathologies carried out in the name of development and questions the intrinsic viability of the development project. This literature has its antecedents in empirical examinations of the adverse effects of neoliberalism, international debt, and



globalization (George 1989; Hoogvelt 2001; Sklair 2002). New questions emerged about the unequal and uneven impacts of such programs on a range of factors, such as health, education, and income, the penetration of transnational corporations into newly liberalized markets, and the increasing role of NGOs in the implementation of broad development agendas and in national politics. These concerns have crystallized into a post-development critique (McMichael 1996). Post-development thinkers have begun to reconsider the whole development enterprise, exploring how the development narrative made unrealistic assumptions about poverty and underdevelopment, and how to address it through coordinated international policies. Development discourse and its structuring of development programs and practices came under particularly critical scrutiny (Ferguson 1994; Rahnema and Bawtree 1997). Such studies highlighted both the institutional structures and logics that enabled particular development interventions and the complicated meanings and mappings of power involved in the implementation of such projects (Escobar 1994; Mosse 2005). While post-development thought opens up a range of new areas of inquiry in the study of development, debate remains active over whether such post-development thought itself overstates its case and, in doing so, precludes the possibilities of positive development interventions in the lives of those living in poverty (Berger 1995; Kiely 1999). It would be a mistake to overlook the vital importance of economic resources. Sociologists of nearly every persuasion are in favor of raising indicators of human development. We prefer low infant mortality to high infant mortality. We are in favor of increasing education at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. We prefer societies with gender equality rather than societies with gender inequality. And, naturally, we do not want to see a large percentage of the population living below the poverty level. Raising GDP per capita is associated with each of these indicators of human well-being moving in the desired direction (see, e.g., Firebaugh and Beck 1994). Across the spectrum—and not only when focused on development—sociology has a rich tradition of focusing on inequality and differences in power. As noted, both the feminist and the historical materialist critique of traditional development brought issues of inequality and power to the forefront. In turn, sociology has much to contribute to the study of human capabilities (see, e.g., Lobao 2004; Pedersen 2004; Sen 1985; Townsend 1985). Furthermore, sociological research and insights into race, ethnicity, class, and environmental inequality can play a pivotal role in creating and sustaining an understanding of development that focuses on human capabilities and freedom. Finally, complementing insights into the various dimensions of inequality, sociology has a sustained record of examining agency and autonomy, contentious politics, and social change from below. Evans (2005) argues that this “institutional turn” creates a unique opportunity. It also poses daunting challenges. Sociologists “can no longer hide behind the excuse that the intellectual dominance of economic theories built on atomistic individuals and self-regulating markets leaves other disciplines no viable theoretical space for the exposition of their ideas” (Evans 2005, 105). In recognition of this opportunity, this handbook is a



manifesto that stakes out sociology’s contributions and potential. In recognition of the daunting challenges, we extend an invitation to scholars and practitioners to take full advantage of the feminist critique and research agenda, the institutional turn, and the focus on human capabilities that are central to the sociology of development.


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1 ENGENDERING DEVELOPMENT SOCIOLOGY The Evolution of a Field of Research

Valentine M. Moghadam

Is development “good” or “bad” for women? Does development weaken or strengthen patriarchy and gender inequality? In what ways do economic processes affect women’s labor force participation and social positions? How do gender relations change in the course of the social transformations brought about by development and modernization? How do women’s political participation, civil society activism, and other forms of female mobilization change the course of politics or influence institutions and policies? These are among the major questions that have preoccupied feminist sociologists of development, who are situated within the broader field of women, gender, and development.1 The sociology of development and the field of women/gender and development have sometimes intersected but are, in general, parallel fields of research; although gender and development sociologists are fully conversant with the mainstream literature, the reverse typically is not the case. This argument cannot be developed in the present chapter, although it is worth noting that in international policy circles, the work of feminist development researchers from sociology and the other disciplines represented in the field has tended to have some impact on debates and policy initiatives. Here, the main objective is to provide an overview of the evolution of the field of women, gender, and development, with a focus on contributions by sociologists, and to draw attention to the conceptual and empirical contributions of feminist sociologists of development. Over the years, at least two features distinguish feminist development sociology from other streams in the development literature. First are the advocacy underpinnings, wherein most studies have approached issues and problems pertaining to women in the


development process in terms not only of what is but also of what ought to be. Some studies steeped in Marxist, socialist, or world-systems analysis have offered trenchant critiques of capitalism. Others have been policy-oriented, with recommendations for initiatives or interventions to improve women’s conditions. Most studies have analyzed women’s participation and rights as well as the contributions of female productive and reproductive labor to economic growth, social development, and democratization. Second, feminist development scholarship is characterized methodologically and conceptually by a holistic approach that eschews positivism in favor of broad analysis and mixed methods; studies also have tended to be inter- and cross-disciplinary, approaching questions and problems from a broad perspective and within a complex framework. As such, both the focus on advocacy and the non-positivist method may be said to conform to what has sometimes been called feminist methodology. This overview of the wide-ranging research that constitutes the field of women, gender, and development, focused on the feminist sociology of development, touches on the main issues and debates of the early years, the prescient critique of (capitalist) development and growth, the focus on state policies and institutions in connection with women’s participation and rights, and elucidation of the operations of gender in development policies and projects. Also included is a brief discussion of the shifts from women in development (WID) to women and development (WAD) and finally to gender and development (GAD).


When theories of economic development were emerging in the 1950s and 1960s, little or no attention was paid to women’s productive roles. In policy circles, if women were discussed at all, it was in relation to their role as mothers, an approach that came to be known as the welfare or motherhood approach. Development was still considered to be a technical problem rather than imbued with political or ideological dimensions. Women and children were regarded as real or potential victims of the disruptive nature of development (or of modernization); the literature thus recommended that development efforts take household welfare into account and ensure that women and children benefited from social and economic change. Here, the domestic and reproductive roles of “Third World” women were emphasized, along with issues pertaining to population, health, nutrition, and literacy (see Moser 1993; Rathgeber 1990; Tinker 1990). In the 1960s and 1970s, Third World states were engaged in modernization and economic development, launching state-owned industries, providing jobs and housing, and subsidizing food and utilities. Development specialists drew attention to the role of the state in the provision of public services such as health and education and in the development of agriculture and the rural sector. The policy field was oriented toward the achievement of “basic needs,” but, on the left, the sociology of development was influenced by theories of development and underdevelopment associated with the Latin



American “dependency school” and the Marxist approach to capitalism. The writings of Theotonio Dos Santos, Paul Baran, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Andre Gunder Frank, Samir Amin, Walter Rodney, and Immanuel Wallerstein influenced perhaps two generations of development researchers. This is the environment that helped launch research on women and development. In 1970, Danish economist Ester Boserup published a book that would give rise to the new field of study. Offering an ambitious historical analysis, Woman’s Role in Economic Development described “male and female farming systems” and their implications for women’s economic participation; explored the effects of colonialism and development on women and families; and described different patterns of women’s work in rural and urban settings across world regions. A central insight drawn from her fieldwork in Africa was that modern development projects tended to favor men and marginalize women from agricultural activity, and that, by displacing women, development projects unintentionally contributed to lower food production and household poverty. Development projects failed, she argued, because they did not take women into account. Boserup’s study interested some practitioners, policymakers, and advocates, with the result that the U.S. Agency for International Development opened an Office of Women in Development (Tinker 1990). Here the concern was to overturn the marginalization that Boserup had described and ensure that women were adequately integrated into the development process, especially in rural sectors. Thus was born the women-in-development (WID) approach and research community. The WID strategy focused on women as a group and sought to address the exclusion of women from the development process, emphasizing that, if development incorporated and included women’s productive capacity, it would be more efficient. Meanwhile, in sociology, concepts of “sex roles” and “women’s status”—inspired in part by modernization theories—were applied toward an understanding of similarities and differences in women’s social positions across cultures and countries (Abadan-Unat 1981; Giele and Smock 1977; Kagitcibasi 1982; Kandiyoti 1977; Safilios-Rothschild 1971). Janet Giele (1977) offered a useful framework that could be applied cross-nationally, and it seemed informed by feminist concepts of patriarchy and liberal notions of autonomy, equality, and choice. That study and others were occurring in the context of second-wave feminism, which was leading to the formulation of theories of women’s subordination and advocacy for equality. The entry of women into the development arena became a subject of interest to the United Nations and its programs, funds, and specialized agencies. UNESCO monitored progress in literacy and education for women and girls, and it produced reports and datasets that were used by scholars; its director-general expressed support for women’s educational attainment and social participation.2 Issues of women in development were discussed at the first U.N. world conference on women, held in Mexico City in 1975, and became part of the U.N.’s Decade for Women (1976–85): Equality, Development, and Peace. The International Labour Organization—along with its



secretariat in Geneva, the International Labour Office (ILO)—sponsored studies on the undercounting of women in rural activities and agricultural production (see, e.g., Beneria 1982). WID policy frameworks, replete with checklists, were designed to ensure women’s integration in and benefits from development projects. Many U.S. universities established women-in-development programs, especially at land-grant universities, and, at Michigan State University, sociologist Rita Gallin set up a WID working papers series.3 Women members of the International Sociological Association (ISA) formed the Research Committee on Women in Societies, known as RC-32 and still among the largest of the ISA research committees. Several members—including Fatima Mernissi, Deniz Kandiyoti, and Hanna Papanek—also helped organize a conference at Wellesley College that produced a book on women and national development (Wellesley Editorial Committee 1977). Across the Third World, a stratum of women was becoming educated and finding employment in the growing public sector, but many women remained illiterate and poor. Influenced by both feminist and dependency theories, some WID specialists came to criticize the focus on integration of women into what they regarded as a flawed economic process, and they formulated a line of thinking that came to be known as women and development (WAD). Here emphasis was placed on international inequalities, the persistence of poverty, and the exploitation of women in capitalist development (Beneria and Sen 1981; Fernández-Kelly 1983). It was argued that social inequalities and the longstanding sexual division of labor rendered women subordinate and vulnerable to projects that did not take their interests into account. As patriarchy and capitalism limited the options available to women, women’s advancement was not possible within established structures. WAD took issue with large governmental projects and advocated smaller-scale projects and local participation, calling in part for women-only projects to ensure participation and prevent male domination (Rathgeber 1990). Ecofeminists such as Vandana Shiva, Maria Mies, and Hilkka Pietila formulated profound critiques of development and economic growth as undermining both people’s welfare and the natural environment. Parallel to the WAD critique, scholars writing from within the world-systems theoretical paradigm pointed to processes such as “housewifization” that were generated by capitalist development (von Werlhof 1983; Mies 1986); to the inverse relationship between dependency and the status of women, measured in part by fertility rates (Ward 1984); and to the role of female labor, both paid and unpaid, in the semi-proletarian households of the capitalist world economy (Mies 1982; Smith, Wallerstein, and Evers 1984). In a related but separate line of inquiry, radical economists and Marxist- or socialist-feminist sociologists debated the evolution of the sexual division of labor and its relationship to capitalist development and patriarchy (Barrett 1980; Folbre 1982; Humphries 1991). Both the effects of capitalist development on women and the effects of the sexual division of labor on national and global growth strategies were being studied and theorized, albeit in the absence of consensus on dynamics, outcomes, and solutions.




A debate taking place at the time revolved around whether female labor was being marginalized or integrated into modernization and development, and if development could advance women’s longer-term interests (see, e.g., Moghadam 1992a). Following Boserup and the dependency school, but in a Marxian vein, Heleith Safiotti (1978) made a strong case for female marginalization as a key feature of the capitalist mode of production, arguing that women’s labor was being absorbed into the subsistence / marginal / informal sector of the economy. This was consistent with studies of the growth of the informal sector in the Third World (see, e.g., Portes and Walton 1981). In contrast, John Humphrey (1984) argued that female labor force participation had in fact increased in the Brazilian manufacturing sector as well as in the economy overall. Others began to study the growth of “world market factories” producing garments and electronics along the U.S.-Mexican border and in free trade zones in Southeast Asia (see, e.g., Elson and Pearson 1981; Nash and Fernández-Kelly 1983). Alison MacEwen Scott (1986) used census data and her own field research in Peru to argue against the “marginalization thesis.” Susan Tiano (1987) synthesized the debates by posing the question of whether women were being integrated, marginalized, or exploited by development, and, on the basis of her research on women in the Mexican maquila industry, she concluded that all three were occurring (see also Tiano 1994). Confirming the “integration and exploitation” thesis, studies by other feminist social scientists showed how world market factories in Latin America and Southeast Asia were drawing on cheap female labor to generate profits (Elson and Pearson 1981; Heyzer 1986; Beneria and Roldan 1987). In an influential study, Fred Pampel and Kazuko Tanaka (1986) used data for seventy countries and two time points—1965 and 1970—to conclude that development initially forces women out of the labor force, but at advanced levels it increases female participation. Examining changes in female labor force participation (FLFP) between 1970 and 1980 in South Korea, Sunghee Nam (1991) found support for modernization theory’s prediction of higher levels of FLFP with rising educational attainment and for arguments that economic status and household need propelled women in the labor market in the context of export-led manufacturing. In a crossnational study, Roger Clark, Thomas Ramsbey, and Emily Adler (1991) argued that, though the more developed countries had higher FLFP rates, “culture” as a variable was found to be an explanation for lower levels of female employment in other regions. Some research on women and capitalist development was premised on the Marxist notion of women as a “reserve army of labor,” in that semi-proletarianized women were recruited and expelled as necessary during the course of their life cycle or that of the family. Other researchers stressed the diverse forms of female labor incorporation into the world economy: in productive and reproductive sectors alike, and as wage and nonwage workers (Safa 1995). In the formal sector, female labor seemed to be preferred because it had a lower cost than male labor; it reduced the cost of labor power overall;



women could be paid less than men for their labor, whether in a factory or in home-based paid labor; and women’s “nimble fingers” were deemed especially suited to the garments and electronics sectors. Ruth Pearson and Swasti Mitter (1993) highlighted the vulnerability of female labor in low-skilled information processing sectors. Policies were thus seen as infused with gendered notions of work, incomes, and household management. For example, women became the target of a new program to alleviate poverty: microlending. Research had found that poor women tended to contribute a higher proportion of their income to family subsistence, holding back less for personal consumption. They were thus deemed to be good borrowers, favored by the microfinance industry (Blumberg 1989a, 2004). Scott put it thus: “[G]ender plays a role in structuring labour markets not just as cheap labour, but as subordinate labour, docile labour, immobile labour, domesticated labour, sexual labour, and so on” (1986, 673). Not only policies but also the economic theories that underpinned them were increasingly seen as gendered, as a growing community of feminist economists found. Diane Elson (1991) and contributors illustrated the “male bias” in neoclassical economic theory as well as in development processes. From a somewhat different perspective, ILO labor economist Guy Standing (1989) offered a new analysis of changing (gendered) production relations under post-Keynesian policy conditions. His influential paper showed that the increasing globalization of production and the pursuit of flexible forms of labor to retain or increase competitiveness, as well as changing job structures in industrial enterprises, favored the “feminization of employment” in the dual sense of an increase in the numbers of women in the labor force and a deterioration of work conditions in terms of labor standards, income, and employment status. The decline of the social power of labor and of trade unions was a contributing factor, he argued.4 The focus on the varied forms of female labor incorporation was reflected in many studies appearing in the 1980s and 1990s of women and development, now fully informed by feminist concepts of the gendered nature of historical and social processes. The new gender-and-development (GAD) field was firmly rooted in feminist theorization of gender as a category of analysis, a source of power and inequality, a social identity, and a social marker or locus of oppression that intersected with others, such as class and race or ethnicity. The category “woman” or “women” was not discarded, but a principal goal now was to elucidate the gendered nature of the institutions, relations, policies, ideologies, and norms that shaped the development process. The social relations of gender were posited as both dependent and independent variables, so to speak, in connection with development. In the GAD perspective, economic or labor market arrangements— whether stable or changing—were infused with gender. An example was the increasing informalization of the labor force. Many GAD studies examined women’s roles in the informal sector, the growth of home-based work, and the informalization of previously formal types of employment (Rakowski 1994; Reddock 1994; Boris and Prügl 1996; Beneria 2001; Purkayastha and Subramaniam 2004).



Unregistered and small-scale urban enterprises, home-based work, and self-employment fall into the informal sector category, and they include an array of commercial, productive, and service activities—which policymakers later came to celebrate as “entrepreneurship.” Here was a domain that provided cheap goods and services to the poor and thus relieved capital and the state of responsibility for jobs and welfare. Informalization was tied to employer efforts to increase flexibility and lower labor and production costs through subcontracting, but it was also a form of economic survival for semi-proletarian households. Drawing on existing gender ideologies regarding women’s roles and attachment to family, subcontracting arrangements continued to encourage the persistence of home-based work (Beneria and Roldan 1987; Gallin 1996). These observations and arguments seemed to confirm the postulates of world-system theory regarding the role of the household and the housewife in (exploitative) production processes and capital accumulation. Wilma Dunaway argued that commodity chains are embedded in households and that “every node of every commodity chain is embedded in the gendered relations of households” (2001, 11). The hidden inputs of women and households into capitalist commodity chains, she argued, operate at three levels: women bearing and raising successive generations of workers; women’s unpaid labor for the present or future workers in the family/household; and core women diminish their own household hardships because they are subsidized by the peripheral women whose lowpaid and unpaid labor keeps prices low. Dunaway concluded: “If, then, we engender commodity chains, we will discover that the tentacles of the world-system are entwined around the bodies of women” (2001, 23). Other features of women’s labor incorporation described in the literature pertained to unemployment (Moghadam 1995a, 1995b), occupational sex segregation (Anker 1998), women’s poverty and female-headed households (Blumberg 1993; Chant 1995, 2007; Moghadam 1998a), and wage and income disparities. On average, women globally earned 75 percent of men’s wages, with a narrower wage gap in the public sector than in the private sector. Explanations for the gender gap were varied; some theories pointed to lower education and intermittent employment among women workers while others emphasized the presence of gender bias. Research showed that in Ecuador, Jamaica, and the Philippines, women earned less than men in the 1990s despite higher qualifications, a problem that was especially acute in the private sector (World Bank 1995, 41). Labor market segmentation along gender lines perpetuated the income gap. Pearson and Mitter (1993) found that, in the computing and information-processing sectors, the majority of high-skilled jobs went to male workers, whereas women were concentrated in the lowskilled ones. Still, female labor was not in great demand in every region of the world economy. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the formal sector remained male dominated (Moghadam 2013b).5 Nor did research find an influx of MENA women in the informal sector (Lobban 1998), contrary to findings for Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. In a number of writings, I attributed low levels of female employment in MENA to the



regional oil economy (Moghadam 1995c; 1998b, 3; 2005b; 2005c).6 The oil economy plays a key role in determining women’s employment in at least three ways. First, the oil sector is capital-intensive, and, though it employs relatively few workers overall, it is male-intensive. Second, a state’s receipt of oil revenues from export softens the incentive to diversify the economy and open it up to labor-intensive, export-led manufacturing that favors female employment (of the kind that has been characteristic of East and Southeast Asian economies). Third, oil revenues enable high wages for male workers; at the household level, that reality attenuates the need for women to seek employment. I also identified a “patriarchal gender contract” inscribed in Muslim family law as an institutional obstacle (Moghadam 2013b, chap. 3). Indeed, a number of studies emphasized patriarchy—patriarchal relations within the home, patriarchal features of the state, or traditional gender ideologies—as a block on women’s economic participation and agency. Researchers working in this vein were not unaware of the capitalist environment that shaped women’s lives and work, but their studies highlighted the persistence of kinship structures, neopatriarchal states, or conservative ideologies and legal frameworks that limited female labor supply and demand. Anita Weiss (1992, 2010) examined sociocultural constraints on low-income women seeking work in Lahore, Pakistan. Sylvia Walby (1989, 229) referred to “a tension between patriarchy and capitalism over the exploitation of women’s labour.” She also differentiated the “private patriarchy” of the family from the “public patriarchy” of the state. John Lie (1996) examined the shift from “agrarian patriarchy” to “patriarchal capitalism” in the context of capitalist development in South Korea. I distinguished “neopatriarchal” states from developmental and modernizing states, arguing that strong states with the capacity to enforce laws could undermine customary discrimination and patriarchal structures—or they could reinforce them (Moghadam 2013b). The state could enable or impede the integration of women citizens into public life (Moghadam 1992b). As Jean Pyle (1990) found for the Republic of Ireland, state policy could have contradictory goals: development of the economy and expansion of services, on the one hand, and maintenance of the “traditional family,” on the other. Such contradictory goals could create role conflicts for women, who found themselves torn between the economic need or desire to work and the gender ideology that stressed family roles for women. The concept of patriarchy, therefore, was relevant to macro-level analyses of gender relations and of development, although—as Walby (1996, 24) pointed out—it needed to be elaborated in terms of its operations within household work, paid work, the state, male violence, sexuality, and cultural institutions. Some of the most interesting case studies elucidating the tensions between patriarchal structures and ideologies, on the one hand, and the pull of capitalist development, on the other, were by Turkish sociologists. Often ethnographic in nature, their research was premised on the notion of the importance of formal sector labor for women’s empowerment but was also sensitive to working women’s own perceptions and aspirations. Yildiz Ecevit (1991), Hale Bolak (1995), and Nadir Sugur and Serap Sugur (2005)



explored the extent to which women’s factory employment was leading to a change in the sexual division of labor at home, with mixed findings. In a somewhat different vein, Deniz Kandiyoti’s influential article “Bargaining with Patriarchy” (1988) sought to show how women in different cultural contexts negotiated existing constraints to “maximize security and optimize life options,” with a comparison of coping strategies in sub-Saharan Africa and in the “classic patriarchy” of South Asia and the Muslim Middle East. Across the world, the proletarianization and professionalization of women had cultural repercussions and sometimes entailed backlashes and gender conflicts. In some advanced capitalist countries, working women encountered serious forms of sexual harassment, although this was followed by legal suits, court cases, and new legislation. Mexico saw a series of grisly murders of female factory workers in Ciudad Juarez. In the larger countries of the Middle East, women’s increasing participation in the labor force and growing presence in public space was accompanied in the 1980s by subtle or overt pressures that women conform to religious dictates concerning dress. Hence, in Egypt, many professional women came to don modest dress and to cover their hair. In the early years of the Islamist movements, the influx of women into the workforce raised fears of competition with men, leading to calls for the re-domestication of women, as occurred in Iran immediately after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Later, Islamists in Iran, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey did not call on women to withdraw from the labor force—indeed, the female adherents of Islamism came to include a segment of the educated and employed female population—but they did insist on veiling, spatial and functional segregation, and the retention of women’s essential role as wife and mother (Moghadam 2013b). Such cultural obstacles and backlashes would seem to mitigate any longer-term benefits to women of the development process. And yet it was also the case that development—and such concomitants as the building of roads, clinics, schools, childcare centers, and universities, along with the creation of jobs in manufacturing, public and private services, and public administration—could provide for both women’s basic needs and their longer-term “strategic interests.”7 These contradictory tendencies continued to generate discussion and debate within the WID / WAD / GAD community.


If development had generated debates among WID / WAD / GAD scholars about effects on women’s productive and reproductive roles, the provision of basic needs, and women’s longer-term advancement, there was more consensus regarding the shift from Keynesian and dirigiste economic development to neoliberal economics via stabilization and structural adjustment policies. Indeed, a singular contribution of feminist studies of development lies in this area of research and advocacy. In the 1980s, WAD specialists began to document the adverse effects on poor and low-income women of structural adjustment policies designed by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S.



Treasury to reduce debt and budget deficits in developing countries in the wake of volatility in commodity and financial markets. Feminist economists Gita Sen and Caren Grown (1987) noted that reduced government social spending meant additional burdens on women for the care of their family members, including children and the elderly, over and above their formal and informal economic activities. They emphasized the onerous nature of poor women’s productive and reproductive labor and the lack of acknowledgment of women’s roles in sustaining households and communities, and they called for the strengthening of women’s movements to oppose the trend toward denationalization and price and trade liberalization. A series of studies then analyzed the impact of structural adjustment on women and the gendered nature of such policies (Bakker 1994; Beneria and Feldman 1992; Blumberg et al. 1995; Catagay and Ozler 1995; Chant 1995; Commonwealth Secretariat 1989; Elson 1991; Joekes 1989; Kabeer 1994; Moghadam 1995a, 1995b, 1998a, 1998b; Sparr 1994). While feminist economists began constructing models of gender and macroeconomics, sociologists drew on Marxist, modernization, stratification, and feminist theories, used a variety of methods, and linked micro- to macrolevels of analysis to explain the differential effects of economic restructuring on female labor and on gender relations.8 As Cathy Rakowski observed: Economic change may be linked—under certain conditions and through women’s increasing incomes relative to men’s—to greater autonomy and decision-making power within the household and community. But under other conditions—especially the appropriation of women’s unpaid labor or declining standards of living in general—economic change may contribute to greater inequality and subordination. These patterns confirm that the household and the family cannot be assumed to be a “unit” of members with mutual interests whose individual actions have as an implicit goal the welfare of the group. (1995, 287)

Further economic change came about through “neoliberal globalization,” which in the 1990s became the buzzwords for the post-Keynesian, post-statist, post-communist turn in international affairs and the global economy. Protectionism and the emphasis on national development were replaced by outsourcing and trade and price liberalization; stable employment was replaced by flexible employment arrangements; and privatization supplanted statist economic strategies. The informal sector, which had been deemed a problem in earlier decades, now became a solution, with the promotion of microlending for poverty-alleviation and small-scale entrepreneurship (Karides 2010). The financial sector had been growing for some time, and now it seemed to be the dominant sector, especially in the economies of the core countries. Globalization was said by its advocates to entail the expansion of a “knowledge economy” through education, technological innovation, skills-building, and business development. But while the knowledge economy has provided rewards for those women with higher education, multiple skills, and mobility, the downside of globalization has been quite deleterious to other groups of women.



The generation of jobs for women in world factories, free trade zones, or exportprocessing zones (EPZs) has enabled women in many developing countries to earn and control income and to break away from the hold of patriarchal structures, including traditional household and familial relations. However, much of the work available to women is badly paid, or demeaning, insecure, or unhealthy (Blumberg and SalazarParedes 2011), and women continue to face sexual harassment and cultural backlashes, whether in white-collar or blue-collar jobs—even if in many places women working for multinationals in the EPZs are better paid than in domestic firms. Poor working conditions persisted, and the April 2013 disaster in Bangladesh, where over a thousand garment workers were killed and more than two thousand injured when their badly built factory collapsed near Dhaka, was only one of the more tragic examples. In “state socialist” China, rural women sought to escape poverty and patriarchal controls by migrating to urban areas for factory jobs, but work conditions left much to be desired, with many industrial accidents; in addition, laws excluded such migrants from long-term settlement in the city (Lee 1998; Pun 2005). Female labor may have played a major role in the phenomenal growth of China’s export manufacturing, but it did so with little benefit to many of the women workers themselves. Other effects of economic change have included female labor migration across borders and indeed, continents. Women from low-income households have traveled from, for example, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to work as nannies and maids in the Middle East, from Latin America and the Caribbean to do the same in Europe and North America, or from sub-Saharan Africa to work in nursing homes for the elderly in the United States. The remittances sent home by the women workers is an important source of revenue to the sending country, and their labor—whether as nannies, nurses, nursinghome aides, hotel and restaurant staff, or cleaners—is a critical economic contribution to the receiving country (Chang 2000; Pyle 2001; United Nations 2004), forming what some scholars have termed a “global care chain” or a key sector within the “care economy” (Beneria 2008; Folbre 2006; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001; Moya 2007; Parrenas 2002; Razavi 2007; UNRISD 2005). There remains much scholarly debate, and policy disagreements, about the costs and benefits of labor migration. There is consensus, however, around one of the sadder outcomes of the collapse of communism: the migration of women from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union for work as prostitutes in Western Europe and even Turkey.9 Neoliberal globalization—with its features of under-regulated financial markets and hyper-masculinity among the predominantly male finance workers—produced several serious financial crises between the Asian crisis of 1998 and the Great Recession of 2008, all of which were accompanied by job losses (Moghadam 2011). The gendered nature of neoliberalism was evident not only in the composition and behavior of the financial elite but also in the patterns of unemployment that followed the crises. The global recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis was initially called a “man-cession” due to job losses by men in manufacturing and constructions sectors. Gradually,



more women lost pink collar and public sector jobs (Gottfried 2013; Rubery and Rafferty 2013). From a WID perspective, with its focus on women’s marginalization and exclusion, the economic disempowerment of large sections of the female population by structural adjustment policies in developing countries, the transitions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and various financial crises that accompanied neoliberal globalization, would seem to have undermined, set back, or prevented the gains in women’s status, gender relations, and women’s income control that had come about or were expected with educational attainment and other aspects of development and modernization processes. For WAD and GAD researchers, the various transitions, restructurings, and crises reflect both gender and class dynamics. Effects on women depend on social class (or their relationship to the means of production), on positioning within the labor market, on the nature of state policies and legal frameworks, and on the dominant gender ideology. Many feminist researchers agree that neoliberal globalization has led to a polarization of women (and men) in the global economy and in world society: the highly educated with various skills and “cultural capital” have benefited from the availability of professional careers that are stable and well remunerated, whereas those with less education as well as a large proportion of young people are part of what Standing (2011) has termed the global precariat. The economic power of the wealthiest is also translated into political power and even the capacity to define “democracy.” It is perhaps an irony of history that it was during the neoliberal era that the global women’s rights agenda developed most expansively, in the form of international treaties, funding for women’s NGOs, and the design of datasets to measure the progress of women and girls. GAD aligned itself with the global women’s rights agenda, endorsing and promoting such international instruments as the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Millennium Development Goals of 2000–2015. These agreements call for the integration of women and gender issues in all development planning, policies, and projects (“gender mainstreaming”) along with mechanisms such as gender budgets and gender audits to realize the goal of gender equality in such areas as education, employment, and political participation (United Nations 1996). To monitor progress and compare trends, international datasets were developed by U.N. agencies and other international organizations, as well as by groups of academics, with various statistical measures and gender indicators, all now available online. Some include crossnational rankings and indices, such the U.N. Development Programme’s Gender and Development Index, which “engenders” its Human Development Index by accounting for women’s participation and rights; the programme’s Human Development indicators database also includes many indicators on women. More recently, The Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit provides a “Women’s Economic Opportunity” index and rankings table. The World Bank’s Gender Data Portal provides descriptive statistics and information, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap database includes both



descriptive data and an index. The ILO’s labor force statistics database is gender-disaggregated, and the International Parliamentary Union provides data on women’s political participation, including their share of parliamentary seats. Academics use these international datasets but have also designed their own datasets. These include empowerment measurement frameworks by feminist scholars (e.g., Kabeer 1999; Moghadam and Senftová 2005; Walby 2005), the WomanStats database designed by feminist scholars at Brigham Young University, and the CIRI Human Rights database on civil, political, and social rights designed by two professors at Binghamton University and the University of Connecticut. The World Values Survey also provides gender-disaggregated data that is increasingly utilized by feminist development researchers to illustrate cross-national attitudes toward women’s economic and political participation and gender equality.10 As such, WID / WAD / GAD has “engendered” international development policymaking, at least to some extent; arguments for working “where women are” or “within the system” would accordingly seem to have some merit. However, GAD advocacy had no effect on the global system’s increasing financialization, which led to the Great Recession of 2008 and the continuing polarization and income gaps within countries, not to mention the persistence of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. Nor has there been any effect on militarism and conflicts in various parts of the world. In this way, arguments that GAD has been depoliticized and its ideas co-opted and appropriated for stopgap measures rather than longer-term transformations also have merit. One might conclude from the present survey of feminist development research and advocacy that the wide-ranging and macro-level critiques of the ecofeminists and socialist feminists of the WAD perspective, along with those who adhere to Marxist and world-system analyses, retain their compelling explanatory power while also constituting a call for action. It should nevertheless be noted that scholarly research on forms of female labor deployment and advocacy for women’s economic empowerment has drawn attention to both the needed policy measures to improve women’s welfare and the necessary prerequisites for women’s collective action and social change.


Feminist development sociology is characterized by both critical analysis of what is and advocacy of what ought to be. From Friedrich Engels to sociologists such as Rae Lesser Blumberg (1984, 1989b) and Janet Chafetz (1984, 1990), theorists and advocates have argued that women’s economic independence is a prerequisite for involvement in political society. In turn, economic independence comes about through formal-sector labor or some form of income-generation and control. For Engels and Karl Marx, work in a capitalist economy was both a source of exploitation and a possibility for mobilization. In Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State ([1884] 1972), Engels refers to the “world-historical defeat of the female sex” in the wake of the agricultural revolution, which



entailed women’s marginalization from production and the establishment of codes of sexual control—or what historian Gerda Lerner (1987) later referred to as “the creation of patriarchy.” Patterns of female economic activity have varied over historical periods and systems of production, and—as we have seen—feminist theorists hypothesized “housewifization” or marginalization/domestication with the spread of capitalist relations of production or the development of capitalist modernity. If workers (male and female) faced exploitation at the sphere of production, women also faced it within the sphere of reproduction. For workers, the prospect of self-empowerment lay in the conditions of their existence (i.e., social production), which enabled class consciousness and mobilization toward broader social change. It stands to reason, then, that for women the first step toward self-empowerment is to enter the labor force and control the fruits of their labor. Blumberg’s gender stratification theory emphasizes women’s degree of control of the means of production and the distribution of economic surplus. It is based on a broad empirical knowledge of diverse societal types, ranging from hunting and gathering through horticultural and agrarian systems to industrial societies. The degree of gender stratification, she argues, is inversely related to the level of economic power women can mobilize; conversely, the less economic power women can mobilize, the more likely are they to be oppressed physically, politically, and ideologically. The greater women’s economic power relative to men’s and the more women control their own lives, the greater their access will be to other sources of value in stratified social systems, especially honor and prestige, political power, and ideological support for their rights. In Blumberg’s view (1984; 1989b, 163), gender inequalities are “nested” at diverse levels: male-female relations are nested in households; households are nested in local communities; and, if a society is sufficiently large to reveal a coercive state and a system of class stratification, household and community are nested inside of the class structure that, in turn, is lodged within a larger state-managed society. This nesting is important because women’s control of economic resources can be located at different levels, and the level at which their economic power is strongest influences the power that women can command at the other levels of social organization. Chafetz’s 1990 book Gender Equity: An Integrated Theory of Stability and Change presents a set of models and propositions to explain both the forces maintaining a system of gender inequality and a theory of how such a system can be changed. In her conceptualization, three types of gender social definitions link macro- and meso-level coercive and voluntaristic processes: gender ideology (beliefs about basic differences between the sexes, often presumed to be biological; gender norms (expectations about appropriate forms of behavior for women and men); and gender stereotypes (accentuation of sex differences and presumed responses in specific situations). Change comes about as a result of sociodemographic, technological, economic, and political processes. These factors and the change they bring about are largely “unintended,” although sociologists now can predict longer-term societal and gender effects of such processes. But inten-



tional change can occur when elite males perceive that gender inequality threatens their status or their plans for the society, or when competing male elites seek to recruit women to their side. Such elites—in and around the state—will try to mobilize women’s support in exchange for promises to ameliorate women’s disadvantages in the division of labor and in the system of gender definitions. Such elite male-initiated reforms, along with long-term changes caused by industrialization, urbanization, and expansion of the middle classes, create an enabling environment for middle-class women who experience a sense of relative deprivation and have the material and educational resources to seek expanded opportunities outside their domestic responsibilities and pursue a wider set of interests. The formation of women’s rights organizations and feminist movements follows. The frameworks by Blumberg and by Chafetz retain their analytical power and may be applied toward an analysis of the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and their political empowerment in different national contexts, and an understanding of where and when women’s collective action might emerge and succeed. Blumberg’s emphasis on the relationship between women’s income control and women’s empowerment might also help explain differences in women’s status across cultures. For example, state failures in the development process, along with patriarchal barriers to women’s employment and education in Pakistan and Yemen, are reflected in the low female labor force participation rates: 23 percent in Pakistan and 25 percent in Yemen. In 2010, the mean years of schooling for women were just 5 in Pakistan and a mere 2.5 in Yemen; women aged 25 and above with secondary schooling constituted just 18 percent in Pakistan and 7.6 percent in Yemen. Total fertility rates (average number of children per woman) were 3.2 in Pakistan and 5 in Yemen.11 As Blumberg would argue, women without income under their own control have little control over their own bodies or leverage within the household. Another study that would confirm Blumberg’s theory is by Mary Osirim (2009), who found that, despite challenges such as male domination and an onerous structural adjustment environment in Zimbabwe in the 1990s, many women who owned small businesses were able to contribute to their households and communities as well as gain respect. Income control can also lead to changes in gender relations within the household, as Barbara Finlay (1989) found for rural women in the Dominican Republic and as Yildiz Ecevit (1991) found for married women factory workers in Bursa, Turkey. However, a qualitative study of working-class and middle-class households in Mexico in 1990 (Garcia and de Oliveira 1995) concluded that a commitment to work—more present among the middle-class than the workingclass working women in their sample—was also salient. If poor working conditions act as a disincentive to women’s labor force participation and commitment, then the benefits of earned income control—such as changes in the household division of labor and higher aspirations for children—cannot be reaped. This is where the relevance of the ILO’s “decent work” agenda, along with women’s collective action for change, becomes obvious. Indeed, GAD scholars have called for



women’s empowerment through collective action in feminist and grassroots women’s groups (Kabeer 1994, Momsen 2004; Jaquette and Summerfield 2006) and in trade unions (Moghadam, Franzway, and Fonow 2011). Such activism, in part to demand improvements in women’s work conditions, could lead to what Walby (2009) predicts will be greater support for social democracy among the world’s women.


Over the decades, theories have emerged to explain modernization, development, and globalization, whether from the “mainstream” of social science or from feminist researchers. Policy frameworks also have been introduced—and in many cases imposed—that have had distinct and varied effects on women and men of different social classes in world-system locations. Table 1.1 highlights the major theoretical and policy frameworks from the 1950s to 2011 and the main agents and actors behind those frameworks. In addition, I have included a column that summarizes some of the social outcomes. Clearly, we have come a long way since the early days of modernization and development theories, which tended to present a homogeneous “Third World.” We now have an appreciation of the dynamics of the semiperiphery, what were once called newly industrializing countries (NICs), and such contemporary economic powerhouses as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (collectively known as BRICS). Declining U.S. hegemony, the periodic crises of the capitalist world system, and class polarization have eroded the system’s legitimacy and led to numerous protests across the globe. Throughout, WID / WAD / GAD specialists within sociology have demonstrated the ways in which women and men are differentially affected by development processes, and the ways by which gender relations influence, and are influenced by, social transformations. Feminist development sociology has been informed by stratification, social change, and migration theories; by labor economics; by Marxian, dependency, and world-system theories as well as (neo)institutionalism; and by feminist concepts of patriarchy, the sexual division of labor, and gender. It has addressed questions and issues posed in the wider inter-, cross-, and multidisciplinary WID / WAD / GAD field and contributed key studies that have broadened its parameters. Sociologists have tackled issues such as gender inequality and world-system location; variations in female labor supply and demand over time and space; education-fertility-employment linkages; women, income, and bargaining positions within the household; the place of household labor in commodity chains; how forms of female labor contribute to capital accumulation and to social reproduction; and the state, gendered institutions, and women’s rights. These issues have been studied at macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of analysis, using qualitative and quantitative methods of ethnography, surveys, interviews and participant observation, statistical analyses based on large-N databases, and meta-analyses. Field research has been carried out by specialists of sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa. As such, feminist development





Neoliberal economics; critical globalization studies; gender and globalization studies; democratization studies; conflict and security studies; GAD

1970s–1980s Ester Boserup’s Women and Economic Development, WID paradigm; Subordination of Women Group, Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex 1980s Neoclassical economic theories supplant Keynesianism and state-directed development; rise of critical WAD approach 1990s “Washington Consensus”; “Human Development”; GAD approach, “feminist economics”

“Marginalization” of female labor; “housewifization”; Third World “golden age” Rise of NICs; incorporation of female labor in world factories in Southeast Asia and Mexico-U.S. border; global expansion of WID/WAD research networks; “third wave of democratization” begins Reliance on “unlimited supplies” of female labor for both low-wage productive and non-waged reproductive labor; double burden increases among poor women Privatization, liberalization, flexibilization, neoliberal Single global economy; subcontracting of female labor; new wars; women gather at globalization; microlending and entrepreneurship Fourth World Conference on Women (IFIs and most governments); capabilities and (Beijing, Sept. 1995); rise of transnational women’s human rights (women’s policy agencies, feminist networks and women’s human NGOs, and transnational feminist networks rights discourse [TFNs]); gender-disaggregated data, measurements of empowerment, gender budgets (researchers in academia, international nongovernmental organizations [INGOs], and international organizations [IOs]) Financialization (transnational capitalist class Rise of BRICS; Financial crisis 2007–8, [TCC] and core states); Millennium Development global recession, rising food prices, Goals (U.N. and advocacy groups); gender equality Eurozone crisis; global protests; Arab (TFNs and U.N.) Spring

Growth of manufacturing; new social classes; rising social inequality; growth of male proletariat in “Third World”

Import-substitution industrialization; land reform; public schooling and health (states)

“Non-capitalist road to development”; basic needs approach (Third World countries and advocates) Integrate women into development (WID offices and advocates); transform marriage and the market to end female oppression (feminist scholars); first and second U.N. world conferences on women (U.N. and women’s groups) IMF stabilization and World Bank structural adjustment policies (international financial institutions [IFIs] and U.S. Treasury)

Social Outcomes

Policies (Agents)

Development Theories, Policies, and Social Outcomes, 1950s to 2011

1950s–1960s Theories of development and modernization: industrialization, transition from traditional to modern society 1960s–1970s Rise of dependency school


table 1.1

research has not only deepened sociological knowledge of gender dynamics and the interconnections of gender relations and broad development processes but also helped to internationalize American sociology. Changes in the characteristics of the world’s female population, as well as the contradictions and opportunities afforded by modernization, development and globalization, have resulted in the proliferation of women’s mobilizations, from campaigns to save waterways, trees, and communities to the formation of feminist organizations and networks, and the involvement of women in broad political movements such as mass social protests, revolutions, the World Social Forum, and democratic transitions. Neoliberal globalization has been met with organized protest activity, including transnational feminist activism, which has become the subject of much sociological research (Desai 2009; Ferree and Tripp 2006; Moghadam 2005a, 2013a; Naples and Desai 2002; Pangsapa 2007; Smith et al. 2008). Studies of women and revolution in the Global South have examined the causes of revolution, the gender dynamics of revolutionary movements, the policies and laws of revolutionary states, and modes of women’s resistance to subordination (Farhi 1994; Molyneux 1986; Kampwirth 2003; Moghadam 1997, 2003; Shayne 2004). As new “revolutions” break out, feminist development sociologists will bring four decades of accumulated knowledge to bear on causes, dynamics, and possible outcomes. Feminist political scientists studying recent democratic transitions (e.g., Jaquette 2009; Waylen 1994, 2007) have been joined by sociologists (Di Marco and Tabbush 2010; Moghadam 2013c; Paxton and Hughes 2014; Seidman 1999; Viterna and Fallon 2008) who study patterns of women’s political participation and offer a set of factors—internal and external—that might explain or predict different gendered outcomes of democracy movements. Some of the most insightful and original sociological research on women’s and feminist movements emanates from those writing on countries of the Middle East and North Africa (Hasso 1998; Lazreg 1994; Rezai-Rashti and Moghadam 2011; Rizzo 2005; Salime 2011; Skalli 2011). The complexities of the Arab Spring and the divergent directions taken by the various outbreaks of 2011 suggest that research on their gendered dynamics and their connections to global economic and political processes will continue for years to come. The literature on women’s collective action in the context of development and global restructuring is vast and significant, and it is likely to grow. Studies of women, work, family, and social policies should extend to more countries in the semi-periphery. Research on trends in, and implications of, women’s political representation and leadership will continue. We should expect more feminist research that builds on the pioneering work of Mies and Shiva (1993) to examine the gendered impacts of climate change and to interrogate models of endless growth that generate ecological degradation and undermine progress toward women’s well-being and empowerment. Given economic, political, and social trends in the world system, there is bound to be an abundance of research questions to pursue and change mechanisms to promote.




1. As explained further in this article and illustrated in Table 1.1, the field of women, gender, and development has experienced conceptual shifts and related policy and advocacy foci. Women in development (WID) emphasized women’s marginalization from the development process—whether caused by modernization, industrialization, agricultural commercialization, or rural-urban migration—and called for women’s integration. Women and development (WAD) was a more critical turn, interrogating capitalist development and its policy prescriptions such as “structural adjustment,” along with state policies reinforcing women’s subordination. Gender and development (GAD) places the focus of analysis on the social relations of gender with a view toward transformation and equality. For a full exposition, see Rathegeber 1990 and Kabeer 1994. Feminist development sociology may draw on all three traditions. 2. As early as 1965, René Maheu, UNESCO director-general, delivered an address entitled “The Promotion of Women’s Rights” to members of the Consultant Panel on the Promotion of Women’s Rights and Opportunities, meeting at UNESCO House, Paris, from June 23 to July 2, 1965. (From UNESCO archives, acquired in 2005 when I was a UNESCO section chief.) 3. Its successor is Gendered Perspectives in International Development, available at http:// 4. Another study emphasizing the links between the absence of trade unions and the growth of female labor in manufacturing is by political scientist Teri Caraway (2007), with a case study of Indonesia. 5. The first edition of my book Modernizing Women appeared in 1993, so that is when the argument was first made. 6. In 2008, Michael Ross made a similar argument, using quantitative methods. Other studies have sought to disprove the “oil thesis,” emphasizing instead patriarchal structures, including kin-based solidarities and Islamic laws and norms. See, e.g., Charrad 2009. 7. See Moser 1993, drawing on concepts in Molyneux 1986. 8. In this context, a line of inquiry known as the postmodernist feminist perspective on development was more prominent among political scientists than among sociologists but remained arguably marginal to the larger literature and research trends. In Marchand and Parpart 1995, for example, the essays by two scholar-activists from Kenya and India (Nzomo 1995; Udayagiri 1995) raised fundamental questions about postmodernism’s relevance, given its detachment from politics and policy. 9. Prostitution antedates structural adjustment and neoliberal globalization, of course, and, as an extreme form of female subordination, it has been associated with male privilege since “the world-historical defeat of the female sex,” in Friedrich Engels’s apt term, with the rise of private property and the state. Prostitution is also generated by militarism (see, e.g., Enloe 1989; Truong 1990) as well as poverty and state failures. 10. The sponsorship of the World Values Survey is diffuse; the surveys are carried out by a global network of social scientists, with a central office in Stockholm. See http://www 11. Data are from the U.N. Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2013.




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The topic of population and development is an old and complex issue that cuts deeply across several disciplines. It would be nearly impossible to give a comprehensive review, since both demography and development have a burgeoning scholarship. Demography consists of dozens of subfields, each with its own extensive literature and separate links to other disciplines (see Poston and Micklin 2005 for an overview of this). Development has long been the conceptual battleground between sociology and economics, regularly interrupted by internal debates in both fields. The grand discourse often spilled over to other disciplines, especially to political science in regard to proposed policies, and to geography because of the spatial manifestation of inequalities and policy impacts. In this chapter, the focus is on the direct intersection of population dynamics and development studies in a historical perspective. The discussion of development theory not related to demography is omitted, as is population scholarship with no direct link to development. The micro-level conceptualization of population and development, such as the socioeconomic conditions of minority groups or migrant integration, are also not discussed. What remains is still significant, and it consists of three large and somewhat overlapping themes: population and economic growth; population and resources; and population and social equality. These themes also represent how the concept of development has been changing over time. Because population as an object of study has remained the same (i.e., an aggregate of people), our understanding of population and development is mostly a function of how we conceptualize and measure development itself.


As with most modern thought, we can find one of the earliest discussions of population and development in the Age of Enlightenment (albeit often building on the work of early scholars, such as Ibn Khaldun). After writing the Persian Letters with several comments on demography, Montesquieu published the Spirit of Laws in which he discussed Europe’s depopulation problem and its causes: When a state is depopulated by particular accidents, by wars, pestilence, or famine, there are still resources left. The men who remain may preserve the spirit of industry; they may seek to repair their misfortunes, and calamity itself may make them become more industrious. This evil is almost incurable when the depopulation is prepared beforehand by interior vice and a bad government. When this is the case, men perish with an insensible and habitual disease; born in misery and weakness, in violence or under the influence of a wicked administration. . . . Of this we have a melancholy proof in the countries desolated by despotic power, or by the excessive advantages of the clergy over the laity. (de Secondat [1748] 1991, 729)

The world has changed a great deal since Montesquieu’s time. An example of the contemporary position on the general subject is the 2011 report of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, with a comprehensive list of conceptual components: [We recognize] that the ultimate goal is the improvement of the quality of life of present and future generations, that the objective is to facilitate the demographic transition, as soon as possible, in countries where there is an imbalance between demographic rates and social, economic and environmental goals, while fully respecting human rights, and that this process will contribute to the stabilization of the world population and, together with changes in unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, to sustainable development and economic growth. (5)

Seemingly not much connects the two perspectives. Montesquieu was concerned with depopulation whereas the commission focused on a variety of issues, such as environmental goals, sustainability, and even the modern understanding of human rights, that were unheard of in the eighteenth century. Montesquieu used demography to criticize political structures and the government whereas the commission recognized demography as an endogenous component of development. Yet, there is a crucial common conceptual point. Both Montesquieu and the commission, as well as most scholars and social thinkers in the past three hundred years, saw population dynamics as inseparable from the development of social and political structures and institutions. The causal mechanisms and the nature of embeddedness regarding these two have long been debated, but we can not talk about development issues without acknowledging the corresponding population trends, nor can we analyze demographic dynamics without assessing their development impacts. In other words, population and development are interrelated.



This chapter develops examples of this interrelation in a historical perspective, covering the three major periods of the population and development discourse. The first is the early times when the concept of development was born and the demographic component was almost exclusively seen as a population size/growth issue. The second is the period between World War II and the 1970s, the peak time of the conceptual and applied fusion of modernization, development economics, and demographic scholarship. Finally, the third period is from the late 1970s onward, when the grand narrative of population and development was deconstructed but its fragments have continued to live on in meso-level discourses such as those on fertility, urbanization, environmental impact, international migration, and aging.


Development commonly refers to social and economic progress. For social thinkers in the Age of Enlightenment, it meant questioning the God-ordained status quo and looking for laws that guide human behavior, similar to the already established natural sciences. The idea of progress became central to the well-being of the community, which later increasingly meant the nation. And if the nation was no longer simply the ruling elite but, rather, all or at least most of the people, then concerns with the progress of the nation also meant concerns with the well-being of its citizens. This new interest in people and social order in the era of mass political participation and nation-building was the first modern example of demographic thinking, though it would still be many decades before any attempts to systematically describe and analyze population dynamics in relation to societal development. This was also the age of colonization and mercantilism, both connected to the understanding that not only military conquest but also economic competition hold the key to the wealth of the nation. Population was a crucial element in both; in fact, mercantilism viewed it as the main driver of prosperity. The population growth of Europe between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries was indeed instrumental for the Industrial Revolution and for general economic development. Trade balance was seen as the main indicator of wealth, and strong state involvement via tariffs and regulations was preferred to protect the national economic interests. The mercantilist view on population was challenged by the physiocratic school, which argued that it is the means of subsistence that determines population size. It was Adam Smith who elaborated on this and argued that it is driven by the demand for labor on a given amount of land. With this, classical economics was the first scientific discipline to tackle the issue of population and development. The mercantilist framework was a conceptual prerequisite, though, making the discourse rational and practical and promoting the use of increasingly complex calculations and quantifiable indicators. For Smith, it was free trade and the invisible hand of self-regulating markets, as opposed to state regulations preferred by the mercantilists, that secured the efficient use



of resources. At that time, the relationship between labor and wages was thought to have a direct impact on population. If wages are high, more children are born, went the argument; hence, population growth is a function of economic development. Although this was challenged many times over the following centuries, especially at the individual/ household level, the idea that population change and economic growth are closely connected became a dominant view. In the late eighteenth century, social philosophers were generally optimistic about the population component of development. Thinkers such as William Godwin claimed that technological progress will solve social problems and that population growth would not jeopardize prosperity. A reaction to Godwin, and a strong general critique on the utopian views of the Enlightenment, was Malthus’s famous essay in 1798 portraying a pessimistic outlook on poverty and overpopulation with a strong focus on the social and economic aspect of the question. Malthus was likely building on the work of Robert Wallace, from a generation before, by attacking the Poor Laws and a system of workhouses (an early welfare program), advocating moral restraint as a solution. Malthus’s opposition to welfare was surprisingly similar to Montesquieu’s opposition to the pension scheme of Louis XIV, which rewarded families with more than ten children. But, unlike his French predecessor, Malthus used a systematic argument backed by a theoretical construct, which conformed to the mainstream economic discourse of his era. In his view, overpopulation leads to poverty and the poor themselves are to blame for this partly because welfare provisions undercut motivation to make an effort to break out of this cycle. Regardless of the lack of empirical basis at that time, this was a powerful position that has survived to contemporary welfare discourses. As much as Malthus and the classical economists were at odds with each other regarding the population part of the equation (for a good overview of this period, see Wrigley 1988), such differences were minor compared to the next development school emerging in the mid-nineteenth century. Although the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is usually portrayed as the antithesis of Malthus in demography textbooks, they actually said little on population dynamics; instead, they focused almost entirely on the economic side of the question. Their conceptual position, however, was instrumental in bringing down the neoclassical modernization paradigm and its associated population policies in the 1970s, as we will see below. For Marx and his followers, the development of human societies is a series of stages, the boundaries of which are crossed when modes of production become outdated and trigger a crisis. At each stage, societies have their laws of production and, subsequently, their laws of population dynamics. Population dynamics thus become a function of the prevailing economic structure, as opposed to following a natural law applicable to all societies. Overpopulation and poverty are indicators of the crisis and signs of the need for change. Hence, the solution is not in individual action or government intervention but in structural transformation. This transformation then produces new modes of production, which in turn solves overpopulation.



From a demographic perspective, the fundamental difference between Marx and those that came before him was in the conceptualization of development outcomes visà-vis demographic change. Marx argued that development happens in stages and produces vastly different results each time. Malthus, Smith, and the others saw development as a linear trend on which some nations are ahead of others. This major difference manifests itself not only in how one explains certain demographic trends but also in policies to tackle undesired outcomes, not to mention the very definition of those undesired outcomes. What makes these population and development perspectives similar, however, is that all of them were strongly under the influence of the positivist paradigm. Scholars felt that there are uniform elements or even laws behind the explanations. This applied even to micro-level explanations, such as those made by John Stuart Mill or Arsene Dumont, who noted that the desire for prosperity and improving social status are strong drivers of individual decisions to limit fertility. This positivist perspective remained dominant in population thinking until the 1980s. The late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century discourse was largely determined by the fear of population decline, particularly in France. The questionable application of scientific thought on population led to the rise of the eugenics movements, which were concerned with maintaining a desired genetic stock, mostly from a race and class perspective, saturating the early works of well-known scholars such as Corrado Gini. Eugenics quickly turned to full-blown racism and social exclusion, particularly in the United States (Allen 1989), arguing that certain ethnic groups are undesired or even detrimental to national development. America’s early–twentieth-century immigration laws and the quota system were partly based on such considerations. Eugenics was then fully implemented by the Nazis on population issues, which has led to its scientific rejection. Behind the pseudo-scientific debate on eugenics, the seeds of the professionalization of demography had already been planted. In 1927, the first World Population Conference was held in Geneva, facilitating the foundation of the International Union for the Investigation of Population Problems (which later became the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population) the following year. More importantly, work was being done on the first modern attempt to find systematic and possibly universal explanation for the association of long-term demographic trends and national development. Warren Thompson (1929), who wrote his dissertation on Malthus and became largely interested in Japanese demography, focused on differences between groups of countries, looking for patterns of fertility and mortality change. His categorization of countries from a demographic perspective was notably similar to the understanding of the development gradient later: a core of western and northern Europe and the United States (Group A); the southern and eastern periphery of Europe (Group B); and the rest of the world (Group C, represented by a few countries for which he had data). However, his thesis was neglected until the late 1940s, when the discourse on population and development was suddenly framed as an international political and security concern in a brave new world.




Shortly after World War II, a unique intersection of events changed the scholarly and political views on population and development. Decolonization and the Cold War suddenly made the “Third World” important in the new international order, albeit with all its development problems. It did not take long to associate most of these problems with unfavorable demographic trends. Frank Notestein, who later became the first head of the U.N. Population Division, rediscovered Thompson’s theory of population and development, and he set the alarmist tone, warning about the population pressure in developing countries: “They will be increasingly expensive and troublesome to administer, and unsatisfactory to do business with. Of themselves they will be too impotent to threaten the peace, but probably they will be discontented, disloyal, and ready, if somewhat inefficient, materials for each new political conflagration” (Notestein 1944, 148). At the same time, his colleague Kingsley Davis labeled the process first described by Thompson as the “demographic transition” and coined the term “population explosion” (Davis 1945). To facilitate international comparisons, the first Demographic Yearbook was published in 1948, and the United Nations put a lot of emphasis on providing methodological help for countries to administer population censuses around 1950. As the results of these data collections became available, the numbers seemed to support the alarmist position. Demographic transition theory, especially its refined version, provided a clear picture on how population and development are connected in a linear fashion. The assumption was that the period of uncontrolled high fertility and high mortality (phase 1) is first followed by mortality decline triggered by public health improvements (phase 2), which produces sudden population growth due to the fact that fertility declines with some delay (phase 3) before reaching a sustained slow growth pattern (phase 4). Countries must go through the temporary population boom (between phases 2 and 3) quickly enough to avoid crippling their economies and social institutions but should still enjoy the fruits of the demographic dividend—the temporary change in age structure that increases the ratio of economically active persons to persons whose likelihood of working is much lower due to their young or old age (see the chapter by David Brown and Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue in this volume). Postponing the mortality transition is not desirable (after all, development is the goal), thus the focus must be on managing the fertility transition through family planning provided as international assistance under the auspices of the United Nations. The political agenda of postwar international assistance to tackle overpopulation was supported not only by a seemingly universal demographic theory but also by the dominant conceptualizations of development as framed by development economics and modernization theory. These represented a Western-centric attitude on development, or rather social engineering, with a positivist confidence. The fear from both communism and Third World economic inefficiency, as well as the lingering but never admitted



specter of eugenics, created a strong collaboration in the West to solve global development problems rooted in explosively high population growth rates in the Global South. With virtually no opposition from government, business, or academic circles, the 1950s and 1960s saw a great consensus emerging on population and development programs (for an excellent overview from the population studies perspective, see Caldwell 2005). Development economics, based on Keynesian principles, made population an endogenous variable and argued that its control is vital for economic growth. The perception was that people would not change their behavior if the societal environment (i.e., structures and institutions) did not motivate them to do so. It promoted policy interventions so that developing countries could catch up faster. This corresponded well with modernization theory, which saw the nation as the political framework for development and the state as a crucial actor in the adaptation of “modern” economic and political institutions. Modernization was connected to decolonization because the independent nation-state was the naturally assumed framework for economic development, and Harry Truman as a leader of the First World was quick to declare the preference of development over “old imperialism” (McMichael 2007, 23). Conveniently, the theory of demographic transition worked well in this paradigm. Walt Rostow’s thesis (1960) on the historical stages of modernization provided the intellectual framework, assuring everybody that development is linear and societal structures are similar enough, or could be made similar enough, to implement changes based on Western experiences. The division between developed and developing worlds was straightforward, the supporting political and economic logic was clear, and the remedy looked obvious. It is important to note that the only available alternative to this modernization paradigm, Soviet-style development, was more similar than is typically recognized. The ideology was different, of course, but the fundamentally functionalist understanding of development with economic growth in the center was the same. Modernization assumed state involvement, and socialist countries simply thought that, by eliminating market inefficiency and putting the state in the center of all development with rational planning and an extensive redistributive structure, they could successfully out-modernize the West. That experiment failed, but mostly because its institutional rigidity was not able to follow the West switching away from development via modernization to neoliberal globalization (Kornai 1992). There is little debate that conditions in most developing countries improved between the 1940s and the 1970s. Mortality declined significantly, there was some economic growth and political stabilization, and social indicators such as infant mortality and literacy improved as well. But the publication of The Population Bomb (Ehrlich 1968) painted a dark picture, and pessimism prevailed. That same year, in his first policy address at the World Bank, Robert McNamara stated: “The rapid growth of population is one of the greatest barriers to the economic growth and well-being of our member states. . . . The control of population growth is yet another area where the Bank needs to take new initiatives” (quoted in World Bank 1981, 12).



Paul Ehrlich’s book reheated the old Malthusian debate on the relationship between population and resources. This debate had two distinct versions. One was shaped by famines in developing countries, seemingly supporting the original Malthusian argument on population and food production, and served as the direct trigger for writing The Population Bomb. The solution was to establish new ways of production, from which Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution was born, later creating its own development problems. (It is noteworthy how the case of India in the late 1960s was the example for both Ehrlich and Borlaug.) The second version of the debate was within development economics about the relationship between population and various economic variables, such as savings, human capital formation, and investment. This second discourse assumed that modernization by and large works, and it argued that the fundamental link determining development outcomes is between population and economic capacity, most importantly the availability of capital (Coale and Hoover 1958, interestingly, using the case of India again). The logical extension of this discourse was that not food but capital is the basic resource and that modernization is the remedy that eventually provides it, allowing developing countries to “take off ” as Rostow predicted. By the early 1970s, however, after the most recent censuses from developing countries became available, the modernization narrative on population and development came under heavy criticism from multiple directions. The questions were puzzling. Was there sufficient improvement in life quality to constitute development? What was the actual contribution of international assistance to social and economic progress? Did family planning have the desired impact on controlling and reducing fertility? Was the price tag on Third World development too large? And, more fundamentally, was the theory of the demographic transition a valid framework for understanding population and development interactions and to make reliable future projections of either population or development? The biggest clash between development opinions and policies occurred at the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest (Cassen 1994), by which time the attack on the “development project” (as labeled in McMichael 2007) was in full swing. Previous U.N. population conferences (in 1954 in Rome and in 1965 in Belgrade) were mostly expert meetings, but by the mid-1970s there was thirty years’ worth of development evidence to assess, criticize, or boast about. It was inevitable that, by that time, development itself had become a cultural attitude, manifested in a certain global order and determined by the economic and political dominance of the West (Peet and Hartwick 1999). After all, the grand narrative of population growth and economic development was based on Western experiences, and the causal mechanisms linking population growth and development were still incompletely understood. Hence, it was not entirely clear whether Western experiences would be replicated in the Global South. By the 1970s, neo-Marxist theories (dependency theory, world-systems theory) had questioned the dominant narrative, started to deconstruct the modernization development paradigm, and offered alternative critical explanations for the developmental differences between countries, pointing out that catching up is not



possible because inequalities are inherent in the global capitalist system (Frank 1969; Wallerstein 1974). From the opposite direction, neoliberal economics accepted the cultural attitude but questioned the involvement of the state and criticized the efficiency of the development project (Bauer 1972). Demography was not exempt from similar critiques. It was not clear whether any favorable population trend was caused by a designated policy or, rather, was a side effect of other trends operating in the background. Although the causes of mortality decline were fairly evident, the same was not true for fertility change (or its lack thereof ). Urbanization, a necessary element of industrialization under the modernization paradigm, created as many new problems as it ameliorated since services and formal sector jobs could not keep up with urban population growth. It did not take long to question the relevance of demographic transition as a universally explanatory theory. In a well-known critical article in Science, Michael Teitelbaum (1976) opened a long debate after which demographers became much more cautious about using the transition theory indiscriminately for all countries and time periods. Instead, most of the attention turned toward the fertility transition, where most of the unexplained trends occurred and the academic discourse was already under way. It was generally understood that, if the fertility transition is delayed, the demographic dividends would be negated by prolonged population growth, jeopardizing a country’s overall development. It was also clear that, whereas mortality decline is largely policyinduced (with largely exogenous investments in health infrastructure), fertility decline is a web of individual or household-level decisions, where people react to the changing social, cultural, and economic conditions. This complex decision-making framework is reflected in various explanatory theories, including the cost-benefit analysis of fertility (Becker 1960), the theory of demographic change and response (Davis 1963), and the relative cohort size hypothesis (Easterlin 1968). These theories were products of the development project in the sense that all were characterized by both a strong modernization perspective and explanatory optimism. Once the development project was dismantled and the traditional concept of development itself was contested, demographic scholarship started to pay more attention to forces that were much more difficult to quantify. A good example is the work on ideational changes explaining the diffusion of low fertility (Cleland and Wilson 1987), which was a fundamental component of what later became known as the second demographic transition. In the meantime, critical theory and political economy became more influential in sociology in the 1970s, challenging modernization. Although this contested the universally accepted understanding of development, its impact on actual development practices was less significant. The conceptual shift to the left distanced the academic discourse from the political ideology and development practice still operating in a Cold War framework. Yet the challenge to find more comprehensive indicators than economic growth, triggered by critiques from the social sciences, proved quite difficult. Neo-Marxist theories of development at the time were followed by the postmodern fragmentation of criti-



cal approaches that questioned both development as a rational concept and progress as defined by the Enlightenment thinkers. This has tended to elevate the theoretical discourse to a level of abstraction that lost all relevance to demography. Ironically, this theoretical fragmentation offered an excellent opportunity for neoliberal economics to monopolize the economic development discourse and portray itself as the only perspective that is able to provide simple and practical answers to development questions. Following the shift to post-Fordist production, the emergence of the global economic market with its transnational actors, and with the full support of Western administrations (most notably under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher), neoliberalism has become the dominant conceptual framework shaping international development. Success stories, such as the rise of the “Asian Tigers,” which could be seen as a function of the demographic dividend argued for by neoclassical economics (Birdsall, Kelley, and Sinding 2001), were rebranded as the result of free, unregulated global trade. Eventually, neoliberalism and its policy tool, “shock therapy,” went on to save the postcommunist world after the collapse of the Soviet Union (Sachs 1991)—though the success of this cure is fiercely debated, and, given the current state of affairs in Eastern Europe, including its demographic problems such as persistent natural decrease, extreme aging, and population decline, one can see why. The population and economic growth debate continues, but evidence from the ground is still confusing (Bloom and Freeman 1987). Since 1990, however, most scholars have agreed that population growth, in and of itself, is not directly associated with the rate of growth in GDP. As Giuseppe Gaburro and Dudley Poston noted, “The numerous empirical studies examining the relationship between per capita output and population growth lead mainly to one result: the lack of a direct and clear connection or association between population growth and economic growth” (1991, 22). It does not mean that population and economic growth are not connected; rather, it means that this connection is contingent on and mediated by many other factors, poorly captured by both theory and research. The question of population and resources became a separate debate by the 1970s. The concept and problem of common pool resources were illustrated by Gerrett Hardin (1968) as the tragedy of the commons. However, most of the attention was given to Ehrlich and population ecology, especially when his pessimism was validated by the 1973 oil crisis, at least in the short run. A more important long-term outcome of his thesis was a renewed academic interest in the environmental dimension of development and the limits to population growth (Demeny 1988), leading to discussions on carrying capacity, ecological footprint, and sustainability. As a result, environment as a factor became strongly entrenched in both the development and the demographic scholarship (Pebley 1998). The traditional form of the population/resource debate, beginning with Malthus, pessimistically predicted that human population growth would overrun the environment’s capacity to provide food, fiber, and energy, thereby leading to recurring poverty. However, the mass famines that Ehrlich predicted did not occur, nor did fossil fuels run out after



the oil crisis. The debate soon changed, partly because of the influence of Julian Simon’s (1981) thesis that people are the “ultimate resource” through the role of innovation and the accumulation of human capital. This was based on Ester Boserup’s (1965) earlier work on agricultural intensification and population pressure. Although critics pointed out that innovation is contingent on social structure, institutions, and therefore the prevailing conditions of development and population composition (Keyfitz 1990), Simon’s position further solidified when, in 1990, he won his famous ten-year bet with Ehrlich on the price change of various metals as proxies for resource scarcity. By that time, however, the resource debate had transformed into a debate over environmental impact. These changes in the population and development discourse created a conceptual vacuum for demography. On the one hand, “post-developmentalism,” as Richard Peet and E. Hartwick (1999) called it, has been too fragmented and abstract to offer a unified alternative paradigm with practical applications. On the other hand, neoliberal economics was largely uninterested in the demographic connection where the neoclassical school had failed before. The U.S. National Research Council’s assessment in the mid1980s, while advocating for slower population growth, took a cautious position: Population growth can, and often does, trigger market reactions. Many of these reactions move a country into a “modern” direction, that is, toward better-defined property rights, larger integrated markets, more agricultural research, and so on. However, the marketinduced adjustments to higher growth do not appear to be large enough to offset the negative effects on per capita income of higher ratios of labor to other factors of production. Nor is population growth necessary to achieve these form of modernization. (National Research Council 1986, 89)

The report’s main policy implication on fertility and family planning represented well the ongoing fragmentation of the population and development discourse into smaller pieces.


After the fiasco of the development project, and with the cooling of the overpopulation upheaval, demographers turned to explain specific elements of demographic transitions, now seen in plural. Taking these out from the previous comprehensive population and development framework helped the proliferation of scholarship, offering the opportunity for collaboration with scholars who were not demographers but were, rather, development experts working on similarly narrow (or rather more focused) topics. Freed from the pressing need to create a grand explanatory theory for population and development, advances in these subfields were more substantial. In this section, I discuss a few of these subfields to illustrate the diversity of parallel studies on population and development from various perspectives.



The study of fertility has a long history in demography. Fertility directly affects population size and growth, but, because of its strong context dependence, is notoriously difficult to understand and influence. Over time, three major schools of thought emerged to explain the associations of changes in fertility and development from completely different directions. Early studies considered childbearing decisions as rational choices after a cost-benefit analysis, and they aimed to explain how societal conditions provide the macro-level social and economic background facilitating the fertility transition. Notable works include those by Ansley Coale (1973), on the preconditions of fertility decline, and by Richard Easterlin and Eileen Crimmins (1985), on the supply-and-demand framework. The same topic was investigated from a microeconomic perspective by the wealth flow theory (Caldwell 1982) and what became known as the new home economics, stimulated by Gary Becker’s (1981) work on the household economy. The focus was traditional in the sense that these scholars all used a neoclassical economics framework to examine the various determinants of fertility control and decline, which they considered to be prerequisites to economic development. The second major school of thought focused on the role of cultural diffusion on fertility behavior. This perspective originated in the Princeton European Fertility Project and was based largely on the experiences of European countries as they moved to or beyond the last stage of the demographic transition. It was observed that, instead of fertility stabilizing at a low (but still above replacement) level as the conventional theory argued, it has continued to decline. Explanations included the structural transformation of families and households, increasing participation of women in higher education and the workplace, and cultural considerations in preferring cohabitation or intended childlessness (van de Kaa 1987; Lesthaeghe and Surkyn 1988). This new trend in sub-replacement fertility was later labeled as the second demographic transition, more limited in scope than the first one, but with the important inclusion of inequality. The third major area concerning development and fertility behavior stemmed from critiques of family planning programs of the development project. In particular, gender has become an important consideration in social policy and in the social sciences, and family planning programs lacked cultural sensitivity to gender equality. Following a sustained critique, the emphasis in population policy and research shifted away from the paternalistic notion of what the right number of children should be (Mason 1989) to a basic concern with women’s rights and with women’s and children’s health. At the same time, the concept of development itself was criticized for not being sensitive to gender, and one of the scholars arguing for a better integration of women into the development projects was Boserup (1970), whose demographic work was instrumental in curbing the population doomsters in the 1970s. The incorporation of the gender perspective into demographic thinking has proceeded along two lines, ironically mimicking the old development distinction between the Global North and South. In the Global North, the focus was on normative changes in family structure, including the separation of marriage from



childbearing and a changing discourse on motherhood, supported by the strengthening feminist movements. In the Global South, the emphasis was on reproductive and maternal health issues as well as on empowering women in fertility decisions as the new, appropriate way to address population growth. This latter discourse had become particularly significant by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (Riley 2005), which made gender equality a global priority. Another long-established theme in the population and development discourse was population redistribution—more specifically, urbanization. Until the 1970s, urbanization was considered a necessary prerequisite for industrialization, which itself was seen as the engine behind modernization. Early discussions were concerned about the optimal settlement structure to foster development regardless of the social externalities. Social problems, such as segregation, slums, or service deprivation, were considered unavoidable side effects, and nothing represented modernity better than the city. As globalization unfolded, cities were seen as the hubs of knowledge transfer, trade, and innovation—in other words, the competitive spearheads of nations. Demographic scholarship on urbanization remained largely descriptive and comparative (Brown, Cromartie, and Kulcsár 2004; Fuguitt, Heaton, and Lichter 1988; Tisdale 1942). The regional/urban development literature, however, accepted urbanization as a standard trend and paid little attention to its demographic drivers except maybe suburbanization as a peculiar form of population redistribution in the United States (Frey 1978). When counter-urbanization was first observed in the 1970s, signaling a shift in residential preferences as well as new economic opportunities in rural areas, it quickly revitalized the discourse on population distribution (Beale 1975; Champion 1989; Champion and Hugo 2004; Kontuly 1998). Rural areas were no longer seen as population reserves for urbanization, and their development profiles have also shifted away from agriculture and resource extraction. One example for this is the work on rural retirement migration destinations, which has become a popular local development goal in the United States (Brown and Glasgow 2008). Rural demography has also generated substantial scholarship in recent years and is an interesting example of how contemporary scholars are examining the association between population dynamics and changes in the social organization of local and regional society (Kandel and Brown 2006; Kulcsár and Curtis 2011). Migration is a response to development differences or, as observed by Everett Lee (1966), push-and-pull factors in both origin and destination communities. The understanding of internal migration has been closely connected to urbanization and rural and regional demography mentioned above. In contrast, international migration has been seen as a fundamental part of the global development discourse (Massey et al. 1993; Castles and Miller 2003). The net flow of international migration corresponds with real or perceived development differences between nations and, as such, is highly unbalanced. Development outcomes associated with international migration, for both the origin and the destination countries, largely depends on the number and, even more impor-



tantly, the composition of the in- and out-migrants. Educated migrants are highly sought after, and the brain drain could deplete human resources at the origin, hindering development where it would be needed the most. Unskilled migrants are occasionally admitted to be needed but are mostly seen as burdens in more developed destination countries, and policy measures are implemented to control their movement. A specific case of international migration in the development context is the issue of remittances: money that migrants send home to their families. Although this does not offset the human capital loss due to brain drain (especially since skilled migrants tend to move with their families), it does provide resources for the country of origin. Remittances can be a significant share in the economy of both the sending and the receiving countries, generating concern about its distribution impacts and its contribution to development (Maimbo and Ratha 2005). However, the social implications are crucial, and the culture of migration, triggered partly by remittances, can hurt as much in the long run as migradollars may help (Durand, Parrado, and Massey 1996; Kandel and Massey 2002). From a development perspective, remittances are short-term solutions: they perpetuate dependence on a foreign economy, and they may pull significant human capital into the migration stream if they are perceived as the only means to improve one’s quality of life. As indicated earlier in this chapter, the population and resources debate has turned into the discourse on population change’s environmental impacts, and today it has become part of the broader scholarship on climate change. It is easy to see how climate change relates to development in general, though linking it to population trends is much more difficult (for good overviews, see Lutz, Prskawetz, and Sanderson 2002; Poston and Frisbie 2005). It is also quite complicated to measure impact mechanisms and relationships among population, environment, and development. The IPAT (environmental Impact equals Population times Affluence times Technology) conceptual model (Ehrlich and Holdren 1971) has been elaborated (see, e.g., York, Rosa, and Dietz 2003), but it is unlikely to ever become a working mathematical tool. However, the dominant emphasis on population size since Malthus has slowly shifted toward an emphasis on population composition, a much better predictor of consumption, which is the real driver behind the impact of population on development and/or environment. Just like the field of population and development overall, the population environment discourse has turned to specific themes and mechanisms on climate change and demography. Examples include health risks and morbidity (Haines et al. 2006), sea-level rise and migration (Curtis and Schneider 2011), and the impact mechanisms between migration and climate change (Kulcsár 2012). These debates, as well as the general discourse on population and environment, also indicate the growing attention given to inequalities within development studies. It is generally understood that vulnerability to environmental change is not distributed evenly, partly because of geography but mostly because of unequal access to individual or community resources to mitigate the impact. The latest topic generating substantial discussion on population and development is global aging. Population aging is an inevitable result of declining birth rates (though, for



smaller geographies, migration loss is just as important), and changing age structures have long been understood to affect labor force composition and, subsequently, economic growth. Increased life expectancy is a positive change (in fact, it is one of the components of Human Development Index), but it also contributes to a longer inactive life period. Inactivity has commonly been expressed in demography and economics as the dependency ratio, an economic concept with a built-in negative connotation that devalues the societal contributions of older adults, not to mention that the ages at which persons are most likely to be “active” vary dramatically across societies and cultures. Development is associated with prosperity for the elderly, captured at the individual level with the term “successful aging” (Rowe and Kahn 1997) or, more demographically, disability-free life expectancy. At the societal level, an aging population structure creates significant challenges even for post-industrial societies, let alone for developing ones where the pace of aging is highest and where the magnitude of aging is going to be much larger given that they have the bulk of the global population. Where fertility decline has been the longest (Europe) or the fastest (China), the development challenges of extreme aging are the greatest. In fact, since basic population trends such as expected increases in the share of older persons are fairly easy to project, population aging can be seen as the next global population and development challenge (Kinsella and Phillips 2005). Progress in science usually leads to more specialization as knowledge is accumulated over time. In social sciences, part of this knowledge accumulation is the growing doubt about universal theories and “one size fits all” causal mechanisms. This doubt gets ever stronger if grand theories are actually tested via applied projects to induce social change. The fragmentation of the population and development debate was inevitable, and not necessarily a negative outcome. The population and development nexus has always covered many examples, and now the focus has readjusted accordingly. This, however, does not necessarily mean fundamental changes in everything. For example, the dominant neoliberal economic perspective still influences the discourse on population and development. The latest Population Council introduction to the topic (McNicoll 2003) handles it as an economic growth issue and makes only passing references to social, cultural, and other aspects of development. History has not yet ended.


For more than two hundred years, scholars have been debating how population is connected to development. In this period, demography has matured into a well-established scientific field, contributing to and benefiting from the changing conceptualization of development. For its part, development scholarship has often utilized how population trends relate to societal well-being and progress, frequently borrowing demographic indicators in the process. We must remember that all discourses, contentions, and mainstream theories are products of their time. Malthus’s theory, for example, has often been criticized and in fact



was quickly disproven after his death, but it should be seen through the lens of his time when poverty was experienced by a vast majority of the population and when sustained population growth had yet to occur anywhere in the world over any significant time frame. We have the luxury of retrospective knowledge, and that knowledge tends to confirm a constructivist position: basic population dynamics, fertility, mortality, and migration are essentially the same as they have always been, and it is mostly our conceptualization and measurement of development that changes. The measurement of fertility and mortality, sociobiological processes, has been relatively static, although the same cannot be said about migration, which reflects broad macro- and micro-level changes in family and society over time (Brown 2002). Early demographic thinking was ethnocentric and relatively simple, concerning mostly population and economic growth. Development was seen as a linear progression from tradition to modernity based on circular explanations where the perceived position and power of a nation provided evidence for choosing the right path. Population size and growth were seen as independent forces that had clearly beneficial or detrimental impacts on social and economic progress. Before World War II, population composition mattered mostly for the proponents of eugenics, and population redistribution came up only as a need for urbanization to fuel industrial development. The postwar period established the practices of systematic data collection on population trends and put demography in the center of development discourse. International politics provided the basis for intervention and the necessary funds for large-scale assistance programs. However, it turned out that the demographic transition does not explain everything, and the population and development nexus is far too complex to be described by simple equations, especially those in which causal direction flows in one direction. Social engineering ambitions expanded well beyond the actual understanding of demographic regimes, and the rise of critical theories in social sciences from the 1970s, as well as the changing international order, effectively ended modernization as the core development ideology and practice. Similarly, the demographic transition, at least in its initial formulation, went the way of modernization. Demography enjoyed a visible and crucial position in the development discourse between the 1950s and 1970s. This was the period when the importance of population dynamics became obvious not only to scholars and policymakers but to the general public as well. It was natural that this growing importance resulted in trials and errors. Population and development policies failed more often than they succeeded, and this rightfully made scholars cautious. Strong proactive measures, such as the family planning programs of the 1960s, forced urban migration in communist countries, or China’s coercive one-child policy, tend to create as many problems as solutions, even if the original problem assessment was correct—which has not always been the case. The ever-changing understanding of the population and development nexus has been well-represented in the postwar U.N. population conferences. The 1954 and 1965 conferences were basically small expert meetings in which the main goal was to establish



international data collection methods and procedures for comparative research. The 1974 conference in Bucharest provided a battleground between two competing development ideologies: modernization and socialism (or, rather, the Western and Eastern versions of modernization). By the 1984 conference in Mexico City, the battle was largely over. The work of Julian Simon and the strong conservative politics under the Reagan administration led the United States to stop viewing population growth as a problem. This positioned the United States against not only many developing nations that saw rapid population growth as a fundamental development challenge but also several European countries that continued to support family planning programs. Finally, the 1994 population conference in Cairo redefined population policies with greater emphasis on gender equality and with less emphasis on population control. That signaled the end of the era when the United Nations was proactive in traditional population issues as part of the development question. The Millennium Development Goals indicated the transition from population being seen as a development problem to work on how the United Nations and the international community could reconceptualize development itself largely without an explicit population component. These goals grew out of the Millennium Summit and the follow-up Millennium Declaration in 2000, and they avoided including any direct language about general population dynamics, size, or composition. The United Nations took the safe road by including three goals, among others, on mortality and morbidity: reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. These topics are largely neutral, and tame language was used regarding contraception and family planning under “maternal health.” Another goal was “ensure environmental sustainability,” though this is also quite distant from any demographic roots, such as the resource scarcity debates of the 1970s and 1980s. Some other demographic indicators were used to promote international goals (e.g., life expectancy at birth being part of the Human Development Index), but population dynamics as broad goals themselves proved to be too controversial, context-dependent, and elusive to use in development discourses. Or, perhaps it was that demography is inherently pragmatic and resists abstraction beyond a certain level. This does not mean, of course, that demographic questions are no longer in the center of policy debates that are debates of development as well. Many countries have a long history of discourses on population trends (see Hoff 2012 for the U.S. example), and some, such as China or the Soviet Union, have gone to extremes in social engineering to achieve their goals. Demographic issues are still part of the mainstream discourse on development, as evidenced by the everlasting debates on immigration or population aging. The concept of development has been defined and redefined many times in the past. At the most basic level, it refers to the Western idea of progress and growth stemming from the philosophy and scientific advances of the Enlightenment, with globalization being its latest operational version inducing much criticism. However, no matter how one defines development, it has a strong foundation in aggregate human conditions



and a mutual interrelation with population dynamics. Development creates the intellectual framework for population studies, and demography provides pragmatic considerations for development theory. It is unlikely that scholars will ever agree on population and development narratives and actions as much as they did under the modernization paradigm, but no matter how context-dependent the causal mechanisms between the two may be, population and development are inseparable. And, while working on the numerous global and local challenges in that nexus, demographers and development scholars alike are responsible for keeping the discourse focused on all three of the broad issues: economic prosperity, environmental impact, and social equality.


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For decades, sociology of development scholars have considered the implications of economic development for environmental conditions as well as how natural resource availability and ecological regulatory mechanisms shape socio-development processes. At the same time, foundational perspectives within environmental sociology have examined the complex interrelationships between the natural conditions and development, paying particular attention to the effects of the latter in its various manifestations on ecological outcomes. Some of these foundational environmental sociology theories—at their core—are at loggerheads with one another in ways similar to classical debates concerning social change in development sociology between modernization and critical political-economic theories. In this chapter, we provide thorough overviews of contemporary theoretical perspectives within environmental sociology that address the impacts of development on natural conditions. We mainly discuss the environmental consequences of development, because this relationship is the subject of much of the theorization and empirical research in which social rather than natural forces are given causal primacy. These perspectives have much to offer to the broader sociology of development community and can further enrich empirical work. They also provide the means to bring environmental and development concerns even closer to the center of the field.1 More broadly, scholars working at the intersections of environmental sociology and development sociology have much to contribute to multidisciplinary approaches to sustainability studies.


We begin by summarizing the ecological modernization tradition, which is generally optimistic about the possibility for anthropogenic environmental harms to decrease through the course of development. This work emphasizes the role of existing institutions, technological innovations, and an emerging ecological rationality in leading to more harmonious relationships between the natural environment and development processes. Next, we review multiple political-economic perspectives, including treadmill of production theory, metabolic theory, and treadmill of destruction theory. These theories propose that existing forms of development are environmentally harmful and increasingly so, with long-term negative implications for human and nonhuman species. The final perspective we discuss is ecologically unequal exchange theory, which highlights how interrelationships between developed and developing nations allow for the partial displacement of environmental harms in relative contexts from the Global North to the Global South. We present how ecologically unequal exchange processes also contribute to the treadmill of production and the treadmill of destruction in particular ways. Prior to our concluding remarks, we offer brief overviews of two important areas of sociological research that are successfully engaging the broader sustainability science community. The first area is the growing body of sociological research on climate change mitigation, where we focus primarily on the socioeconomic drivers of greenhouse gas emissions. The second area examines how development influences the complex relationships between human well-being and environmental conditions in the contexts of the ecological intensity and the carbon intensity of human well-being.


Ecological modernization theory is a prominent perspective within environmental sociology. Like modernization theorists of development, ecological modernization scholars propose that there is a relatively linear path of development, enhancing the well-being of citizens, enriching the economy, and improving the quality of socio-environmental conditions. They argue that the overall modernization process allows for added reflexivity throughout the socioeconomic system and its institutions. As a result, governmental officials, scientists, business leaders, and citizens are able to pursue environmentally enlightened policies and practices, which help overcome various ecological problems. These scholars emphasize that technological advancement serves as a means to accomplish sustainable changes. They generally examine internal relationships and causes rather than focusing on larger external contexts, such as transnational and global forces, that shape situations within entities of analysis, such as nation-states or individual industries. As a result, these scholars illuminate specific processes of institutional change that take place at smaller scales. Similar to modernization theorists, ecological modernization scholars advocate continued economic growth to achieve better social outcomes. More importantly, ecological modernization theorists propose that economic growth and devel-



opment are compatible with improved environmental outcomes. In other words, they do not view the relationship between economic development and the environment as a trade-off. Proponents of ecological modernization posit that continued economic growth increases both technological advancement and environmental governance, which serve as the basis to mediate the environmental outcomes of economic development over time (Mol 2001). They acknowledge that economic growth generally resulted in environmental degradation during the early stages of modern development; however, they suggest, the magnitude of the effect will decrease with time and further development. It is assumed that economic development increases the reflexivity of nation-states, giving birth to self-corrective powers, whereby an “ecological rationality” emerges, constraining the “economic rationality” that dominates during the earlier stages of development. As ecological concerns are diffused, citizens mobilize and call for more “green” practices, governments create more environmental regulations and institutions, and technological innovation is directed to ensure sustainable conditions (Mol 2001, 2002). These changes allow economic growth to become decoupled from material inputs and broader environmental impacts. It is proposed that ongoing economic growth might actually benefit the environment. Technological innovations, such as advances in renewable energies and increased efficiencies, enhance the overall sustainability of society. This modernization process, which increases ecological rationalism, decreases conflict surrounding the importance of the environment, given that previous “problems” are successfully addressed (Mol, Spaargaren, and Sonnenfeld 2014). Ecological modernization scholars are not critical of capitalism, nor do they view this economic system as an obstacle to environmental sustainability (Mol and Spaargaren 2002). They view alternatives to capitalism as less feasible than reforming the existing global system. It is suggested that the dynamic nature of capitalism allows for economic growth to be directed toward environmental reform. Changes in production and consumption contribute to the creation of a “green economy.” Arthur Mol argues that “environmental improvement can go together with economic development via a process of delinking economic growth from natural resource inputs and outputs of emissions and wastes” (1997, 141). Technological innovation throughout the productive system, ecological modernizationists claim, will allow industries to prevent environmental problems from occurring in the first place, rather than relying on “end-of-pipe technology” (e.g., smokestack filters) that reduces pollution only after it has been produced (Huber 2010, 334). The state, in a new politically modernized form, helps facilitate significant environmental improvements and policy reforms in conjunction with a variety of actors, including political, economic, and civil society groups (Hajer 1995; Mol and Buttel 2002; Mol and Jänicke 2010). Ronald Inglehart’s theory of post-materialist values complements ecological modernization theory. He argues (1995) that environmental quality is a higher-order need that is only attended to once lower-level needs are met. Economic development is



necessary to meet lower-level needs and thereby serves as the platform for environmental reform. He also proposes (1977) that technological innovation will result in solutions rather than further environmental problems. Both ecological modernization and postmaterialist values theories are focused mainly on industrialized and West European countries, which are seen as the nations that merged economic growth with environmental sustainability.2 It is suggested that reflexive modernization stimulates technological diffusion from the Global North to the Global South, creating a path of sustainable development as the latter follows the path of the former. These scholars contend that institutional, technological, and sociocultural changes contribute to the dematerialization of society. Ecological modernization theory continues to evolve as its proponents grapple with critiques and revise earlier propositions (Mol and Jänicke 2010; Mol and Spaargaren 2000; Mol, Spaargaren, and Sonnenfeld 2014).3 Mol and his colleagues are working to strengthen the theory in terms of testing its applicability globally and in different world regions. They are developing more theoretical nuance as far as their conception of technology, and attempting to address issues of inequality and power, areas that previously received little attention (Mol, Spaargaren, and Sonnenfeld 2014). As this scholarship has advanced, distinct divisions have arisen: weak ecological modernization tends to champion market-based solutions and promote technological innovations as means to achieve environmental improvement, whereas strong ecological modernization emphasizes the political process and state reform, suggesting that broader institutional changes—such as regulations, policies, investments, and incentives—are necessary to diffuse environmental concerns throughout society. Strong ecological modernization scholars also support incorporating natural capital into the accounting of production, increasing democratic participation within the political system, and integrating considerations of justice and equity into environmental governance at the global level (Christoff 2010; Mol, Spaargaren, and Sonnenfeld 2014). Ecological modernizationists primarily examine, via in-depth comparative case studies, the sociocultural and industrial changes within modern society rather than environmental outcomes, such as carbon-dioxide emissions or land-cover change. They document how environmental movements successfully push for governmental action to regulate pollution and how the reorganization of production within particular industries, such as pulp and paper manufacturing and the chemical industry, have contributed to less toxic processes and pollution (see, e.g., Andersen 2002; Mol 1995; Scheinberg and Mol 2010; Sonnenfeld 1998). For example, David Sonnenfeld (1998, 2002) finds that the paper mill industry in late industrializing countries such as Thailand responds to a variety of influences, including environmental degradation, political turmoil, social movements, ecological concerns, nongovernmental organizations, and state intervention. The industry has adopted greener technologies, especially those developed in the Global North. However, the results of this ecological modernization process have been mixed. The industry in Southeast Asia has not experienced the dematerialization that was



expected. Sonnenfeld (2000, 254) questions whether dematerialization in the Global North is only made possible by “increased materialization elsewhere.”4 This body of research directs attention to how institutional change takes place, and it highlights important actors and institutions within these processes that facilitate transformation (Mol, Spaargaren, and Sonnenfeld 2014). Leading scholars in the field contend that the ecological modernization process is informing political and economic policy, contributing to the emergence of a more sustainable system of global production and consumption (see, e.g., Mol 2001).5 Empirical testing of ecological modernization theory is conducted at different scales, often by explicitly assessing the relationship between level of economic development or economic growth and environmental outcomes. Much of this work tests for the existence of an environmental Kuznets curve, which would indicate that environmental harms increase with economic growth up to a specific point and then decrease with ongoing development. The results are mixed at best, depending on the scale, context, and/or environmental harm measured. More generally, there is weak support for the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis, contra ecological modernization propositions (see, e.g., Carson 2010; Dinda 2004; Jorgenson and Clark 2011; Kearsley and Riddel 2010; Wagner 2008; York, Rosa, and Dietz 2003a). Research focused on industrializing economies in Asia has produced mixed findings, indicating that the ecological modernization process in this part of the world has unique qualities (Liang and Mol 2013). In Central and Eastern Europe, Mikael Andersen (2002) finds evidence of ecological subversion rather than modernization in terms of the transition following the breakup of the Soviet bloc. In regard to post-materialist values and ecological rationality concerns, Jennifer Givens and Andrew Jorgenson (2011) find that higher levels of economic development at the nation-state level are associated with less environmental concern among citizens. Patricia Lankao, Doug Nychka, and John Tribbia (2008) discern no evidence of convergence among more- and less-developed countries in regard to greenhouse gas emissions or well-being. Ecological modernization theory, like the broader modernization perspective, continues to generate much debate about questions surrounding economic development and environmental sustainability. Whether or not there is a trade-off between these two issues is a major concern. Ecological modernization scholars draw attention to specific institutional changes and processes that can yield positive environmental change. These changes tend to be relative, rather than absolute. Whether these changes can be scaled up to produce substantial and absolute gains remains an important question. Propositions derived from ecological modernization theory continue to offer fruitful questions for empirical testing but with caution and awareness of the following three considerations: while constantly debated in sociological study and in policy and practice circles, ideas drawn from ecological modernization and especially neoliberal perspectives are quite dominant (Brulle 2015); ecological modernization can potentially be seen as a strategy of political accommodation of more radical critiques or proposals for sustainability



(Hajer 1995); and, without caution, ecological modernization optimism could undermine realistic understandings of and support for socially just and actual global sustainability.


Within environmental sociology, political-economic perspectives—such as the treadmill of production theory, metabolic theory, and the treadmill of destruction theory—raise critical questions regarding the long-term sustainability of the modern socioeconomic system, absent significant social change, and see growth dynamics as major drivers of degradation. Albeit not uniformly, these theorists generally address related and different facets of the political-economic system, analyzing its historical development and an array of ecological consequences. They identify continuity in the general character of the system as well as sociohistorical variation in how it manifests itself. Treadmill of production and metabolic theorists generally focus on economic relations. They argue that there is an “enduring conflict” between capitalism and the environment (Foster 2000; Schnaiberg 1980). Capitalism, in general, is seen as a system that is driven by and dependent on growth. Economic growth requires an ever-increasing expansion of resources—in the form of matter and energy—that contributes to various forms of environmental degradation and ecological disruptions. Global capitalist development exacerbates pressures placed on ecosystems. Treadmill of destruction theorists primarily examine the environmental impacts of national militaries and broader geopolitical conditions. They propose that, though economic relations and conditions influence military development, the latter also has a distinct growth dynamic (Hooks and Smith 2004). As a result, military expansion and development contributes to ecological degradation, creates toxic landscapes, and exacerbates environmental inequalities. For all of these theorists, economic and military development, under the current social system, is incompatible with environmental sustainability. They propose that environmental sustainability requires a political-economic system that operates within natural limits, protecting the conditions that sustain ecological cycles and ecosystem services. Treadmill of production theorists propose that capitalists constantly seek to increase profits, which are reinvested to enlarge and intensify the scale of production. Capital accumulation takes precedence and drives a cycle of growth that necessitates ever increasing production (Schnaiberg 1980). Treadmill theorists suggest that this growth imperative influences the organization of production and consumption. Focusing largely on post–World War II development, they hold that private capital, the state, and labor depend on economic growth for profits, taxes, and wages. The constant pursuit of profit and expansion has “direct implications for natural resource extraction,” pollution generation, and overall environmental conditions (Gould, Pellow, and Schnaiberg 2004, 297). Each expansion in the production process to sustain economic operations on a



larger, more intensive scale generates higher natural resource demands, often at rates that exceed ecosystem regenerative capacity (Foster, Clark, and York 2010; Gould, Pellow, and Schnaiberg 2004). Moreover, they contend that energy-intensive materials, such as plastics and chemicals, are incorporated into manufacturing, causing widespread waste and pollution (Foster 1994; Gould, Pellow, and Schnaiberg 2008; Pellow 2007; Schnaiberg and Gould 1994). Producers externalize environmental costs as much as possible because this has the potential to increase profits. Drawing from the work of Thorstein Veblen and of John Kenneth Galbraith, treadmill of production theorists argue that the rise of monopoly capital contributed to the creation of modern marketing (Foster and Clark 2012). Veblen ([1923] 1964) explained that “salesmanship” was necessary to create customers for the commodities produced, helping reproduce and expand capitalism. Similarly, Galbraith (1958) proposed that corporations exercise “producer sovereignty,” thereby dominating both production and consumption. The state, though often caught in contradictory positions, is seen as an important social institution that supports economic expansion through negotiating trade agreements, bailing out industry and banking, promoting military spending, and protecting private property (Schnaiberg 1980). From this perspective, there is a strong relationship between capitalist economic development and environmental degradation. Metabolic theorists ecologically embed socioeconomic systems and examine more explicitly the interchange of matter and energy between human societies and the larger environment (Foster 1999). They see capitalism as a historically specific regime of accumulation that drives the growth imperative; it is a social metabolic system that operates in accord with its own logic, reducing labor and nature to serve capital accumulation, shaping material exchanges with the environment, and increasing demands on ecosystems and natural cycles. They contend that the social metabolism of capitalism exceeds natural limits, which undermines ecosystem regeneration and produces “metabolic rifts” in various cycles and processes (Foster 1999, 2000; Foster, Clark, and York 2010; Mészáros 1995). For example, soil requires specific nutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—to maintain its ability to produce crops, because as plants grow they take up these nutrients. The enclosure movement and the concentration of land that accompanied the rise of capitalism created a division between town and country, increasing the urban population. Food and fiber were shipped to distant markets, transferring the nutrients of the soil from the country to the city where they accumulated as waste, rather than being returned to the soil. Karl Marx explained that this type of production “disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth,” causing a rift in the nutrient cycle that undermines “the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil” (1976, 637). Metabolic analysis illuminates how the transfer of nutrients is tied to the accumulation process and how it increasingly takes place at national and international levels as the bounty of the countryside and distant lands is transferred to urban centers of economically developed nations, creating global metabolic rifts (Clark and Foster 2009).



Metabolic theorists contend that the growth imperative of capital generates ecological rifts through intensification of social metabolism. Its dependence on burning massive quantities of coal, natural gas, and oil has created a carbon rift (Clark and York 2005; Foster and Clark 2012). This process breaks the solar-income budget, releasing enormous quantities of carbon that previously had been removed from the atmosphere. Consequent growth-driven, ecological degradation (e.g., deforestation) substantially reduces carbon sinks, further contributing to the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Treadmill of production and metabolic theorists propose that technological innovation plays a crucial role in economic development, rationalizing labor processes and generating cost reductions via automated production. These scholars hold that new technologies often make energy and raw material usage more efficient, but, contra ecological modernizationists, they contend that innovation does not dematerialize society or contribute to an absolute decoupling of economic development from energy and resources. They point to the “Jevons Paradox”—that more efficient resource usage increases overall consumption of that particular resource so that expanded production outstrips gains made in energy efficiency (Clark and Foster 2001; Jevons [1865] 1906; Jorgenson and Clark 2012; Polimeni et al. 2008; York 2006). They argue that efficient operations produce savings that expand investment in production within the larger economic system and thereby increase total energy consumed, raw materials used, and carbon dioxide produced. These theorists note that technological rationalization must be situated within global capitalism’s overall social relations and dynamics. The growth imperative, as suggested by these theoretical perspectives, is geared to maximize throughput of energy and matter in commodity production; thus, conservation does not take place at the macroscale of the economy. The most efficient nations are, in fact, generally the biggest consumers of natural resources (York, Rosa, and Dietz 2004). The Jevons Paradox illustrates that purely technological means cannot solve ecological problems caused by economic development (Foster, Clark, and York 2010; Jorgenson 2009; York 2010). The ecologically destructive qualities of the military have long been recognized: “[T] he world’s armed forces are the single largest polluter on earth” (Renner 1991, 132; see also Singer and Keating 1999). National militaries are often exempt from environmental laws at home and abroad (Gould 2007). Recent theoretical work within environmental sociology explicitly assesses this social institution as a driver of environmental degradation and environmental inequalities. Treadmill of destruction theorists are forthright that the military and the economy are interlinked, yet the military has its own independent expansionary dynamics that contribute to an array of environmental problems and structural inequalities (Hooks and Smith 2004, 2005).6 They assert that states—not classes or firms—declare war primarily for geopolitical reasons. However, the expansionary dynamics of militarism are not limited to periods of war (Hooks and Smith 2004; Mann 1988; Tilly 1990). The ascent and expansion of the military were particularly noticeable following World War II (Mills 2000). International superpowers, such as the United States, use part of



the social surplus generated through economic dominance to invest in military development (Hooks and McLauchlan 1992; Kentor 2000). Domestic politics, the position of nations within the global interstate system, and actual and perceived threats shape the course of military development. Vested geopolitical and military interests, as well as the constant preparation for future conflicts, contributes to the escalation of the scale and operations of national militaries and to the ballooning of military budgets and an arms race. Militaries have become increasingly material and capital intensive (Kentor, Jorgenson, and Kick 2012). Military development, due to its structure and its attendant activities (whether during war or peace), drives distinctive forms of environmental degradation. Treadmill of destruction scholars examine both the domestic and international implications of military development. Gregory Hooks and Chad Smith (2004) argue that military development has created a particular form of environmental inequality within the United States as well as a general contamination of the ecosystems. They demonstrate how closed military bases that are deemed dangerous due to toxicity and unexploded ordinance tend to be located adjacent to Native American lands. They indicate that geopolitical and polity relations—distinct from economic relations—influence the spatial distribution of environmental “bads” that are the result of producing, testing, deploying, and storing the hazardous and toxic weapons. As a result, indigenous peoples within the United States are disproportionately burdened—due to a history of coercion— with degraded landscapes and increased health risks due to exposure to toxic chemicals. Treadmill of destruction theorists also argue that the world’s militaries consume vast amounts of nonrenewable energy (such as fossil fuels) and other resources for research and development, maintenance, training, and operation of their overall infrastructures (see, e.g., Jorgenson and Clark 2009; Jorgenson, Clark, and Kentor 2010). This institution generates large quantities of toxic substances and waste, which contribute to the contamination of land and water. According to the U.N. Center for Disarmament (1982), armed forces have used a steadily increasing amount of land for bases, other installations, testing of weapons, and training exercises over the past century. Even the end of the Cold War has not reduced the utilization of public lands by the military (Singer and Keating 1999). A network of military bases encompasses the globe, requiring a vast amount of resources—especially fossil fuels—to staff, operate, and transport equipment and personnel between destinations. For developed nations, the environmentally damaging capabilities of their militaries are partly a function of technological developments with weaponry and other machinery (Clark, Jorgenson, and Kentor 2010; Collins 1981; Jorgenson, Clark, and Kentor 2010). These capital-intensive militaries employ advanced weaponry and utilize state-of-the-art transportation systems to facilitate the rapid movement of troops and to enhance strike capabilities, including an extensive system of vehicles and infrastructure to aid in the deployment of equipment and soldiers. High-tech military equipment, such as planes, ships, helicopters, tanks, and vehicles, require the consumption of large amounts of fossil fuels that contribute to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For



example, one hour of operation of a nonnuclear aircraft carrier consumes 21,300 liters (over 5,621 gallons) of fuel; large, high-tech military helicopters burn five gallons of fuel for every mile that they travel; and fighter planes, such as the F-15 and F-16, consume between 1,500 and 1,700 gallons of fuel per hour. If those planes’ afterburners are used, up to 14,400 gallons are exhausted per hour (Clark and Jorgenson 2012; Cutler 1989; Renner 1997; Sanders 2009; Smith 2003). The ecological impacts and social inequalities of the military are increasingly being concentrated in the Global South (Hooks and Smith 2012). Martin Shaw (2002, 2005) details how the leaders in the Great Powers are pursuing “risk-transfer militarism,” whereby the environmental damages, health risks, and casualties are shifted to the populations in developing nations. Asymmetries in economic and military strength are facilitating this transfer of environmental risks and impacts to the most vulnerable populations. Through technological innovation and by employing modern weapons, the Global North is able to reduce injuries and casualties to their own troops and citizens while subjecting distant lands to environmental destruction and social disruption (Hooks and Smith 2012). Ironically, perhaps, as the militaries in the North are attempting to reduce their ecological footprint within homelands, the global reach of the world’s militaries expands the toxic legacy and socio-environmental degradation of this institution. Overall, treadmill of destruction theorists contend that, as nations develop more capitalintensive militaries, these institutions, given their infrastructure and expansionary drive, will serve as important drivers of environmental change. Proponents of the treadmill of production, metabolic, and treadmill of destruction theories have employed a variety of methodological approaches to assess the relationship between economic and/or military development and ecological conditions. In-depth, comparative case studies (see, e.g., Clark and Foster 2009; Hooks and Smith 2004; Pellow 2007) and quantitative cross-national analyses (Jorgenson and Clark 2012; York, Rosa, and Dietz 2003a) lend support to the propositions of these perspectives. Most of this research considers how economic and military development influences specific environmental outcomes, such as nations’ ecological footprints, energy consumption, levels of carbon-dioxide emissions, and the disruption of specific ecological cycles. This work illuminates the macro-comparative dimensions of the global political economy.


The theory of ecologically unequal exchange builds on classic unequal exchange and uneven development traditions (Amin 1976; Bunker 1984; Emmanuel 1972; Frank 1979; O’Connor 1998). This analysis highlights the unequal material exchange relations and consequent ecological interdependencies within the world economy, which are linked to wide structural disparities in socioeconomic development and international inequities (see, e.g., Foster and Holleman 2014; Hornborg 1998, 2009; Jorgenson 2006b; Jorgenson and Clark 2009; Rice 2007; Roberts and Parks 2007a). Unequal exchange can be



broadly defined as asymmetrical power relationships between developed and developing countries, wherein the former gain disproportionate advantages at the expense of the latter through the structure of trade and production networks. The assertion of unequal exchange relations diverges from neoclassical economic thought by inquiring into the historical power relations shaping present comparative advantages, rather than taking present trade conditions as a given (Jorgenson and Givens 2014). Ecologically unequal exchange refers to the disproportionate concentration of environmental degradation associated with the withdrawal of energy and other natural resource assets and the pollution linked to production and disposal activities within developing countries. It reveals the vertical flow of matter, energy, and wealth from lessdeveloped to developed countries. It highlights the obtainment of natural capital (stocks of natural resources that yield important goods and services, which are generally consumed in the Global North) and the usurpation of sink-capacity (waste assimilation properties of ecosystems in a manner that enlarges the domestic carrying capacity of more powerful developed countries) to the detriment of social and ecological conditions within developing countries. Through comparative-historical analysis, Stephen Bunker and Paul Ciccantell (2005) examine the complex relationships associated with unequal exchange that contribute to uneven development within the global system. They argue that orthodox theories of development poorly recognize the differences between the internal dynamics and logic of accumulation of extractive and productive economies. It is not the extraction of natural resources and energy, per se, that promotes ecologically unequal exchange, but the socio-organizational relationships that emerge between and within exporting and importing nations. The historical interactions between modes of extraction and production create path-dependent dynamics that shape the development trajectories of differentially situated nations and their economies. From colonial to contemporary times, “this appropriation and its ecological results affect the class structures; the organization of labor; systems of property and exchange; the activities of the state; the distribution of populations; the development of physical infrastructure; and the kinds of information, beliefs, and ideologies which shape social organization and behavior” (Bunker 1984, 1020). These exchange relationships also contribute to boom-and-bust cycles, demographic shifts, and temporary investments in infrastructures that will become obsolete when the cycle of extraction ends. Local modes of production are reorganized in response to the demands of the global economy (Bunker 1984). Extractive and export-oriented path dependencies are firmly established, influencing patterns of environmental degradation. Bunker explained that “colonial extraction responded to international demand by exploiting a few, highly marketable resources beyond their capacity for natural regeneration” (1984, 1024). Colonies and former colonies were generally directed to producing for distant, powerful nations. Export agriculture and forestry resulted in the erosion and depletion of soil; the commodification of plants led to the loss of biodiversity (Foster 1999; Gellert 2010).



Energy and other natural resources are unevenly distributed throughout the world. Thus, trade of these resources between nations can be helpful to meet human needs and well-being. It is often assumed that trade will benefit nations with valuable resources. However, in the modern world economy, many export-oriented, developing nations remain mired in poverty, having failed to exhibit the vertical and horizontal economic diversification and growth that should follow temporally from specialization in their comparative advantages (Mahutga 2006). A conundrum, moreover, underlies the juxtaposition between those countries exhibiting the greatest consumption of natural resources and those characterized by the most degradation or loss of natural resource assets: the former, principally the most industrialized and post-industrial countries, often have the lowest domestic levels of many forms of environmental degradation (e.g., deforestation). In turn, the most intense natural resource degradation processes frequently beset the poorest countries in the world, those exhibiting minimal natural resource consumption demands. Ecologically unequal exchange is contingent on differential cross-national social organization and accelerated production-consumption-accumulation linkages in the “core” industrialized countries—facilitating the ability of state and private capital interests to determine global demand for natural resources (Hornborg 2011). Their capacity to control demand ensures that core interests engage in the substantive decisions regarding global export activity, and it subjects developing nations to ever-changing market demands (Bunker and Ciccantell 2005). Local populations, social organization, infrastructures, and ecosystems within the extractive regions of developing nations are often disrupted to attend to the malleable needs of high-income nations (Bonds and Downey 2012; McMichael 2008). International trade and production networks in contemporary contexts are partly tied to shifts that began in the 1970s and early 1980s, particularly the growing emphasis on export-oriented production and the attraction of foreign direct investment as interrelated ways of stimulating economic development in lower-income nations. Through formal and informal mechanisms, global institutions have encouraged such activities, often framing them as necessary ingredients for developing countries to establish and maintain beneficial positions in the world economy (see, e.g., Babb 2005). It is recognized that, to some extent (and depending on the context), trade and foreign investment stimulate economic development for developing nations (see, e.g., Clark and Mahutga 2013; Kentor and Boswell 2003).7 However, by increasing consumption of agricultural goods, extracted materials, and manufactured products, high-income nations exacerbate environmental and ecological problems within developing countries. These constitute some of the key mechanisms underlying ecologically unequal exchanges (Jorgenson and Givens 2014). Over the past decade, scholars working at the intersections of environmental sociology and development sociology have successfully employed quantitative measures in comparative international studies of various environmental outcomes (e.g., deforesta-



tion, water pollution, carbon emissions, and the ecological footprints of nations) to test propositions derived from ecologically unequal exchange theory (see, e.g., Austin 2010; Jorgenson 2006b, 2012; Jorgenson, Austin, and Dick 2009; Rice 2007; Roberts and Parks 2007a; Shandra et al. 2009). Of particular relevance for this chapter, Andrew Jorgenson and Brett Clark (2009) integrate the tradition with both the treadmill of production and the treadmill of destruction theories. As discussed in greater detail in the preceding section, treadmill of production theory focuses on how an economic system driven by endless economic growth, at an ever-larger scale, generates widespread ecological degradation, whereas treadmill of destruction theory suggests that the military has its own expansionary dynamics that involve significant environmental costs. Jorgenson and Clark contend that the ecologically unequal exchange perspective intersects a great deal with both treadmill orientations. The treadmill of production propels the world economy toward constant expansion, demanding more and more resources to meet its appetite, especially in the articulated consumer markets of developed countries and the rapidly emerging markets in Brazil, Russia, India, and China (collectively known as the “BRIC” nations). Similarly, in the interests of national security, technological innovation, political power, and geopolitical influence, the treadmill of destruction facilitates the increased consumption of resources by the nations’ militaries and their supporting sectors. As suggested by scholars of geopolitics and development, increased military strength enhances access to the natural resources and sink capacity of less powerful, less economically developed nations (see, e.g., Chase-Dunn 1998). More-developed and militarily powerful countries are positioned advantageously in the world economy, and thus these nations are more likely to secure and maintain favorable terms of trade allowing for greater access to the natural resources and sink capacity of bioproductive areas within less-developed, less militarily powerful countries (Jorgenson and Clark 2009). These advantageous positions facilitate the externalization of environmental costs of resource extraction and consumption, and they structure conditions where more-developed countries and those with more powerful militaries are able to over-utilize global “environmental space” (Rice 2007). The “misappropriation” of global environmental space suppresses resource consumption opportunities for the populations of many developing nations. Given the structure and acceleration of both the treadmill of destruction and the treadmill of production, and given that they are by no means independent of one another, the environmental and ecological consequences of these processes for less economically developed and less militarily powerful countries are likely to increase through time. To test their arguments and assess the extent to which these perspectives intersect in meaningful and empirically valid ways, Jorgenson and Clark (2009) create and employ two measures of the flows of exports from sending to receiving nations. One is weighted by the levels of economic development of receiving countries, the other by military expenditures per soldier of receiving countries. The two export flows measures are treated as predictors in panel analyses of the ecological footprints of nations from 1975



to 2000. The results of their study indicate that countries with relatively higher levels of exports sent to more economically developed and more militarily powerful nations experience suppressed consumption levels, and these effects—which are independent of one another—are especially pronounced and increasingly so for the less-developed countries, many of which consume resources well below globally sustainable thresholds. In other words, both forms of structural relationships between nations have become increasingly unequal in ecological contexts, and these ecologically unequal relationships support the “Northern centered” treadmills of production and destruction.


Anthropogenic climate change is among the greatest challenges of our times. Societies may pursue mitigation through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to adaptation to the effects of climate change. In order to successfully mitigate climate change, it is necessary to understand its social causes. Research in environmental sociology, employing the theoretical perspectives detailed in the previous sections, examines the social drivers that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and thus climate change. This work is especially pertinent for development sociologists, because anthropogenic climate change is directly linked, in a variety of ways, to the historic development of the modern economic system. Additionally, climate change and other natural conditions influence socioeconomic processes. We briefly review below some of the sociological work on the human drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, with a particular focus on the role of development. (For a more thorough review of the sociological research on the drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, we refer readers to Rosa and Dietz 2012; Rosa et al. 2015) Political-economic research regarding the intersections of the environment and development indicates that carbon-dioxide and methane emissions, as well as the associated drivers, are structured by nations’ positions in the world system, the subsequent institutional and demographic dynamics, and the distinct patterns of industrial and/or agricultural development (Burns, Davis, and Kick 1997). One of the earlier cross-national analyses of carbon intensity (carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of GDP) revealed an inverted U-shaped Kuznets curve distribution over the years examined (Roberts and Grimes 1997), but the authors of the study argued that this finding does not support the propositions of ecological modernization. Rather, they suggested that there are divergent pathways for countries within a stratified world system. These findings do not signify that countries are passing through stages of development. Wealthy countries are instead becoming more efficient; other countries are not. It is proposed that the larger structure of the global political economy and the unequal relationships within it influence these trends. In a study of the drivers of carbon-dioxide and methane emissions within nations, Richard York, Eugene Rosa, and Thomas Dietz (2003b) find no evidence of an environ-



mental Kuznets curve. As suggested by treadmill of production and metabolic scholars, population, economic development, urbanization, and industrialization, all of which are linked to development, each drive emissions. Other sociological research consistently reveals that economic development increases carbon-dioxide and methane emissions (Dietz and Rosa 1997; Jorgenson 2006a; Rosa, York, and Dietz 2004). In fact, Rosa and Dietz (2012) show that there is no evidence that carbon-dioxide emissions are reduced after some threshold of development, contra ecological modernization arguments. Treadmill of destruction research, as noted earlier in the chapter, indicates that military development contributes to an increase in both total and per capita carbon-dioxide emissions (Jorgenson, Clark, and Kentor 2010). Different forms of development produce distinct types of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a large proportion of foreign direct investment in the Global South finances carbon-intensive agriculture, forestry operations, and extractive enterprises that contribute to higher levels of carbon-dioxide emissions (see, e.g., Grimes and Kentor 2003; Jorgenson 2007b). Jorgenson (2006a) finds that level of economic development, foreign direct investment, and the social organization of production in separate sectors influence the per capita methane emissions of nations. In a cross-national longitudinal study, it is suggested that development of specific sectors, such as the production of grains, cattle, natural gas, and oil, as well as a reliance on food exports, increases total methane emissions (Jorgenson and Birkholz 2010). Likewise, the organization of production within the global system, as far as foreign direct investment, trade, and globalization of production, structure the patterns of total carbon-dioxide emissions among nations (Jorgenson 2007a, 2007b). Overall, development in its various manifestations remains one of the primary drivers of greenhouse gas emissions. The Global North is disproportionately responsible for the historic accumulation of carbon dioxide; however, the emissions of nations in the Global South, especially China and India, have rapidly increased in recent decades. Environment and development scholars indicate that the global organization of production and unequal trade relationships also influence carbon-dioxide emissions (Jorgenson 2012; Malm 2012; Roberts and Parks 2007a, 2009). Low-income countries that send a larger proportion of exports to high-income countries are disadvantaged in the global system of trade and experience higher levels of environmental degradation in the form of per capita carbon-dioxide emissions (Jorgenson 2012). Through this process of ecologically unequal exchange, wealthier countries are able to “offshore” more damaging aspects of production, leading to increases in emissions in less-developed countries. Global inequalities associated with uneven development patterns remain a stumbling block in climate negotiations for international action (Roberts and Parks 2007a, 2007b). For the future, it is also important to gain a better understanding of how development is constrained by climate change (Roberts and Parks 2009). As noted in prior sections of this chapter, ecological modernization theory posits that, even though economic development first harms the environment, the magnitude of the



link decreases over the course of development—a form of relative decoupling. In contrast, treadmill of production theory argues that the ironclad relationship between environmental harms and economic development remains constant or possibly increases through time for both developed and less-developed countries. Jorgenson and Clark (2012) evaluate these competing propositions through the use of interactions between economic development and time in cross-national panel analyses of three measures of carbon-dioxide emissions: total emissions, per capita emissions, and emissions per unit of production. The first measure is most important in regard to climate change concerns; the second captures aspects of global inequality; and the third is a measure of efficiency. The results vary across the three outcomes as well as between developed and developing countries, providing mixed and unbalanced support for both theoretical perspectives. But overall the results are more consistent with the propositions of treadmill of production theory (see also Jorgenson and Clark 2011; Knight and Schor 2014; York 2012). Theoretical perspectives from environmental sociology help explain the links between development and climate change, especially the effects of economic growth, the global organization of production, and militarization over time on greenhouse gas emissions. As we continue to confront the challenge associated with climate change, via both mitigation and adaptation, future research will offer opportunities to evaluate and extend these theoretical perspectives and to contribute to a better understanding of and action for the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.


The prior sections of this chapter have highlighted specific sociological theories that focus on environment and development relationships and sociological research on development and climate change. Here, we briefly introduce an emerging area of research that emphasizes one of the more fruitful avenues for sociological work that expands environment and development considerations to a broader conception of sustainability. We suggest that the multiple facets of sustainability deal with long-standing, fundamental considerations of development sociology: the importance of enhanced human well-being, healthier environmental conditions, and forms of sustainable social/human development. Decades ago, Alan Mazur and Eugene Rosa (1974) found that, across many nations, energy consumption had decoupled from lifestyle. Their analysis shattered an assumption about development: that increasing human well-being was synonymous with increased resource consumption (Dietz and Jorgenson 2014). In other words, it is possible that, after a certain point, greater resource use (i.e., increased ecological or carbon intensity) may not lead to greater societal benefits (i.e., increased human well-being). These findings direct attention to examining the interrelationships between environmental and social well-being, two of the pillars of sustainable development. If reducing



the ecological or carbon intensity of human well-being is a pathway to sustainability, a fundamental question becomes clear: how can human societies achieve this sustainability pathway? This is a huge multidisciplinary question with significant policy implications. Fortunately, scholars working at the intersections of development sociology and environmental sociology are well-suited to search for answers, and, in recent years, sociologists have begun conducting such inquiries.8 A common thread among these initial studies is the focus on economic development as a potentially viable pathway to reduce the carbon or ecological intensity of human well-being. For example, Kyle Knight and Eugene Rosa (2011) employ subjective measures of human well-being along with national ecological footprint data to tentatively test propositions, some of which are derived from theories we review in this chapter. Dietz, Rosa, and York (2012) also employ the ecological footprint data but instead use life expectancy as an objective measure of well-being. In their longitudinal cross-national analysis, they engage sociological and economics perspectives regarding the possibility of a Kuznets distribution between the ecological intensity of well-being and economic development. Jorgenson (2014) conducts a longitudinal cross-national analysis as well, but instead uses anthropogenic carbon emissions data and life-expectancy measures. He assesses the extent to which the effect of economic development on the carbon intensity of human well-being changes through time and if the relationship differs across regional samples of nations. Even with the noteworthy specifics of each of these studies, the overall take-home message is clear: economic development by itself is not a viable strategy for reducing the carbon and ecological intensity of human well-being, regardless of whether one uses subjective or objective measures of social well-being, and regardless of whether the analysis is cross-sectional, longitudinal, for combined samples, or region-specific. The implications of this research for the theories summarized above, such as ecological modernization theory and treadmill of production theory, are potentially significant and are already being considered in current research. Equally as important, the results thus far suggest the need to consider additional perspectives, such as ecologically unequal exchange theory, that focus on broader structural conditions and interrelationships between societies that influence these environment and human well-being dynamics. This is an emerging and important area of integrative sustainability research, and we suggest that environment and development scholars in the broader development sociology community have much to contribute to it.


This chapter has summarized key theoretical perspectives on the relationship between the environment and development and provided suggestions for future directions in this area of scholarship. A common assumption within the sociology of development community is that economic development generally improves human well-being (see, e.g.,



Firebaugh and Beck 1994), although some research finds that, over time, the magnitude of the effect of economic growth on human well-being has modestly declined (Brady, Kaya, and Beckfield 2007). Nevertheless, an underlying issue regarding the reliance on economic growth to improve well-being is the environmental implications of continued economic development. It is in this area that theoretical perspectives foundational to environmental sociology have much to contribute to the sociology of development. Ecological modernization theory suggests the possibility of environmentally beneficial effects of economic growth, but much research from political-economic perspectives, including treadmills of production and destruction and metabolic perspectives, finds evidence that development continues to degrade the environment and contributes to the disruption of ecosystems. Furthermore, ecologically unequal exchange theory highlights how forms of environmental degradation are uneven and displaced spatially, structurally, and temporally. An additional concern is that development may become more difficult in situations where the environment has been degraded. Thus, the environment is a key factor in terms of both the causes and the consequences of development, and work in this area suggests the importance of considering structural inequalities at multiple scales and potential trade-offs between development (in its various forms) and the environment in future work, especially as ecological problems accumulate globally. From water pollution and its related health effects to the challenge of global climate change and its ability to threaten ecosystem services on which all life depends, environmental considerations increasingly factor into development research and theoretical considerations. We suggest that the environmental sociology theories summarized in this chapter offer valuable insights for the broader development sociology community and demand a more prominent role in the field. Future research should continually test and expand on these theoretical perspectives. The bodies of sociological work that we summarized on development and climate change mitigation and development and the carbon/ecological intensity of human well-being represent two of many possible directions for research that addresses the complex interrelationships among the environment, human well-being, and development. Whereas a broader and deeper consideration of the environment presents further challenges to the already complex issue of development, it also represents an opportunity for an increasingly accurate understanding of development prospects and the potential for versions of development that are both more globally just and more sustainable.


1. Thomas Rudel’s chapter in this volume on development and land-use change also underscores this point. 2. Arthur Mol and Gert Spaargaren (2002) claim that ecological modernization theory, unlike modernization theory and the post-materialist values theory, aims only to be an environmental theory, not a general theory of society. Ecological modernization theory was devel-



oped in the context of West European states in the mid-1980s. These scholars were trying to understand the changes related to the environment that were taking place in institutions and social practices in these societies and how these changes might make a difference to the organization and environmental outcomes of modern society. 3. Critics of ecological modernization theory argue that the perspective is deterministic and that it fails to consider diversity, context, power, history, and environmental conditions, lacks empirical support, is Eurocentric, and is grounded in structural functionalism (McLaughlin 2012). 4. Paul Almeida and Linda Brewster Stearns (1998), who were not testing ecological modernization arguments, find similar mixed results for Southeast Asia. In their study of industrial and economic development in Japan, they highlight the importance of social movements and timing in leading to state regulations. Following World War II, the rapid industrialization of Japan led to significant pollution. Environmental movements and governmental reforms forced the adoption of pollution controls and new regulations in the 1970s. A decade later, Japanese firms moved production to poorer countries in Southeast Asia, contributing to environmental degradation in the latter. 5. In a focused critique of ecological modernization theory, Richard York and Eugene Rosa (2003) make four points: although the theory identifies institutional change in societies, it must go further and show that this change is actually effective in leading to large-scale transformations; in order to support the theory, empirical evidence must show that the most modernized societies are less environmentally damaging in terms of both production and consumption; it must demonstrate that industries or firms that are becoming more environmentally friendly are not just displacing the environmental harms elsewhere; and it must provide evidence that the pace of efficiency gains is enough to make up for the increase in overall production. 6. See Gregory Hooks’s chapter in this volume for a thorough discussion of the effects of warfare and militarization on development. 7. For a thorough review of the sociological literature on the environmental impacts of foreign direct investment, see Jorgenson and Givens 2014. 8. Other related strands of inquiry have emerged in tandem with these more sociological works (see, e.g., Lamb et al. 2014; Steinberger and Roberts 2010).


Almeida, Paul, and Linda Brewster Stearns. 1998. “Political Opportunities and Local Grassroots Environmental Movements: The Case of Minamata.” Social Problems 45, no. 1: 37–60. Amin, Samir. 1976. Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism. New York: Monthly Review Press. Andersen, Mikael. 2002. “Ecological Modernization or Subversion? The Effect of Europeanization on Eastern Europe.” American Behavioral Scientist 45: 1394–1416. Austin, Kelly. 2010. “The Hamburger Connection as Ecologically Unequal Exchange: A CrossNational Investigation of Beef Exports and Deforestation in Less-Developed Countries.” Rural Sociology 75: 270–99.



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Over the past sixty years, many preconceived ideas about development have been challenged through empirical analysis and measurement of development trends. Developing countries are not inevitably condemned to poverty and stagnation. Average GDP per capita has increased more than sixfold.1 Life expectancy at birth has increased by some twenty-four years. Child mortality has declined, and human capital has increased. Contrary to gloomy Malthusian predictions, food production has outpaced a rapidly growing global population since the 1930s, especially in the most densely populated developing countries. Absolute poverty has declined, both in the numbers of the poor and in percentages of the population. Developing countries are not permanently locked into agriculture, mining, or other primary activities. Several developing countries have become powerful global players in manufacturing production and exports. Table 4.1 provides a snapshot of dynamic changes in the developing world between 1950 and 2010. Average figures such as those in Table 4.1 hide great disparities in socioeconomic performance and diversity in developing countries. This is typically the case, for example, for the key indicator: economic growth. In Asia, several countries have experienced rapid growth and catch-up, including Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Latin American economies grew rapidly until 1980, but their growth momentum faltered between 1980 and 2000. With the exception of tiny countries, such as Mauritius and Botswana, most African countries experienced stagnation between 1973 and 2000, after a period of growth between 1950 and 1973. Since 2000, African growth has picked up, primarily fuelled by


table 4.1

Dynamic Changes in the Developing World, 1950–2010

GDP per capita (1990 PPP$), (1950–2010), weighted by population GDP per capita (1990 PPP$), (1950–2010), unweighted average Food production per capita (1980 = 100) (1961–2010) Manufactures as % of commodity production (1950–2005) Manufactured exports as % of commodity exports (1961–2010) Life expectancy at birth (1950/5–2005/10) Child mortality by age 1 (1950/5–2005/10) Child mortality by age 5 (1950/5–2005/10) Gross Enrollment Rate, primary education (1960–2010) Gross Enrollment Rate, secondary education (1960–2010) Gross Enrollment Rate, tertiary education (1960–2010) Net Enrollment Rate, primary education (1960–2010) Net Enrollment Rate, secondary education (1960–2010) Illiteracy rate (1956/65–2010) Percentage of population, with less than 1.25 2005 PPP dollars a day (1981–2010) Number of persons with less than 1.25 2005 PPP dollars a day (in millions) (1981–2010) Percentage of population, with less than 2 2005 PPP dollars a day (1981–2010) Number of persons with less than 2 2005 PPP dollars a day (in millions) (1981–2010)










88.0 22.9 5.0

100.0 33.5 25.0

178.4 35.4 37.0

42.3 180.0 281.0 75.8 15.7 2.1 48.1 35.0 55.5

59.5 84.0 117.0

35.5 51.8

66.0 50.2 72.4 107.8 64.0 21.4 86.9 56.0 19.8 20.6







source: Compilation from Szirmai 2015a, 2015b.

an export boom. In the Middle East, the economic performance of most countries has been erratic, in spite of vast oil resources. Few of the oil-rich developing countries have been able to use their mineral resources to generate sustainable growth in other sectors of the economy. Figure 4.1 provides a powerful illustration of divergence in the economic performance of selected African, Latin American, and Asian developing countries since 1950. With the exception of Latin American countries, most developing countries started with very similar initial levels of GDP per capita in 1950. But starting from low levels of income, countries similar to those of Ghana and Tanzania, Taiwan and South Korea succeeded in attaining high-income status within two generations. Ghana and Tanzania have remained poor. Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico started at much higher initial



28,000 Taiwan South Korea

24,000 20,000 16,000 12,000

Malaysia China Mexico Brazil


India Ghana Tanzania

4,000 0 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010

FIGURE 4.1 Divergence in Economic Performance since 1950 (1990 PPP Dollars). Source: Conference Board, Groningen Growth and Development Centre 2013.

levels of income in 1950 but have experienced relative stagnation since 1980. Finally, China stayed poor until 1990, when it suddenly accelerated to reach middle-income levels in 2012, within a single generation. A similar diversity can be found in the trends and levels of social indicators such as poverty, life expectancy, mortality, health, or education (see Szirmai 2015b). Thus, there has been substantial poverty reduction in East Asia and Latin America, while poverty continues to be high in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (Bluhm, de Crombrugghe, and Szirmai 2013, 2014). In the long run, social indicators and economic indicators usually move in step with each other, but there are important exceptions (see, e.g., Caldwell 1986; Kuhn 2010). Countries can perform much better or worse in terms of health, education, and poverty than would be expected on the basis of their average per capita GDP. This is illustrated by the well-known case of Cuba, where strong social indicators are combined with weak economic performance. It is this variety of experiences that theories of development have to tackle. In this chapter, my primary focus will be on the differences in economic performance, but such differences will be examined from a broader—not exclusively economic—perspective. My aim, then, is to present a comprehensive framework for the analysis of long-run socioeconomic development that is able to combine contributions and insights from a variety of disciplines, including development economics, the sociology of development, anthropology, political science, and economic history.2 Some of the key questions to be addressed in development studies are: Why have Western Europe and the Western offshoots forged ahead since the fifteenth century, creating the present highly unequal international economic order? Why have some developing countries succeeded in



partially or completely catching up with advanced country standards of living since 1950, whereas other developing countries have remained mired in stagnation? What are the factors explaining differences in development trends and experiences? To what extent is economic growth associated with poverty reduction, improved health, and better standards of living and welfare? What role is there for social policies in achieving better social outcomes? Why are rates of catch-up in the twentieth (and twenty-first) century so much more rapid than those in the nineteenth century, even though on average the gaps in GDP per capita between rich and poor countries have been increasing? (For the paradox of increasing inequality and accelerated catch-up, see Szirmai 2008, 2013.)3


Explaining socioeconomic development is not for the simpleminded. The first observation that one can make is a negative one: every single monocausal explanation ever advanced for development falls down in the face of the empirical evidence.4 Max Weber explained the breakthrough of capitalism in northwestern Europe as being based on the religious characteristics of Protestantism. But his Protestant ethic cannot cope with the recent economic success of East Asian countries with a Confucian tradition or of Islamic Turkey. Differences in degrees of corruption cannot explain why some countries stagnate and others develop. Some countries and regions, such as present-day China or Indonesia under Suharto, prosper in spite of pervasive corruption, whereas others, such as Nigeria, suffer deeply. Some types of corruption seem to be economically sustainable. Climatic and geographic determinists such as Jeffrey Sachs (see Sachs and Warner 1997; Faye et al. 2004), Jared Diamond (1997), and Paul Collier (2007) cannot account for the success of landlocked economies such as Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Botswana, or the rapid growth in tropical regions such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and southern China. Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have shown how countries can achieve spectacular economic development in spite of scarce natural resources. In fact, oil and mineral resources have often—but again not always—turned out to be a bane for economic development, as in the cases of Nigeria, Congo, or Venezuela, but less so in the cases of Indonesia, Qatar, or Botswana and definitely not in the cases of Australia, Norway, or the United States. Capital accumulation is an ingredient of every conceivable development strategy. But high rates of investment are no guarantee for sustained growth of per capita output or total factor productivity, as was assumed in postwar development theories. Human capital seems to be important in successful development experiences. However, many African developing countries have been successful in expanding their education systems since 1950 even though their economic growth has stagnated (Easterly 2001; Pack and Paxson 2001; Pritchett 2006). Protection of property rights has often been advanced by institutional economists as a key precondition for innovation, technological change, and economic progress (North



and Thomas 1973; Landes 1998). But the case of China since 1978 illustrates that explosive growth and catch-up can coexist with little protection of intellectual property rights and weakly defined property rights in general (Qian 2003; Rodrik 2006, 2007). Institutional fundamentalists such as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (2012) have difficulty in explaining why China, which patently does not meet their institutional requirements for sustained growth, has continued to grow so rapidly since 1978. Marxist and other theories of colonial and neocolonial exploitation fail to explain why some former colonies break the mold of dependence and stagnation and emerge as dynamic economies, and why others do not. Why did the United States become the world productivity leader while Brazil and Argentina have remained developing countries, though their decolonization was only a few decades apart? In development economics, much has been made of good economic policies. It is certainly true that disastrous policies such as those of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Indonesia’s Sukarno, or Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez can wreck an economy. But apart from that, policy variables such as openness to foreign investment, macroeconomic policies, price distortions, financial policies, and trade openness do not have predictable and robust effects on growth rates (Bhupatiraju and Verspagen 2013; Rodriguez and Rodrik 1999; Rodrik 2006). Thus, seldom do single factors explain breakthroughs and successes in economic development. Rather, we must look at the interaction of many complementary internal and external factors and determinants and the timing of these interactions. In his still eminently readable The Strategy of Economic Development, Albert Hirschman ([1958] 1988) argues that it is not possible to compile a fixed list of “prerequisites” for successful economic development. Different countries face different binding constraints and different initial conditions. The remainder of this chapter is structured as follows. The next section introduces a framework of proximate, intermediate, and ultimate causality for the study of socioeconomic development, which can be used to synthesize contributions from different disciplines. I then distinguish internal and external approaches in postwar development theory. The sections thereafter focus on the four levels of the framework: socioeconomic outcomes; proximate sources of growth; intermediate sources of growth and development; and ultimate sources of growth and development. In conclusion, I discuss some promising avenues for future research on socioeconomic development.


To capture both the complexity of and the interactions between sources of growth and development, this chapter presents a framework of proximate, intermediate, and ultimate causality. The framework has been developed by authors such as Angus Maddison (1988), Mancur Olson (1982), Moses Abramovitz (1989), and, more recently, Dani Rodrik (2003). Figure 4.2 provides a further elaboration of this framework (Szirmai 2012b, 2015b).



Ultimate Sources of Growth and Development  Geographic conditions  Demographic characteristics  Political, economic and social institutions  Culture and attitudes  Class and power relationships  Historical shocks  Long-run developments in science and technology  Distance to technological frontier

Intermediate Sources of Growth and development  Economic, technological and social policies  Trends in domestic and international demand  Changes in terms of trade

Proximate Sources of Growth Economic Actors O = f [(K, L, R)e] + a + p

Socio-Economic Outcomes  Health  Education  Consumption  Welfare  Distribution of income and wealth  Degree of poverty  Environmental sustainability

FIGURE 4.2 Proximate, Intermediate, and Ultimate Sources of Growth and Development.

Four levels are distinguished: ultimate sources of growth and development; intermediate sources of growth and development; proximate sources of economic growth; and socioeconomic outcomes.5 The proximate level lends itself to quantification and economic analysis. As we move to intermediate and ultimate levels, the approach becomes increasingly multidisciplinary. How ultimate factors and intermediate policy factors affect long-run growth performance is studied by economic historians, development economists, development sociologists, and political scientists. A particularly interesting field of research is how ultimate factors (such as class relationships, institutions, or culture) and intermediate factors (such as social and economic

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policies) transform the growth of productive capacity into more or less desirable social outcomes. In this framework, increases in productive capacity (proxied by growth of GDP per capita) play a central role. Without sustained increases in productive capacity and per capita income, it is not possible for a society to realize (and finance) its desired social outcomes, such as better health services, improved education, reduced poverty, increased consumption, and environmentally sustainable production. All of these outcomes have a price tag. In the absence of increases in domestic productive capacity, a country will remain permanently dependent on external transfers and development aid for the realization of improved welfare outcomes. In this sense, the framework is somewhat at odds with the modern discourse of the millennium development goals that defines relevant targets for productive employment, health, education, poverty, an equitable distribution, and sustainability but has little to say about the theoretical relationships between these targets. While emphasizing the centrality of growth and productivity, the framework makes clear that economic growth is not a goal in itself but a means to achieving welfare outcomes. Economic growth is a necessary condition for welfare improvements, but it is not a sufficient condition. The degree to which economic growth translates into desirable social outcomes (socioeconomic development versus economic growth) is determined to an important extent by policies (social protection policies, distributive policies, health policies, education policies, industrial policies, aid policies, and so forth) as well as the wider class structures, political regimes, and institutional frameworks within which these policies operate. Thus, the framework can serve as a bridge between the literatures on social problems, social policies, and social protection, on the one hand, and literatures on long-run development, on the other. Use of the terms “ultimate, intermediate, and proximate” is not meant to imply a linear model of causality; far from it. Causality is circular at all levels, as indicated by the feedback arrows in Figure 4.2. For instance, improved health and education (social outcomes) result in higher quality of labor inputs (proximate causality) but also, in the long run, in changes in absorptive capacity (ultimate causality). Changes in the distribution of income and wealth (social outcomes) change the incentives for different economic actors in the growth equation. Growth of per capita incomes affects demographic and health transitions (see Szirmai 2015b, chaps. 5 and 6). In the long run, even cultural values and institutions are shaped and reshaped in the course of economic development (Harrison 1985; Harrison and Huntington 2000). Thus, there are also relationships and feedback loops between the more ultimate factors in the top box of the figure. The difference between the more ultimate and more proximate sources of causality lies, among others, in the ease of quantification and the length of the chains of causality. It also provides a research strategy, which starts with the measurable economic factors that directly determine growth and then goes beyond them to broader social and



historical determinants. Thus, the framework also provides an invitation to multidisciplinary analysis of socioeconomic development. It is important to emphasize that Figure 4.2 is a framework for the analysis of development rather than a theory of development as such. As argued at the beginning of this chapter, there is no monocausal model of development where one crucial variable always explains development. There is no checklist of factors that have to be ticked off to explain success in development (Hirschman 1988; Szirmai 2013; Von Tunzelmann 1995). In different historical periods, different configurations of factors operate and there is a great variety of development paths. Nevertheless, one can learn much from a systematic analysis of the factors that play a role in development and their interactions. At a minimum, one can say that a common element of successful development involves positive feedback loops whereby initial success creates conditions for further success and rapid economic growth removes obstacles to further growth and development in a virtuous cycle (Myrdal 1957, 1968).


Development studies as we know them emerged after World War II. The key question of development was no longer why there had been an economic breakthrough in the West—as had been asked in classical sociological and economic theories in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. Rather, the question became why the non-Western world (the tropical world, the South, and the former colonies) had failed to develop, and what could be done about this. Subsequently, interest shifted to why some developing countries had been doing so much better than others. In coping with the huge literature on development, the framework of proximate, intermediate, and ultimate causality can help us to organize and understand the different strands of the debate. At the level of ultimate causality, one of the most important questions is the relative importance of internal and external factors in the explanation of underdevelopment or lack of development. Internal approaches emphasize the characteristics within a society that promote or hinder development. Thus, one of the founding fathers of development economics, Julius H. Boeke, explained the lack of development of the traditional sector in Indonesia by pointing to presumed noneconomic characteristics of oriental man and oriental culture, in which individual economic incentives were not operative. Needs were limited, and social needs dominated individual needs (Boeke 1947, 1961). The continuation of a traditional economy alongside the modern enclave was explained by internal cultural and institutional characteristics. Internalist approaches thus give pride of place to institutional and cultural obstacles as the ultimate sources of stagnation. Internal characteristics—structural, cultural, institutional, social, political—were emphasized in postwar modernization theories in both economics and sociology. Authors, including Walt Rostow (1960), Simon Kuznets (1966), and Gunnar Myrdal (1968) in economics or Bert Hoselitz (1960), Alex Inkeles (1969), Daniel Lerner (1958),

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and Wilbert Moore (1963) in sociology, searched for the barriers and obstacles to modernization and tried to formulate policies that would overcome these barriers. I would argue that the recent dichotomy between limited access orders and open access orders developed by Douglass North and his colleagues (North et al. 2007; North, Wallis, and Weingast 2009) is a continuation of the internalist tradition, with its opposition of traditional and modern societies.6 External approaches explain the situation in developing countries by reference to negative external influences from the advanced economies. Dualistic structures in developing countries are created by external economic and political penetration and exploitation. External influences also maintain these dualistic structures. In external perspectives, the international balance of economic and political power is the factor driving underdevelopment in the periphery of the world economy. Institutional characteristics and obstacles to development are determined by or even imposed by external forces. A high point in external explanations was the emergence of a variety of mostly neo-Marxist, structuralist, and dependency theories in the 1970s. These theories made the very important point that many of the institutions impeding economic development and equitable social outcomes were not “traditional” but were implanted by external colonial rulers and buttressed and maintained by external economic and political forces (see, e.g., Frank 1969, 1971). A very similar point is made in the modern economic institutionalist literature inspired by the work of Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson (2001, 2002; Acemoglu and Robinson 2012), which examines the ways in which colonizers created more extractive or more inclusive institutional structures depending on the nature of colonial settlement. They argue that where colonists settled permanently, as in the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, they tended to develop inclusive institutions and property rights that promoted economic development and industrialization. Where they settled impermanently due to bad health conditions and high settler mortality, they created or strengthened extractive institutions, which subsequently impeded economic development.7 Strangely enough, these market-oriented authors seem to be almost completely unaware of the similarity of their arguments to those of the dependency sociologists of the 1970s. Perhaps this is because their remedies, such as improved market institutions, are so different from the radical remedies of the underdevelopment theorists. After a high point in the 1970s, dependency theory and externalist perspectives have tended to fade away for a variety of reasons. These include the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fading attraction of Marxism, the failure of postwar inward-looking structuralist development policies, which tried to achieve self-reliance and reduced dependence on international trade, and the rediscovery of the importance of internal precolonial institutions and political characteristics (see, e.g., Michalopoulos and Papaioannou 2012), which help explain why some societies were colonized while other societies were the colonizers. In the following sections, I highlight some of the important debates at the different levels of analysis in our framework.




Important socioeconomic outcomes include health, life expectation, education, literacy, levels of consumption, numbers of people living in poverty, the distribution of income and wealth, decent employment opportunities, and environmental sustainability. Outcomes are what ultimately matter in development. If a country has rapid growth but no improvement in the living conditions of its population, then it makes no sense to speak of development. However, in contrast to much of modern development discourse, the framework of proximate and ultimate causality does emphasize the importance of increases in productive capacity.8 Improvements in social outcomes are not possible without long-run increases in productive capacity, as indicated by growth in GDP per capita. Economic growth is one of the essential preconditions for improvements in social outcomes. There can be no expansion of a healthcare system, an educational system, or a system of social protection without a sustained increase in productive capacity.9 Improving the living conditions of the poor while moving toward more sustainable systems of production also requires advances in productive capacity. However, the degree to which productive capacity is used to achieve desired social outcomes depends not only on the pattern of growth but also on the nature of social and economic policy (intermediate causality) and the incentives provided by the institutional framework and initial levels of socioeconomic inequality (ultimate causality). In Figure 4.2, socioeconomic outcomes are influenced not only by an arrow running from the proximate sources of growth to outcomes but also by arrows connecting ultimate conditions and intermediate policies with socioeconomic outcomes. Social outcomes are usually neglected in theories of economic development and existing models of proximate and ultimate causality. Yet the huge specialist literature on social policy, policy evaluation, and policy effectiveness tends to disregard the underlying economic, institutional, and power relationships and trends (see, e.g., Banerjee and Duflo 2009, 2011). P R OX I M AT E S O U R C E S O F G R O W T H

The proximate sources of growth refer to the various immediate inputs into the production process and the ways in which they are combined to produce outputs. At the proximate level, economic research has focused on quantifying the contributions of the proximate sources to economic growth through growth accounting, econometric approaches, or theoretical growth modeling. Important proximate sources of growth of GDP are summarized here: 1. Discovery and exploitation of riches and natural resources Discovery of natural resources—gas, coal, oil, gold, minerals, and so forth— can promote growth. However, such growth will not be sustainable unless the revenues from windfall discoveries are transformed into more durable sources of growth.

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2. Effort Working harder, increasing hours worked per year, increasing labor market participation, greater effort and discipline. 3. Saving and accumulating capital Being sober and abstaining from current consumption in order to save; investing these savings in order to accumulate capital goods, which increase the productivity of labor. 4. Investing in education and human capital Abstaining from current consumption in order to invest in education, training, and health in order to improve the productivity of labor. 5. Efficiency Becoming more efficient and effective in the use of capital, labor, land, intermediate inputs, and the ways in which these can be combined in production. Efficiency includes: choosing the right combinations of capital and labor; specializing in what a country is good at producing in production and international trade; shifting resources from less productive to more productive sectors of the economy; and better utilization of capacity. 6. Economies of scale Increasing the scale of production to profit from economies of scale. Producing on a larger scale creates opportunities for cost reduction. Related concepts are economies of scope and agglomeration effects. “Economies of scope” refers to the cost reductions that are achieved by producing a wider range of related products. “Agglomeration effects” refers to the advantages of concentrating production in large urban centers. In some sectors of the economy, economies of scale are more important than in others. 7. Structural change Shifting resources to new sectors that are more dynamic than the existing ones and have positive effects on the whole economy. This goes beyond the static efficiency effects mentioned under point 6. It involves identifying future opportunities and developing the capabilities to realize these opportunities. 8. Theft Appropriating resources from other societies and using these to accumulate capital. If resources are appropriated but not reinvested, they will have the same nonsustainable effects as windfall discoveries. 9. Factor income Using net factor income (income from capital invested abroad or wages of workers temporarily working in other countries) to accumulate capital. 10. Technological change Developing or acquiring new knowledge about how to produce valued goods and services and applying such knowledge in production.



All of these factors can be represented in the form of a production function, which relates output to the so-called “proximate sources of growth” (Denison 1967; Maddison 1987, 1988): O = f [K, L, R]e + A + P In this equation, O refers to national product. Capital (K), Labor (L), and land and natural resources (R) refer to the primary factors of production (see points 1–3 above). The quality of capital goods can be enriched through embodied technological change (see point 10), the quality of labor through investment in human capital (point 4). The exponent e refers to the efficiency with which the primary factors are used to transform intermediate inputs into final goods and services. The concept of efficiency as used here refers to everything that increases output per unit of primary input. It includes a number of important elements mentioned under points 5, 6, 7, and 10, such as economies of scale, efficient combinations of available capital and labor within sectors (appropriate choice of technology), efficient allocation between less productive and more productive economic sectors (structural change), reallocation of resources toward more dynamic sectors (structural change), efficient allocation between countries (specialization and comparative advantage, search for dynamic comparative advantage), utilization of capacity, and, last but not least, disembodied technological change.10 The term “A” denotes net factor income from abroad (point 9), which includes net income from foreign capital investments11 and labor abroad, and “P” refers to colonial plunder and expropriation (negative) or voluntary transfers and development aid (positive) (see point 8). At the proximate level, one tries to quantify the sources and measure their contribution to the growth of output. It has long been known (Abramovitz 1989; Nelson 1981; Nelson and Pack 1999; Rodrik 2003) that one should be careful in giving the sources of growth equation too strong a causal interpretation. As Rodrik notes, for instance, capital accumulation and efficiency in the use of resources are themselves endogenous; causality may well run backward from growth to accumulation and productivity (2003, 4). These circular relationships are indicated by the feedback arrows in Figure 4.2. Nevertheless, the proximate sources of growth formulation are indispensable for a systematic empirical examination of the sources of growth and development (Bosworth and Collins 2003). Over time, one can discern interesting shifts in the importance accorded to different proximate factors. In the development theories of the 1950s, the key factor was capital and capital accumulation. Poor countries were assumed to have shortages of savings and capital. The secret of development, both in socialist and in capitalist theories, was to accelerate the rates of accumulation. Though no one denies that capital was and is important, later research showed that the contribution of growth of the capital stock to overall growth remained limited (see, e.g., Maddison 1987). Theorists started searching for other important drivers of growth. In the 1960s, authors such as Gary Becker (1964) and

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Theodore Schultz (1961, 1971) introduced the concept of human capital. Societies and households could invest not only in physical capital but also in human capital. The gap in human capital per person between rich and poor countries was seen as one of the important differences between them. The next generation of researchers started challenging the importance of human capital. In cross-country regressions, education was often nonsignificant. For instance, William Easterly (2001) and Lance Pritchett (2001, 2006) presented econometric exercises that seemed to indicate that education contributed little to economic development. What complicates the analysis of education is that its effects make themselves felt sometimes only after decades and that education needs a variety of complementary inputs—capital, technology—in order to have a positive effect on growth (Godo and Hayami 2002; Pack and Paxson 2001). Moreover, most data on education refer to years spent in school rather than to what is actually learned there. When the cognitive skills learned in schools are measured rather than years enrolled in educational institutions, the contribution of education turns highly significant (Hanushek and Wössmann 2007, 2008). With regard to education, we can conclude that it is one of the necessary conditions for economic development but not a sufficient condition. Historical research shows that there is not a single case of successful economic development since 1870 that was not preceded by large investments and improvements in human capital and literacy. Another major proximate driver of economic development is structural change. Ever since Simon Kuznets and Arthur Lewis, development economists have argued that the transfer of labor and other resources from low productivity sectors such as traditional agriculture to high productivity sectors such as manufacturing or market services provides a huge boost to growth. (For a review of the debates on structural change and industrialization, see Szirmai 2012a.) One of the exciting topics of modern research is whether manufacturing remains the key engine of growth or whether this role is being taken over by services. Even after important sources of growth such as capital accumulation, investment in human capital, and structural change have been taken into account, a large part of economic growth (the residual) remains unexplained. This is where technological change enters the stage as the most important factor. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, growth accountants such as Edward Denison (1967) and growth theorists such as Robert Solow (1956, 1957) argued that it was technological change that drove economic growth in the long run. But these scholars still saw technological change as an exogenous force. The major innovation of growth theorists in the 1980s—both in new growth theory and in evolutionary economics—was to endogenize technological change, to recognize it as the result of human efforts to invest in knowledge, technology, and innovation (Romer 1986; Nelson and Winter 1982; Verspagen 2001). Without changes in knowledge, capital and labor will sooner or later run into diminishing returns. But there are no limits to the returns to knowledge.



Of the various proximate sources of growth, technological change is now seen as by far the most important driver of long-run economic growth. In all modern theories of growth, the most important source of growth is disembodied technological change (Fagerberg, Mowery, and Nelson 2005). This refers to advances in our technological knowledge concerning products and production processes. It involves the development of new production processes, new types of machinery, new forms of organization, use of new inputs, new products and services, new ways of distributing products and services, and new knowledge that can be transferred through education. It also involves a variety of knowledge spillovers between economic actors and between countries. With regard to technological change, it is important to distinguish between change at the frontiers of knowledge in the lead economies and diffusion and absorption of technology in the follower countries. The latter is of vital importance for developing countries (see Szirmai 2015b, chap. 4; see also the concluding section below). Once we have quantified the proximate sources of growth and the mathematical relationships between sources and economic outputs, we can start exploring the links between the proximate factors and the wider economic and social sources of growth and development. For instance, one can explore the social, historical, and institutional roots of high rates of savings, which result in rapid growth of the capital stock in Asia. One can examine the consequences of inheritance laws and family institutions (see, e.g., Clark 2007). One can analyze the institutional incentives for households to educate their offspring. Or one can explore the institutions and policies that accelerate or slow down the rate of innovation and technological advance. Many standard economic models are based on a representative actor who engages in more or less rational behavior. Compared to previous models of proximate and ultimate causality, an important new element in Figure 4.2 is that the proximate sources of growth also include the behavior of a variety of economic actors (firms, entrepreneurs, and households) that are responsible for the changes in the immediate sources of growth, such as savings and capital accumulation, investment in human capital, investment in research and development, efficiency improvements, inventions and innovations, and entering new economic sectors. Economic actors provide the link between the macroeconomic analysis of the production function and the burgeoning microeconomic, evolutionary, and sociological literature on firm-level analysis, household surveys, entrepreneurship, and innovation studies (Szirmai, Naudé, and Goedhuys 2011). Rather than making unrealistic assumptions about the utility maximizing behavior of a representative actor, the introduction of a plurality of actors allows us to examine the different behaviors of economic actors in micro-level research. It also allows us to trace the relationships between proximate sources of growth such as capital accumulation, intermediate sources such as policies, and ultimate sources such as class structures, political stability, culture, or institutions. Thus, class relationships determine access to resources, whereas culture and institutions provide incentives and mindsets for saving, investment, and entrepreneurial behavior by economic actors, which can result in accumulation of capital or technological advance.12

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Intermediate sources of growth and development include three types of factors: trends in domestic and international demand; changes in the terms of trade; and policies (economic policies, technology policies, and social policies). Adding demand and terms of trade as intermediate sources of growth is an attempt to respond to the criticism that the sources of growth framework is an exclusively supply-side approach. Taking patterns of demand into account is important for the understanding of the path-dependent nature of processes of economic development. Thus, when world demand or domestic demand are growing rapidly, when a country’s market shares are expanding or its terms of trade are improving, this will encourage economic actors to accumulate human and physical capital, which results in further growth and competitiveness. Upward or downward trends in the terms of trade affect the degree to which growth of a country is affected by its patterns of export specialization. Since Raul Prebisch and Hans Singer published their original papers in 1950, the debate has focused on whether or not developing countries face declining terms of trade due to their specialization in primary products (the PrebischSinger hypothesis). It is not possible to summarize this very large literature here, but I concur with a recent assessment by Jeffrey Williamson (2011) that Prebisch and Singer were mistaken. There is no law that a developing country’s terms of trade always decline, even when it specializes in primary products. In the remainder of this section, I focus on the role of policy.13 Policies include economic policies such as trade policies, macroeconomic policies, industrial policies, interventions, and subsidies to stimulate innovation and technological advance. They also include a wide range of social policies in the areas of education, social protection, and welfare, which affect poverty reduction and the distribution of the outcomes of economic development. Such policies mediate in important ways between productive capacity and the outcomes in terms of welfare and distribution. In development studies, there is a lively debate about economic policies (macroeconomic policies, trade policies, industrial policies, and technology and innovation policies). Important issues in this debate are the role of government, the degree of selectivity of policy, and the inward or outward orientation of policy. Over time, there has been a shift from the big push investment policies of the 1950s and 1960s, which aimed at inward-looking development, capital accumulation, and industrialization, to the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s, which focused on redressing macroeconomic imbalances as well as on deregulation, privatization, outward orientation, and a greatly reduced role of the state (Williamson 1990). In turn, these policy stances have increasingly been criticized as overly reliant on market forces by scholars such as Joseph Stiglitz (2002), Ha-Joon Chang (2002), and Alice Amsden (2007, 2011). At the time of this writing, more selective industrial policies are being rediscovered worldwide (Szirmai, Naudé, and Alcorta 2013) but with an important difference. There is no question of a return to past inward-looking policies. The importance of participation in international trade and



the role of the foreign direct investment and multinational enterprises is taken for granted. Policies now focus on strategic integration into world trade. How can countries upgrade their productive and technological capabilities so as best to profit from international trade and foreign investment (Westphal 2002; Lin 2010; Lin and Monga 2010)? In parallel with the debates on economic policy, there is a second set of debates on the role of social policies. In the 1970s and 1980s, the value of economic growth came to be questioned by critics such as Dudley Seers (1979). Development was broader than economic growth. It should also result in poverty reduction, employment creation, and a more equitable distribution of income. Landmarks in this discussion were the publication of Redistribution with Growth (Chenery et al. 1974) and the criticism of structural adjustment policies Adjustment with a Human Face (Cornia, Jolly, and Stewart 1987). These debates put social policy in the limelight. Growth will not automatically result in poverty reduction, improved health, and improved education; those outcomes depend on the kind of social policies (i.e., health, population, education, employment, and social protection policies) that mediate between productive capacity and social outcomes. But the role of social policy goes beyond that of redistributing the fruits of economic growth. Social policy is seen by many as an investment in economic development in the sense that better education and better healthcare are investments in human capital that can feed back into the growth process (as evidenced by the feedback arrows from outcomes to proximate sources of growth in Figure 4.2). The same can be argued for distributive policies. The increases in income and social inequality that characterize rapidly growing economies—such as that of China today—may undermine social cohesion and thereby threaten the prospects of further economic development. Investment in a more equitable distribution can thus also be seen as an investment in future economic development. Of course, this does not mean that there is no trade-off between direct investment in economic growth and investment in social protection and redistribution. One of the bridges between economic and social policies is the new interest in creating productive employment for the poor. This was discussed in Redistribution with Growth but is now re-emerging as a policy priority (U.N. Industrial Development Organization 2013; World Bank 2013). This draws our attention to the nature and direction of investment rather than only to the volume of investment as such (see, e.g., Szirmai et al. 2013). From the perspective of the framework of proximate and ultimate causality, the most important shortcoming of the policy-oriented literature is its rather technocratic nature. There is a tendency to see social policies as tools that can be designed on a drawing board, evaluated, and fine-tuned. (For interesting work on policy impact evaluation and experimental economics, see Banerjee and Duflo 2009.) Interpreting national and international economic and social policies as intermediate factors emphasizes that policy is in turn influenced and constrained by more ultimate factors such as class relationships, economic interests, power structures, and cultural and institutional characteristics. This is increasingly being rediscovered in research in political economy and institutional economics (see, e.g., Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson 2001; Acemoglu and Robinson,



2006; Shleifer and Vishny 1993; Shleifer et al. 2004; North, Wallis, and Weingast 2009). Such research takes policy itself as an endogenous variable, to be explained by more ultimate factors such as the balance of power between elites and masses, the relations between socioeconomic groups and classes, and the evolution of institutional structures. Thus, in what Douglass North, John Wallis, and Barry Weingast (2009) refer to as “limited access orders,” dominant elites will define the policy space in such a way that fundamental elite interests are not affected negatively.


Underlying both the proximate and the intermediate sources are more basic social forces, which we call the ultimate sources of growth and development. These include external shocks, geographic conditions, long-run trends in scientific and technological knowledge, demographic trends, economic, political, and social institutions, historical developments, culture, social attitudes and capabilities, changes in the class structure and the relationships between social groups, and developments in the international economic and political order and the international balance of power. The ultimate sources of growth and development are summarized below: 1. Geographic location, climate, and natural resources. Geographic location and climate determine the challenges that the people in a country have to face: rich versus poor soils, landlocked versus seaboard location, extreme versus moderate climate, availability of natural resources, and disease environment. 2. Demographic conditions and trends, including the size of population, population density, the rate of population growth, and the age structure of the population. 3. The history of political centralization, state formation, pacification, and external domination. 4. Historical shocks: wars, economic crises, revolutions, and natural disasters. 5. The dynamics of class relationships and their interrelationships with changing modes of production. 6. The balance of power between elites and the mass of the population. 7. Culture and values: the evolution of culturally and religiously sanctioned cognitions, beliefs, values, and attitudes affecting economic behavior (attitudes toward work and effort, saving and risk, entrepreneurship, science, technology and innovation, and rent seeking). 8. Evolution of institutions that provide incentives and constraints for economic and social behavior. These include: a. Political institutions for conflict management, the monopoly on violence, and the maintenance of law and order.



9. 10. 11. 12.

b. Economic institutions such as private property rights, public ownership of the means of production, institutions of landownership and land use, intellectual property rights, joint stock companies and corporate governance institutions, central planning institutions, banking institutions and other institutions for financial intermediation, and inheritance institutions affecting the intergenerational transfer of wealth. c. Labor market institutions. d. Institutions regulating social protection. Developments in the international order, such as changing international trade regimes, financial regimes, knowledge flows, and migration flows. Long-run developments in science and technology, which determine the limits and possibilities of technological advance in economic production. The distance to the technological frontier, which influences the catch-up potential of a country. Absorptive capacities and the evolution of technological and social capabilities. These determine the extent to which a country and its firms can benefit from international knowledge flows.

Within the constraints of a short chapter, it is obviously not possible to summarize the large literature on ultimate causality in a satisfactory fashion. I will briefly mention below some of the important debates with regard to ultimate causality and the various factors emphasized in different strands of the literature (see Szirmai 2012b). In recent years, institutions have received special attention as one of the potentially important sources of long-run growth and socioeconomic development (for a review, see Bluhm and Szirmai 2012). The framework of proximate and ultimate causality helps us to understand the role of institutions and put them into perspective. Following the work of North (1990), institutions are the humanly devised constraints that structure human interaction and provide the rules of the game. To an important extent, institutions determine the scope and degrees of freedom for policymaking. Together with policies and culture, institutions provide the incentives that guide the behavior of economic actors and influence social outcomes. As such, institutions are clearly part of ultimate causality. But institutions as humanly devised constraints are themselves shaped by other ultimate factors, such as history, geographic conditions, long-run development of knowledge, class, and power relationships. An analysis that focuses on the role of institutions alone, neglecting other elements of ultimate causality, will inevitably be incomplete. Within the institutionalist tradition, North, Wallis, and Weingast (2009) have emphasized the institutions regulating the control of violence. They distinguish limited access orders from open access orders. In limited access orders, elites restrict access to political and economic organizations and use the rents to maintain dominant elite coalitions and



a measure of social stability. The social order is fragile and unable to deal with shocks and technological advances, which may upset the precarious social balance. Open access orders are more flexible and more inclusive and therefore more capable of achieving economic development. A related strand of research in political science emphasizes the importance of state capabilities in the process of development. An important author in this tradition is Peter Evans (1995), who coined the notion of embedded autonomy: the combination of professional autonomy of the bureaucracy and its connectedness and interaction with economic actors, characteristic of the East Asian success stories. (For a review of this literature, see Cingolani 2013.) An interesting debate at the level of ultimate causality is that between the proponents of geography and the proponents of institutions. Authors such as Jared Diamond (1997) and Jeffrey Sachs (Sachs and Warner 1997; Faye et al. 2004) argue that geographic factors are the most ultimate determinants of economic development. Such factors include climate, soil conditions, disease environments, and, especially, geographic location. Eric Jones (1988) has argued that island countries located at the edge of continents such as Great Britain or Japan are ideally located for economic success. Conversely, Sachs has pointed to landlockedness as a serious obstacle to growth. The institutionalists counter that geographical characteristics only work through institutions and that ultimately institutions are the defining factor. Thus, Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (2001) acknowledge geographic disease conditions as an important factor affecting colonial settler mortality. Settler mortality influences the kind of institutions that colonizers create. Ultimately, it is these institutions that shape the path of economic development. In an econometric paper, Dani Rodrik, Arvind Subramanian, and Francesco Trebbi (2004) have assessed the relative importance of institutions, geography, and trade openness and have concluded that institutions trump all other factors. A second debate, this time within the institutionalist tradition, concerns the relative importance of economic and political factors on institutional evolution. Here the protagonists are Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson versus Stanley Engerman and Kenneth Sokoloff (see Bluhm and Szirmai 2012 for an extended discussion). On the basis of historical research, Engerman and Sokoloff (1997, 2002) argue that economic factor proportions are the ultimate determinants of institutional characteristics. Where geographic conditions in the Americas made for large-scale production using extensive slave or indentured labor (for, e.g., cotton, sugar cane, or tin), unequal and extractive institutions emerged, which later acted as obstacles to economic growth. Where geographic conditions and factor proportions promoted small-scale family farming in wheat, as in North America and Canada, more inclusive and egalitarian institutions emerged, which were more favorable for subsequent economic development. In contrast, Acemoglu and his co-authors argue for the primacy of political factors, in particular the relationships between elites and masses and how these are institutionalized, distinguishing between extractive and inclusive institutional arrangements (Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson 2001, 2002; Acemoglu and Robinson 2006, 2012). In their perspective, economic power follows from political power.



A third debate is between the protagonists of cultural factors and institutionalists. In the analysis of the increasing disparities between North America and Latin America, there is an interesting strand of research that points to the differing cultural heritage of North and South America, with their respective links to northwest European puritan Protestant culture and the aristocratic and feudal aristocratic ethic of the Iberian Peninsula (Hartz 1964). The importance of cultural factors has been reaffirmed in the more recent publications of Lawrence Harrison and Samuel Huntington (Harrison 1985; Harrison and Huntington 2000). In contrast, Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) are dismissive of cultural factors. They argue that even in regions with exactly the same cultural background, differences in institutional characteristics are what really matter for economic development. Engerman and Sokoloff (2002) also reject cultural explanations, pointing to the primacy of economic factors. If one conceptualizes institutions as typically regulating specific spheres of human interaction, whereas culture captures broader sets of values, norms, and cognitions that characterize societies, then cultural and institutional explanations are complementary and nonexclusive perspectives. Institutions are supported by culture but are oriented to specific spheres of interaction. Cultural elements can buttress institutions but are not identical to them. One of the important ultimate sources of development that has been typically disregarded in the modern institutionalist literature is that of the dynamics of class relationships. Institutionalist authors such Acemoglu, North, Robinson, Rodrik, or Johnson pay a good deal of attention to the political economic analysis of relationships between elites and masses or between different elites. Changes in the balance of power affect the evolution of institutions. But these authors systematically underplay the analysis of class formation and class dynamics that figure so prominently in the brilliant contributions of older historical sociologists, political scientists, and evolutionary economists such as Barrington Moore, Jr. (1967), Theda Skocpol (1979), Immanuel Wallerstein (1974), Joseph Schumpeter ([1943] 1976), James O’Connor (1973), and even Douglass North and Robert Thomas (1973). Changes in underlying class relationships, such as polarization or the emergence of middle classes, are driven by changes in modes of production and technological changes and have important effects on institutions and institutional change. A very important—though currently largely disregarded—contribution has been made by Ester Boserup, who pointed to the importance of increasing population density as a driver of technological change, agricultural growth, and economic development (Boserup 1965, 1981, 1983). This literature emphasizes the importance of demographic factors as an ultimate source of growth. To the ultimate sources of development discussed so far, we need to add technological advance and the distance to the technological frontier, factors that received short shrift in much of the literature touched upon in this section. Technological advance changes the nature and structure of production and creates conditions for the emergence of new social groupings, classes, and institutional arrangements. Of special importance is the



notion of distance to the technological frontier, which creates a potential for growth through the absorption of international technology and knowledge in a globalized economy. This will be further elaborated below.


At the beginning of this chapter, I argued that monocausal explanations of development were not fruitful. It would therefore not be very logical to conclude with a choice for a single encompassing explanation. Instead, I will conclude with a discussion of three strands of development theory that provide interesting insights into the nature of postwar catch-up in the developing world without singling out a single ultimate factor that supposedly determines all else. These approaches have in common that they are open to insights from a variety of disciplines, they combine internal and external factors, and they are historical and contextual in nature. The specific factors that are important in any given country and any given period may differ from factors in other contexts and periods. The three strands of theory to be discussed are: the theory of advantages of technological backwardness associated with the work of Alexander Gerschenkron and Moses Abramovitz; the work of Dani Rodrik and associates on identifying the binding constraints to development; and the idea of a race between factors promoting economic divergence and factors promoting economic convergence and economic catch-up.


The economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron formulated his theories about the advantages of backwardness on the basis of the rapid growth and catch-up of the latecomer countries Russia and Germany since the last quarter of the nineteenth century (Gerschenkron 1962). These countries were able to profit from copying and taking over technologies developed elsewhere, without bearing the full costs and risks of their development. Their technological backwardness created a potential for accelerated growth. Diffusion and acquisition of technology, however, is not automatic, and it depends on the absorptive capacities of countries. As a historian, Gerschenkron paid attention to the conditions under which certain countries embarking on catch-up could profit from international diffusion of technology. Such diffusion depends on changes in the social structure and modernization of society and calls for a greater role of governments, government policy, and large financial institutions in mobilizing resources. Gerschenkron emphasized the importance of overcoming internal institutional obstacles to industrialization for a country to embark on growth and catch-up. For nineteenth-century Russia, such obstacles included serfdom and the absence of a disciplined, reliable, and stable supply of industrial labor. Once the conditions are right and absorptive capacities are sufficiently developed, industrialization will take off in late-developing economies, and



growth happens in leaps, accelerations, and spurts, concentrated in certain leading sectors of the economy. The Gerschenkronian framework is a historical and flexible one. Important differences exist between the patterns of industrialization in different countries and those in different historical periods (see also Kuznets 1965, 1966). There is no uniform, unilinear sequence of stages of development. Moreover, Gerschenkron argued that modern economic development could only be understood in a context of international technology transfer. In this respect, Gerschenkronian theory combines both internal characteristics and policies and external interactions with the technologically advanced countries in the world economic order. In Gerschenkron’s theory, latecomers in economic development have the opportunity to take over technological know-how from economically advanced countries, without having to bear the burden of the costs of research and development of new technologies. Developing countries can choose from a huge arsenal of new production techniques that were not available previously. Thus, if the economy and the society are able to absorb and adapt these new technologies, latecomers in development can experience much faster economic growth than early developers, because they profit from the advantages of backwardness.14 Abramovitz (1989) has further developed the notion of the advantages of technological backwardness and distance to the global frontier. The greater the technology gap, the greater the growth potential of backwardness. But whether this potential is realized depends on the capacity of a developing country to profit from technologies developed in the advanced economies, and this further depends on the social capabilities of a developing country and the congruence between technologies developed in the lead countries and conditions in the follower countries. Social capability refers to the use a country can make of advanced technology and its capacity to acquire it in the first place. Social capability depends on the technical competence of a country’s people, indicated (among other factors) by levels of general education and the share of population with training in technical subjects. It is also influenced by the degree of experience of managers with largescale production and the availability of financial institutions and supporting services. Once certain threshold levels of capabilities have been achieved, backward countries can grow very rapidly as they take over technology from elsewhere. But if they fail to achieve these threshold levels, gaps will tend to widen rather than diminish. Thus, social capabilities and absorptive capacities are among the important ultimate sources of growth. In the postwar period, Gerschenkronian catch-up is exemplified by the experiences of countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and, currently, India and China. In recent years, Michael Hobday (1995, 2013) has provided a further elaboration of the Gerschenkronian framework in a series of publications focusing on the successful development of the East Asian economies. Geschenkronian analysis generally focuses on ultimate causality. One of the important forces of catch-up is the distance to the—ever changing—technological frontier. But the key factor in all catch-up theories is absorptive capacity—the ability to tap into international knowledge flows. Institutions figure in Gerschenkronian analysis, because a



breakthrough from traditional institutions hindering economic development is required before a country can embark on catch-up.


A second fruitful strand of development theory is found in the work of Dani Rodrik, Ricardo Hausmann, and Lance Pritchett (2005; see also Rodrik 2003, 2006, 2007). Rodrik’s work can be seen as a critical response to the one-size-fits-all policy recommendations of the World Bank and the IMF that were imposed on different countries after 1982, irrespective of differences in conditions. Rodrik and his co-authors argued that each country faces different binding constraints. Development theorists should try to identify the most important binding constraints to growth and development and prioritize policies addressing these constraints, rather than urge policymakers to implement a long list of standard reforms. (This is typically an analysis at the intermediate level of policy reform.) They have developed a diagnostic method to help identify the specific binding constraints in a country. The major insight to be derived from this research is that poor countries can grow very rapidly without a comprehensive overhaul and reform of their institutions. Hausmann, Pritchett, and Rodrik (2005) have identified at least eighty growth accelerations since World War II. Growth accelerations can be unleashed by fairly modest reforms that address the most binding constraints to growth (Rodrik 2003). The final interesting insight derived from this literature is that though it is fairly easy to kick-start growth in developing countries, it is not so easy to maintain it. Here the ideas of Rodrik and modern institutionalist theorists converge. North, Wallis, and Weingast (2009) have argued that limited access orders can experience growth but are vulnerable to economic and other shocks as the balance of power between elites in limited access orders is fragile. A similar argument is put forward in very recent book by Acemoglu and Robinson (2012), who argue that countries with extractive institutions will find it hard to maintain rapid rates of growth because they cannot mobilize the efforts, creativity, and entrepreneurial talents of broad masses of the population. Thus, maintaining growth momentum so as to achieve catch-up in the long run requires far-reaching reforms in institutions, policies, and economic structures. From this perspective, growth acceleration—as has been experienced by many sub-Saharan African nations since 2000—is a window of opportunity for further reform, but no more than that. If the window of opportunity is not used for further reform and structural change, growth will stall.


Among the exciting ideas in modern theories of development and catch-up is the notion of a race between technological progress in the advanced economies and diffusion of



technology to less advanced economies. This idea is found in evolutionary economics, neo-Schumpeterian theories, Gerschenkronian theories of catch-up, and new growth theories as well as in the business-oriented literature on firm-level capabilities, entrepreneurship, and creativity. As already intimated in the section on Gerschenkron, the outcome of this race depends to an important extent on the absorptive capacities of a society, its firms, and its population. In the section on proximate causality, I argued that, of all the proximate sources of growth, technological change is probably the most important one. But technological change is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, investment in knowledge, innovation, and technology is a force for economic divergence. Most of research and development takes place in the advanced economies, and the absorptive capacities of firms and economic actors are so well developed that new knowledge flows very rapidly from one economic actor to another. Using the terminology of national innovation systems (Nelson 1993; Lundvall 1992; Lundvall et al. 2009), the strong national innovation systems of advanced economies generate a lot of innovation, which subsequently diffuses rapidly through the economy. In poor developing countries little research and development is performed, and what technological knowledge exists does not flow easily between firms and other actors in the innovation system. The innovation system is weak, and the absorptive capacities of economic actors are underdeveloped. A good indication of flawed systems of innovation and stymied knowledge flows is the coexistence of modern enclaves and traditional informal activities in many developing countries (technological dualism). The difference in the amount of research and development and the quality of the innovation systems is a force making for economic divergence between advanced and developing economies. This is indeed what we observe. The average per capita incomes of rich and poor countries have diverged hugely since the beginning of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, what also needs to be explained is the phenomenon whereby some developing countries have experienced spectacular processes of catch-up, as evidenced by the cases of Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, China, Malaysia, India, and Turkey since the mid-twentieth century. Knowledge flows are again essential for understanding these processes of catch-up. There is a huge reservoir of international technological knowledge that is available to be tapped. When countries—through educational investment, capital investment, institutional reforms, infrastructural investment, and political stability—have developed sufficient absorptive capacity to access and apply international technology, accelerated development is the logical and nonmiraculous outcome. Other developing countries fail to profit from potential advantages of backwardness because their absorptive capacities—at national, firm, and/or individual levels—are not sufficiently developed. This can be because the gap in incomes between rich and poor countries is too large, because the conditions are so different that technologies are not appropriate, or because institutions hinder the creative absorption of new knowledge and technology.



Thus, modern economic development can be seen as a race between technological advance and the international diffusion of technology. The outcome of this race is not given in advance. Whether countries catch up or fall behind depends on the balance between the generation of new technology and increasing returns in lead countries, on the one hand, and diffusion of technology and spillovers to follower countries, on the other (Verspagen 1993, 2001; Fagerberg, Mowery, and Nelson 2005). However, the larger the technology gap between leader and follower, the more difficult technology diffusion and technology acquisition becomes. Beyond some threshold levels, income gaps will tend to increase and countries will tend to fall behind. Developments in sub-Saharan Africa between 1973 and 2000 are an illustration of this tendency. But when the gap is not too large and absorptive capacities are highly developed, very rapid catch-up can take place, as is evidenced by the East, Southeast, and South Asian experiences of recent decades. The difference between success and failure in the modern international economic order, therefore, has much to do with differences in absorptive capacities. How these capacities develop over time should be high on the agenda of development research in different disciplines. N OT E S

Earlier versions of this chapter have been published in a variety of contexts. One of the first versions was published in 2005 as chapter 3 of my textbook The Dynamics of Socio-Economic Development: An Introduction (for the second revised edition, see Szirmai 2015b). An updated version was published as “Explaining Success and Failure in Economic Development” (Szirmai 2013). An expanded and revised version was published as “Proximate, Intermediate and Ultimate Causality: Theories and Experiences of Growth and Development” (Szirmai 2012b). I gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Agence Française de Développement for the 2012 version. Here, the framework of proximate and ultimate causality is further elaborated and revised, with a specific focus on theoretical debates at different levels of analysis. I thank Samuel Cohn and an anonymous referee for useful comments. 1. This result is driven by the high rates of growth in very large countries such as China. If every country receives an equal weight irrespective of its population size, average GDP per capita is 2.6 times higher in 2010 than it was in 1950. 2. Much of the literature cited in this chapter derives from development economics, development studies, and economic history, but the framework is deliberately multidisciplinary. 3. Angus Maddison (2001) estimates that, in 1820, rich countries such as the United Kingdom had a per capita income of twice that of poor countries such as India. In 2012, GDP per capita in PPP dollars in the high-income countries was no less than 24.5 times higher than in the least developed countries (World Bank 2013). The ratio of the richest (Luxembourg) to the poorest country (Democratic Republic of Congo) was 216 to 1. 4. This section draws on Szirmai 2013. 5. The previous models only distinguished three levels; they were models of growth rather than of socioeconomic development. Adding the fourth level of socioeconomic outcomes allows us to broaden the scope from growth to development.



6. I doubt that these authors themselves would agree with this characterization, but I see strong resemblances between the opposition of limited or open access orders and the older dichotomy of traditional and modern societies. 7. One of the blind spots in this otherwise interesting institutionalist literature is that the establishment of inclusive institutions never included the aboriginal populations— American Indians, Australian aboriginals—who were excluded and in fact almost completely eliminated. 8. An example of the modern discourse is the report of the Sarkozy commission on economic performance and progress (Stiglitz, Sen, and Fitoussi 2009). 9. The growth equation can easily be transformed into a productivity equation by dividing inputs and outputs by labor input. We then get GDP per capita as an dependent variable and the amount of capital per worker, the amount of education per worker, and natural resources per worker as inputs. So long as GDP is growing more rapidly than population, GDP per capita (our measure of productive capacity) will increase. 10. Advances in technological knowledge can be embodied in capital goods that reflect the latest stages of technological knowledge or in workers who have been exposed to up-to-date knowledge through education and training. Disembodied technological change refers to changes in the state of our knowledge that cannot be measured through changes in the quality of capital and labor. 11. Net income from capital investments includes the net balance of interest, dividend, and profits from inward and outward financial investments and loans. 12. Incentives are also shaped by intermediate factors such as policies and economic opportunities. 13. Discussion of important intermediate factors such as the terms of trade has to be deferred to another occasion for reasons of space. 14. Gerschenkron’s theories bear some interesting resemblances to earlier writings of Thorstein Veblen on the rise of imperial Germany (1915).


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Background paper prepared for the Department of Social Development of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands, for discussion at the meeting of the Knowledge Platform Development Policies. Accra, Ghana, Apr. 3–5, 2013. Szirmai, Adam, Wim Naudé, and Ludovico Alcorta. 2013. “Introduction and Overview: The Past, Present and Future of Industrialization.” In Pathways to Industrialisation in the 21st Century: New Challenges and Emerging Paradigms, edited by Adam Szirmai, Wim Naudé, and Ludovico Alcorta, 3–50. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Szirmai, A., W. Naudé, and M. Goedhuys, eds. 2011. Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. U.N. Industrial Development Organization. 2013. Sustaining Employment Growth: The Role of Manufacturing and Structural Change. Vienna: UNIDO. Veblen, Thorstein. 1915. Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution. New York: Macmillan. Verspagen, Bart. 1993. Uneven Growth between Interdependent Economies: An Evolutionary View on Technology Gaps, Trade and Growth. Aldershot: Avebury. . 2001. “Economic Growth and Technological Change: An Evolutionary Interpretation.” Science, Technology, and Innovation Working Papers 1. Paris: OECD. Von Tunzelmann, Nick. 1995. Technology and Industrial Progress. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1974. The Modern World System. New York: Academic Press. Westphal, Larry E. 2002. “Technology Strategies for Economic Development in a Fast Changing Global Economy.” Economics of Innovation and New Technology 11, nos. 4–5: 275–320. Williamson, Jeffrey G. 2011. Trade and Poverty: When the Third World Fell Behind. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press. Williamson, John. 1990. “What Washington Means by Policy Reform.” In Latin American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened? edited by John Williamson, chap. 2. Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics. World Bank. 2013. World Development Report 2013: Jobs. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

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HUMAN CAPABILITIES Institutions and Development

5 INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES ON THE GLOBAL SOUTH AND GLOBAL NORTH Jeffrey T. Jackson, Kirsten Dellinger, Kathryn McKee, and Annette Trefzer

Conventional interpretations of global economic disparities based on nation-state categories can often gloss over the complexities of poverty and wealth within nations. Nationstate categories may also blind us to the commonalities of “rich” and “poor” as categories that can transcend place-based notions of citizenship, nationhood, and regional identity. Although nation-state-based categories remain vital to any understanding of contemporary social reality and its representations in the present moment, scholars are beginning to understand with greater specificity how these categories are limited in their usefulness for describing social life in a globalizing world. In this chapter, we attempt to problematize the historically constructed ideas of “Global North” and “Global South” through an interdisciplinary lens, one that combines scholarly insights on globalization from both the social sciences and the humanities—sociology and literary criticism, in particular. In addition, we will offer new definitions of these concepts based on recent and important scholarly studies. The questions we seek to address are simple: Does the “Global South” exist in wealthy nations? And does the “Global North” exist in poor nations? At a glance, the answer to the first question seems quite clear. Take the case of Mississippi, for example. Although this state has the highest poverty rate in the United States, it sits within the borders of one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. According to the World Bank (2011), the United States is the seventh wealthiest nation in the world. Therefore, poor as it is, Mississippi is difficult to conceptualize as part of the Global South, a term that has been traditionally defined by scholars as synonymous with “poor nations” or “poorest areas” on the planet.


Historian Matthew Pratt Guterl makes this idea very clear in his entry “South,” featured in the 2007 Keywords for American Cultural Studies, when he suggests that, because of the high standard of material wealth in the United States, even the poorer regions of the nation cannot be considered part of the Global South. He writes: [T]he United States South was never (and is not today) a part of what we call the “global South,” that band of subaltern states that lacks not resources, manpower, or ingenuity, but only capital advantage in the world economy. From the geopolitical and financial perspectives of Venezuela, Sumatra, or Kenya, the State of Mississippi—with its limitless borrowing capacity, its safe roads and reliable shipping firms, its blue jeans, clean water, and quality of healthcare—looks a lot like the state of Minnesota. (233)

It is interesting that the countries Guterl chose to exemplify the Global South include Venezuela and Indonesia (Sumatra is an island in Indonesia), which are “high” and “medium” wealthy countries, respectively, according to the U.N. Human Development Index (U.N. Development Programme 2011). Only Kenya would qualify as “low” average human development. Does this mean that Mississippi is leaps and bounds ahead of all three countries? And that Mississippi looks like Minnesota—the epitome of “capital advantage” and First World living in Guterl’s calculation—in comparison to the dire circumstances found in all three of these particular countries? Or does Guterl simply mean to say that the Global South, embodied in a range of countries from high to low wealth (Venezuela to Kenya), are all much worse off than any region within the United States? This lack of specificity in terms of what actually constitutes the “Global South” (both Venezuela and Kenya are “in” but Mississippi is “out”) is a common problem within academic writing. We believe that Guterl’s statement may be incorrect in at least two ways. First, his claim that the U.S. South (Mississippi, in particular) was “never” a part of the Global South deserves some scrutiny. During the early nineteenth century, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia were frontier regions in which white settlers displaced Native peoples in order to engage in plantation agricultural production (especially cotton) to the direct benefit of the settler economy of Southern planters and the indirect benefit of textile industrialists and their financiers in the U.S. North and in Europe. In other words, the U.S. Deep South in the nineteenth century could reasonably be defined as a “peripheral region,” an economic zone providing raw materials and agricultural products through highly exploitative, labor-intensive means to the “core” industrialized regions in the world system at that time. The second problematic aspect of Guterl’s observation is his implicit assertion that human life in Mississippi (and even the U.S. South as a whole) is a monolithic experience. But the “limitless borrowing capacity” and “quality of healthcare” he speaks about is very much available to some Mississippians more than others. Granted, he is making a general statement about the average level of well-being within the state, and perhaps

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we should not fault him for making this distinction between what is “poor” in even the poorest areas of the United States and what is “poor” in other regions of the world. But that is exactly the point of our chapter here: we need to be more careful about the generalizations we make when we theorize concepts such as “the Global South” and “global south nations.” There are some people in Mississippi (and, therefore, in the United States) who are living in similar economic and social conditions, and within similarly disparate hierarchies of power distribution, as people living in other so-called “poor regions” of the world. What if these conditions of life define the “Global South,” rather than geographic places defined in nation-state terms? If we explore actual lived conditions, are there some people in some regions of wealthy countries that are living in conditions of extreme poverty, conditions that resemble or are analogous to the so-called developing world? In certain regions of Mississippi—including the Mississippi Delta—popular representations indicate that some people may be. In fact, artists and journalists often use the signifier “Third World” in reference to the Mississippi Delta. For example, New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario captures images of poverty in the article “Healthcare in Mississippi,” which compares Iran and Mississippi as “broken and desperate places” where, even though “millions of federal funds have been thrown at the problems for years, conditions have only gotten worse” (Hansen 2012). The photographs depict “shotgun shacks and single women in conditions of extreme poverty” (ibid.). Photographer Alison Wright also focuses on extreme poverty in the United States in her online photographic gallery “Third World America.” The gallery features a “Mississippi Delta” photograph of a black woman, expressionless, sitting in her living room, holding two babies on her lap, and surrounded by dirty walls whose paint is worn thin with scratches and scrapes as she “waits for her husband to call from jail.” Another “Mississippi Delta” image shows a shoeless, obese black woman and a baby on a run-down couch watching television with the caption “A family of sixteen live in this trailer” (Wright 2009). Journalists in the United States often use the same “Third World” metaphor to describe extreme poverty in Mississippi. The LA Times reported that “The Delta ranks below some Third World countries in its infant mortality rate” (McCartney and Sullivan 1990); the Jackson Free Press stated, “You would look at these houses and these dwellings and immediately, if you’ve traveled abroad, you would think that you’re in a severely undeveloped or developing Third-World country” (Mott 2008). Other journalists point out that “[t]he life expectancies for men in these [Mississippi Delta] counties are all under 69 years, lower than countries like Brazil or Latvia” (Ebersole 2011). Are these examples of documentation, (mis?)representation, or commodification? Are they simply journalistic hyperbole? What is important to see is how Mississippi gets framed and who has the power to frame it. The lenses and choices here create images and text that combine to form a shorthand for both the reality of poverty and the representations of what poverty means. In this way, images and language combine to shape



Global South landscapes. We need to pay closer attention to how various observers note the similarities between extreme poverty in living conditions throughout the world, including in the so-called Global North. If people and places in the “Global North” are, by definition, excluded from the concept of the “Global South” simply because of their geographic location within the borders of a nation-state defined as “wealthy” or “developed,” then we need to redefine what Global South means. In so doing, we should pay attention to the complex variation in human living conditions present in both the wealthy and the poor countries of the world. Yet historians as well as social scientists frequently fail to do this. Often, this distinction between the “poor” in wealthy countries and the “poor” in poorer countries is framed in terms of “absolute versus relative” levels of poverty. In his popular introductory sociology textbook,1 for example, sociologist George Ritzer writes: “[W]hile the poor in the United States may be poor by some absolute standard and in some absolute sense, they are often much better off than the poor in most other places in the world” (2013, 293). Ritzer takes a cue from the international development community and defines “absolute poverty . . . in a developing nation” as living on “less than $2 a day” (293). But he does not calculate the number of people living on less than $2 a day in the United States. Instead, he uses (as most sociologists do) the measurement of “relative poverty” to define the poverty rate in the United States at 15.1 percent in 2011. These different scales of measurement—one for wealthy nations, one for developing nations—are commonplace in the social sciences. Nevertheless, they reify the highly problematic Cold War logic of “three worlds” of development and, we believe, stand in the way of a comprehensive conceptualization of the Global South. In this chapter, we engage in an interdisciplinary examination that seeks to redefine the “Global South.” We hope a broader definition can move us beyond the nation-state centrism that blinds us from seeing the commonalities in poverty everywhere. One way to think about the theoretical maneuver we are making here is to imagine a translucent, plastic globe with an electric light below the surface of each nation and the electrical wires for each light leading to a switchbox. The common way of thinking means that the switchbox would have two buttons: one marked “Global North” and one marked “Global South.” When we press the “Global South” button, the nation-states in the so-called developing world would light up. Press “Global North” and the advanced countries would light up. This is a crude and simplistic way of looking at global inequality and development. Within development sociology, scholars might debate which nations should be hooked up to the “North” switch and which should be hooked up to the “South” switch. We might even move the wires from time to time to take into account “newly developed” or “emerging” countries like South Korea. Some scholars might suggest an intermediate “semiperiphery” switch to account for some nations that do not neatly fit the ideal type categories of “North” or “South.” But this does not really get us where we need to be. Imagine instead if we overlaid the translucent plastic pieces for each nation with a digital grid containing millions of pixels covering the entire surface of the globe. Each

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pixel could then be connected by a fiber optic filament to our switchbox. The granularity of the pixels would allow us to distinguish the conditions of human life at the regional, county, district, neighborhood, and even city block levels. Hitting the “Global South” button now would mean illuminating certain fiber optic filaments, and the resulting pattern on the surface of the globe would resemble constellations and speckles instead of uniform shapes of light contained by borders. These specks and splotches would exist everywhere on the planet, in some regions more than others, in some areas brighter and more pronounced than others, but the specks would not be neatly contained within the previously clearly delineated borders of the nation-state. Furthermore, pressing the “Global North” button for this globe would illuminate another set of specks and splotches likewise not neatly contained by borders. These specks would shine quite brightly in certain districts of the well-developed cities in both rich and poor nations, again illuminating the realities of extreme wealth that exist in all urban centers throughout the world from Lagos to Los Angeles. But what is interesting is that, just a couple of pixels over, a “Global South” colored splotch would shine brightly right next to the “Global North” spots, illuminating the ghettos and shantytowns found in those same cities. In development sociology, we know where many of the “poorer pixels” are: they are more numerous in rural areas than in urban, more in some nations than others. Perhaps there are times when our analysis requires that we use the old electric lights (one per nation-state) rather than the fine gradations of the fiber optic cables. But the main point is that, if we want to think about development in truly global terms, we need finer tools of analysis that allow us to see this complexity—the simultaneous coexistence of North and South in spatialized yet amorphous ways—more clearly. In order to delineate this new conceptualization, we will first provide an overview of existing models of the “Global South” utilized within the social sciences generally (and sociology in particular). We will then engage with current theoretical observations and developments that shed light on the limitations of such approaches in adequately conceptualizing the nature of contemporary global inequalities. Finally, we will offer a new definition that, we believe, provides a more useful way of understanding “the Global South” in the twenty-first century.


As we have seen, there may very well be pockets of poverty in wealthy countries that are defined as “absolute” or “extreme” poverty. We would add that there are geo-social spaces in so-called developing countries that are extremely wealthy, even analogous to Minnesota (in Guterl’s terms)—that is, the “Global North.” The extremely affluent Morumbi neighborhood in São Paulo, Brazil, with its luxurious mansions and shopping centers, is just one example (see, e.g., Caldeira 2008). However, existing sociological definitions of the Global North and Global South typically do not allow for such a nuanced understanding. For example, in another popular introductory sociology textbook, Anthony Giddens and



his coauthors define the Global South in the following way: “[Developing] societies include China, India, most of the African countries (such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Algeria), and those in South America (such as Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela). Because many of these societies are situated south of the United States and Europe, they are sometimes referred to collectively as the South, and contrasted to the wealthier, industrialized North” (2013, 64). Notice that Venezuela again makes the list of societies in the “South,” along with Brazil, India, and China. Notice also how Giddens’s definition implies that “South” and “North” are really just shorthand for “developed” and “developing” and refer to a geographical location underneath “the wealthier, industrialized North.” South and North, then, are rather crude, imprecise categories used out of convenience to describe global disparities in levels of development between nations. We need a more careful and nuanced definition of this terminology that has become fundamental to both sociological and humanistic mappings of the world. What criteria should we use, then, to label one society “South” and another “North”? For sociologists, the answer to this question remains ambiguous. Ritzer states: “Today the North encompasses the nations that are the wealthiest, most powerful, and highest status in the world, such as the United States, China, Germany, France, Great Britain, and Japan. The South, on the other hand, has a disproportionate number of nations that rank at or near the bottom in terms of global wealth, power, and prestige. Most of the nations of Africa would be included here, but there are others, especially in Asia, such as Afghanistan and Yemen” (2013, 312). Ritzer has a tougher threshold than Giddens for meeting “Global South” status. His definition states that a country must “rank near the bottom” of global wealth, power, and prestige, such as most African nations, and he includes two Asian countries as examples—Afghanistan and Yemen—that more closely meet these criteria. However, notice that Ritzer places China in the “North.” Recall that Giddens’s definition placed China in the South. This is a contradiction. But it also reveals the limits of a nation-state unit of analysis that fails to capture what “China” is or is not. In the past thirty years, China may very well have become a nation that is among the most powerful in the world, but this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Furthermore, more than a quarter of its citizens are living on less than $2 per day (World Bank 2009), so the experience of living in China, even an ascendant China, is not a monolithic or uniform one, and there is great variation in China between those who may be increasingly living in so-called “Global North” conditions and those who remain in the “Global South.” So might this mean, as Giddens maintains, that China is more “South” than “North”? Or is Ritzer correct? Is it time to move China’s wire to the “Global North” button? If introductory students are not being given clear instructions as to what constitutes “developed” (North) or “developing” (South), then there is clearly disciplinary confusion swirling around our definitions of these terms, and the variability in the conditions of life that exist in all nations is being overlooked. Sociologist Judy Aulette argues that this lack of specificity is because these concepts have not been sufficiently theorized: “The terms . . . global North and global South refer

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to the distinction between those nations that are most wealthy and powerful and those that are poorer and less powerful in the global political economy. . . . Although the terms Global North and South are widely used—perhaps they are even the dominant terms used by Southern scholars—they have not yet been theorized extensively” (2012, 1547). Aulette’s description here is consistent with Giddens’s idea that these concepts are a sort of shorthand, though she seems to indicate that the prevalence of their usage is much greater than the “sometimes” mentioned in his definition, referring to them as “the dominant terms” used by “Southern scholars.” We agree and argue that the concept of the Global South has particular salience for scholars occupying less advantaged positions within various kinds of global social hierarchies. Aulette goes on to point out that one of the central difficulties in theorizing or defining these terms is the problem of “within nation” variation: “North and South, on the one hand, quickly capture a critical cleavage within the global political economy, but they do not tell us about the gaps within the North and South by social class and among various nations within each category. Many people in the North are poor and oppressed, and every nation in the South includes those who are wealthy and powerful” (2012, 1548). In other words, not only are Global North and Global South imprecise shorthand, but they are limited, in particular, by the problem of using the nation-state as the unit of analysis. Since we are typically referring to nations as a whole when using these terms, we are unable to see in-country variation. Aulette does not offer a new definition of the Global South designed to overcome this problem, but she does say that these terms “call into question the whole notion of what is power.” In so doing, she adds an important dimension to the possible meanings that could be associated with Global South, in particular. Citing J. Heine, she states: “The global South is not just a site of poverty and underprivilege. The South includes the vast majority of people and resources of the earth and increasingly is a source of global political and intellectual leadership” (Aulette 2012, 1548). This notion that some sources of power may actually reside in the “developing” countries or within “underdeveloped” populations and regions goes against the standard usage of Global South (lacking socioeconomic power) and Global North (holding such power) and is not something we can observe in Giddens’s or Ritzer’s definitions. In addition, it is important to point out that Aulette eschews the nation-state category in her statement. By referring to “the vast majority of people and resources of the earth” that constitute the South, she suggests that some of these people could reside in wealthy and middle-income countries.

E X I S T I N G M O D E L S : C O R E A N D P E R I P H E RY

World-systems theory has become another central model used by sociologists to conceptualize Global North and South because it draws on the dependency theory perspective of the 1960s and 1970s and its valid critiques of the “three worlds of development” and traditional modernization perspectives in the social sciences defining nation-states as



either “developed” or “developing.” This perspective has been successful in drawing our attention to the vital historical relationships that connect so-called “wealthy” and “poor” nations within the modern world system. In particular, world-systems analysis has emphasized the economic interdependence of nation-states within the modern interstate system since at least the fifteenth century, provoking a vast scholarship that demonstrates the evolution of our modern capitalist world system since that time, a system that incorporates, with very few exceptions, all nations and peoples living on the planet today. Central to the world-systems approach is the idea that areas in the world of great economic wealth and political power (or, at the opposite end, low levels of economic wealth and political power) are related to a singular international division of labor that exists beyond the level of the nation-state but nevertheless relies on the international system of nation-states (the interstate system) for its existence. Within world-systems theory, these areas are referred to as “core” and “periphery.” These terms can refer to specific nations or sets of nations (or perhaps even subsets of the population within either), and therefore this approach has, in certain respects, moved beyond the nationstate in understanding global inequality. Nevertheless, the world-systems model of “core” and “periphery” still tends to be defined primarily in nation-state terms. For example, an explanation of these concepts by leading world-systems proponents Thomas Hall and Christopher Chase-Dunn is worth examining closely. First, their definition of the “core”: “The countries that are ‘advanced,’ in the sense that they have high levels of economic development, skilled labor forces, high levels of income, and powerful, well-financed states, are the core powers of the modern system. The modern core includes the United States, the European countries, Japan, Australia, and Canada” (2006, 34). Notice here some confusion between “core” being defined as specific countries (“core powers”—plural) and as a set of countries (“the modern core”—singular). That said, the basic criteria for being a “core power” remain mostly at the level of the nation-state (i.e., “countries”) and are not that different from what modernization scholars call “developed” or “industrialized” countries. This tendency for world-systems scholars to conceptualize “core” and “periphery” based on a nation-state unit of analysis—one that is virtually synonymous with “developed” and “developing”—can be seen in Hall and Chase-Dunn’s definition of “periphery,” which, again, is posed largely in nation-state terms (i.e., “states” and “countries”): In the contemporary periphery we have relatively weak states that are not strongly supported by the populations within them and have little power relative to other states in the system. . . . Peripheral regions are also economically less developed in the sense that their economy is composed of subsistence producers and industries that have relatively low productivity and that employ unskilled labor. . . . In the past, peripheral countries have been primarily exporters of agricultural and mineral raw materials. But even when they have developed some industrial production, it has usually been less capital-intensive and has used less skilled labor than production

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processes in the core. The contemporary peripheral countries are most of the countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—for example Bangladesh, Senegal, and Bolivia. (2006, 34–35)

Hall and Chase-Dunn’s definition lists three particular countries that are clearly “low” on the U.N. Human Development Index. Bangladesh, Senegal, and Bolivia are among the poorest nations on their respective continents. That said, the definition also states that “most of the countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America” are peripheral countries. This would seem to be consistent with the definitions of Global South we saw earlier and might include wealthier countries such as Brazil and China. Or it might not. World-systems theory allows greater flexibility here due to the fact that its adherents postulate a third category of global inequality—the semiperiphery: “The semiperiphery in the modern system includes countries that have intermediate levels of economic development or a balanced mix of developed and less developed regions” (Hall and Chase-Dunn 2006, 35). Although this definition is still largely contingent on a nation-state unit of analysis, the semiperiphery is an important theoretical innovation in the social sciences because it allows for the possibility of what Hall and Chase-Dunn refer to as a “continuum” within the hierarchy, not just the two poles: “The exact boundaries between the core, semiperiphery, and periphery are unimportant because the main point is that there is a continuum of economic and political-military power that constitutes the core-periphery hierarchy” (2006, 35). Also important in the definition of the semiperiphery is that it is a “balanced mix” of developed and less developed. The implication is that, if a country has more characteristics of a developed society than a less-developed society, then we should consider it as part of the “core” (or vice versa). Of course, it could be hard to find a true case of this “balance,” with most countries in the world tipping in the direction of either “core” or “periphery.” World-systems scholars have been criticized for this lack of specificity, and the list of examples of semiperipheral countries within the world-systems literature is often quite short. China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Korea, and Mexico are mentioned as examples of “semiperipheral countries” (Hall and Chase-Dunn 2006, 55; Chase-Dunn 2006, 99). Perhaps the notion of semiperiphery can account for “poor regions within wealthy countries” as well—places like Mississippi. It certainly seems relevant for the antebellum U.S. Deep South, a place that was both exploiter and exploited. But the standard definition of the concept used by world-systems scholars would not apply during the contemporary period. Mississippi and its subregions and inhabitants are within the United States and, therefore, are part of the “core.” There is some debate about whether the terms “Global North” and “Global South” are becoming widely used by world-systems scholars as synonymous with “core” and “periphery.” Most recent publications within this field indicate the continued usage of the latter terms in most academic venues. Nevertheless, authors outside the worldsystems school of thought tend to view them as synonymous (see, e.g., Bookmiller 2008;



Milkias 2010; Sychov 2011). There is even an indication that “North” and “South” are becoming preferred terms within the social sciences and that “core” and “periphery” are falling out of fashion (see, e.g., Sassen 2006; Ritzer 2011; Robinson 2011, 17). One possible reason for this shift is the ongoing critique of world-systems analysis itself. As scholars in many fields wrestle with the topic of globalization, in particular (an academic movement in which world-systems scholars play a major role), it is likely that “Global North” and “Global South” are becoming the preferred lingua franca because they do not carry with them the explicit connection to the world-systems worldview and perhaps even connote a movement away from the nation-state-based assumptions of both modernization theory and world-systems theory. With regard to world-systems theory itself, critics have raised a number of concerns about the core-semiperiphery-periphery model. Are these discreet categories with clearly defined parameters, or are they a continuous scale? Although some world-systems scholars clearly state it is continuous and that “it does not matter exactly where we draw lines across this continuum . . . to categorize countries” (Hall and Chase-Dunn 2006, 35), they also acknowledge that there are “great disagreements among scholars about the right way to place nation-states in the zones (core/periphery/semiperiphery)” (Chase-Dunn and Lawrence 2010, 475). What precisely is the unit of analysis for “core” and “periphery”? Most of the time, it is nations, or “countries” (Turner and Babones 2006), but, again, this usage varies within world-systems literature. Sometimes the concepts operate independently of nation-state borders and become “regions” or “zones” (Hall and Chase-Dunn 2006, 35; Brewer 2011, 322). Sometimes they are primarily political designations; sometimes they are primarily economic and even refer to specific “processes” (Wallerstein 2004, 17) or “activities” (Brewer 2011, 313) within the international division of labor, or “sectors,” of economic production. The terms have also been used as adjectives to refer to “core populations” or “core firms.” One critic, sociologist Stephen Sanderson, claims that the concepts are so theoretically imprecise that we should consider abandoning them altogether: “[We need to] ‘Dereify’ the concepts of core, periphery, and semiperiphery, and the entire analysis associated with them. These concepts can be retained, but they should be used as little more than descriptive indicators, and rather crude ones at that” (2005, 205).


The central criticism of world-systems theory articulated by Sanderson and other scholars, such as Benjamin Brewer (2011) and William I. Robinson (2004, 2011), has to do with the very nature of economic interdependency throughout the world. Given this interconnectedness, what are the appropriate “spaces or containers of development” (Brewer 2011, 312) that we should consider? Ironically, the very school of thought that raised our awareness of the realities of our unitary “modern world capitalist system” faces criticism for being stuck in nation-state categories. As Robinson puts it, “nation-states are no longer

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appropriate units of analysis, in part because they are no longer ‘containers’ (if indeed they ever were) of the diverse economic, political, social, and cultural processes that are the objects of study in the social sciences. . . . We need to make a break with nation-state centered analysis if we are to understand the twenty-first-century world” (2004, 89). But how can we move beyond the nation-state? Although world-systems scholars have been pivotal in pushing us to look at the larger global reality in which nation-states are embedded, these recent critiques suggest that we need to push even further. Perhaps part of the appeal of the concepts “Global South” and “Global North” is their potential to move us beyond nation-state centrism. Robinson takes us to the transnational level, arguing that we need to understand global inequality as the fundamental distinction between the transnational capitalist class that invests in production and accumulates capital indifferent to national borders and is “conscious of its transnationality,” and the disconnected, disorganized global proletariat that “has not . . . developed a consciousness of itself” (2004, 48, 43). While not explicitly using “Global North” or “Global South” to define these transnational classes, Robinson suggests that we should move toward larger “transnational” units of analysis (regions and the globe as a whole). We would agree with this move but would also suggest that, in moving beyond the nation-state, we can also consider the subnational dimensions of global inequality: states, districts, provinces, counties, municipalities, and other “locales.” We agree with Linda Lobao and others (see, e.g., Green and Mitra 2013 and the discussion of “intersectional space”; see also Gray and Murphy 2013 and the discussion of different types of “state-society configurations”) that a more comprehensive sociology of development would entail “framing questions about development and inequality across a variety of spatial scales” (see page 286 in this volume). This is not to say that we should abandon the nation-state completely. The nation-state and data collected at the nation-state level remain vital tools in the development sociologist’s toolbox. But if we only use this tool alone, we miss a lot. It can block our view of other kinds of questions and other kinds of phenomenon. Rather than abandoning the nation-state in favor of transnational or subnational analysis, we would argue that we need a more sophisticated and complex toolbox, one that includes both the nation-state and other spatial scales. What happens when we draw our attention to these transnational and subnational spaces? It has always been clear that, within every nation on earth, wealth and poverty are distributed unevenly across space. So, as we move from the national scale to the level of states or districts, we see that Mississippi, for example, is the poorest state in the United States, with a poverty rate of 22.7 percent in 2010. (For comparison: Alagoas is one of the poorest states in Brazil, with 55 percent of its population living below Brazil’s national poverty line.) As we move from the level of states/districts to the finer scale of county, this unevenness becomes even clearer, with poverty ranging from 3.1 percent in some U.S. counties to 50.1 percent in others. This disparity occurs within the borders of one “developed” nation and can even occur within the same state, wealthy or poor. If we



have the data available, then finer gradations, such as census tract, neighborhood, or even city block, can be observed and these disparities become that much more uneven. When we say “Global South,” are these spaces of concentrated poverty what we have in mind, even if they are located within the borders of so-called “developed” or “core” countries? This has not been the conventional wisdom within the social sciences, but we argue that the concept of the Global South be defined in such a way as to allow for that possibility. This level of granularity can be seen in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (2011) has identified as “persistent poverty areas,” regions in the United States that have faced the highest levels of poverty for the longest periods of time and are subregions of states and counties. For example, “Appalachia” extends from central West Virginia, through dense areas of poverty in eastern Kentucky, and down into northeastern Tennessee. The “Mississippi Delta” starts in east-central Arkansas and follows the Mississippi River southward, encompassing counties and regions in southeastern Arkansas, western Mississippi, and northeastern Louisiana. The “tribal lands” of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, the “border region” of southern New Mexico and southwestern Texas, the “boot heel” of Missouri, and the “cotton belt,” which extends from east-central Mississippi all the way to eastern South Carolina, also constitute areas of “persistent poverty.” These areas light up on the national map of the United States when social scientists link poverty data to GIS spatial mapping software (see, e.g., Holt 2007). Even within these areas, however, there are significant disparities. We should keep in mind that not all spaces of concentrated poverty are large enough to appear on a nationallevel map. If we zoom into south central Los Angeles or inner-city Detroit, we can begin to see concentrated areas of poverty and disadvantage that exist at the submunicipal, neighborhood, and block levels. Furthermore, the poverty found in Northern inner cities and the Mississippi Delta alike can exist alongside spaces of wealth and privilege found in the very same communities. A recent NBC news story, “Tale of Two Deltas,” illustrates this fact by showing how individuals living in conditions of extreme poverty and extreme wealth comingle and coexist in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood (NBC News 2014). Our conceptualization of the Global South refers to the disadvantaged portion of these spatialized inequalities, along with the counter-hegemonic discourses and feats of cultural resistance that originate from within these subordinate spaces. The Global South, then, is not a place. It is a human condition. It is observed when we pay attention to the power and wealth disparities that exist within a place. By saying “global,” we mean to connote the fact that it can be found in all corners of the planet, but it is localized as well. And paying attention to local context and to the sometimes micro-level variations that are linked to place is crucial to our model. When we arrive at these subnational scales to examine uneven development, even within a wealthy nation, we can begin to see where people’s lived experiences overlap with the social realities we may more typically associate with “less developed” nations.

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The life expectancy of Mississippi’s residents overall in 2007 (74.9 years) is comparable to Jordan, Romania, and Brazil. For black residents in the Mississippi Delta (71.1 years), it is comparable to the low life expectancy of people in Suriname and Guatemala. For black males in some Delta counties (e.g., Quitman, at 66.1 years), it is lower than the average life expectancy in India, Bangladesh, or Ghana. The nonwhite infant death rate in some counties in Mississippi is the same as in Libya and Thailand (18.8 percent). And approximately 2.3 percent of Mississippian households throughout the state are estimated to be surviving on $2 or less in income per person per day in a given month— which is the standard international criterion for “absolute poverty” (Burd-Sharps, Lewis, and Martins 2009; Shaefer and Edin 2012). Although we may be reluctant to refer to these populations as part of the “Global South” because they happen to be located within the borders of a nation defined as wealthy and “developed,” it certainly seems clear that they do not fit the definition of the “core,” either—as areas where wealth accumulates due to being located in a privileged position within the international division of labor and global capitalism. Some scholars might suggest that “semiperiphery” is an appropriate descriptor here, but we would say that this is not a case of a “balanced mixture” of core-like realities and peripheral-like realities. These are cases of poverty amid plenty, and, as such, a more accurate label would be “Global South.” We should add that “pockets of poverty” such as these are almost universal within nations throughout the world. Wealthy countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have them, as do so-called “middle income” or semiperipheral countries such as South Africa and Russia. And, of course, “poor countries” such as Bolivia and Bangladesh are generally defined by the persistently poor populations contained within their borders. The inverse is also true. Even the poorest countries in the world, including Bolivia and Bangladesh, have spaces of extreme affluence and wealth. The only difference is the relative sizes of the national populations living in conditions of relative affluence or poverty, and the magnitude of the gap. Yet aren’t the wealthy everywhere accumulating their wealth through the cyclical “booms” of the same international system of capitalist production? Aren’t the poor anywhere subject to conditions of poverty due to the exigencies of the labor market and the inadequacies of the nation-state (some more than others) to mitigate the deleterious effects of its “busts”? The term “global” in the Global South implies that there are those on the bottom of the capitalist hierarchy everywhere. Likewise, the “Northern” economies of Europe and the United States are no longer the sole repositories of accumulated wealth as they may have historically been. Couldn’t the notion of “Global” North imply that such pockets of wealth accumulation may exist anywhere on the planet? Wouldn’t it be possible to conceive of the total sum of all “spaces of poverty,” regardless of their location in the world, as the “Global South” and the spaces of wealth, whether in New York, São Paulo, or Bombay, as the “Global North”?


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We would answer these questions in the affirmative, and, when viewed closely, it is clear that within-nation variation between privilege and poverty overlaps between-country variation of these conditions. Yet our nation-state-based intellectual frameworks have not allowed us to see this reality as clearly as we ought to. The concept of “Global South” has the potential to overcome this problem. Conditions of inequality are the product of very similar sociohistorical dynamics everywhere. Countries and regions are increasingly part of the same global economic system, but within the academy we continue to have a wealthy nation/developing nation scholarly divide that prevents us from having a unified conceptualization of Global South and North. Angela Miles describes this reality quite succinctly: “[W]hat we call ‘development issues’ in the ‘third world,’ such as housing, education, health, child care, and poverty, are called ‘social issues’ in the ‘first world.’ These are not qualitatively different phenomena” (quoted in Collins 2000, 240). So it is the very divide between North and South that divides development sociologists and, perhaps, humanistic scholars in general. The reasons for this divide are too numerous to explore here, but they include the global power disparities among institutions of higher learning throughout the world and their impact on the production of human knowledge. Often referred to as an issue of “the West and the rest” (Hall 1993), it is now clear to most scholars that any discipline, the sociology of development included, is shaped largely by the interests and perspectives of privileged individuals and groups. Scholars from developing nations are marginalized within this system and often must conform to the modes of thinking of the dominant groups in order to achieve academic success. Perspectives that are critical of the dominant modes of thinking or challenge the interests and privileges of dominant groups are less welcome within the academy. Various theoretical traditions have also contributed to this notion that “we” in the West are different from the “others” elsewhere (and that even perhaps our “poverty” and “wealth” are different from theirs). From modernization theory, which posits various “stages” that countries go through on the road to becoming “advanced and industrialized,” to dependency and world-systems perspectives whose nation-state centrism tends to reify this “us” in the core versus “them” in the periphery divide, our scholarly camps within sociology are divided along national lines even as we try to overcome them with international collaborations, associations, and conferences. One clear example of this is in the sociology of development, where sociologists who study development in the United States refer to their field as “community development” or “rural development,” and development sociologists who study other areas of the world are referred to as studying “international development.” Why two fields of inquiry when these scholars are studying fundamentally similar phenomena? Often publishing in different journals and presenting their scholarship in different venues, development sociologists are perhaps in need of a unifying concept as well. One final reason for the scholarly divide worth mentioning is data collection practices within the social sciences. There is no uniform way for nation-states throughout the

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world to collect statistical information on the relative well-being of their populations. Major efforts have been undertaken to standardize data collection practices in the “developing world,” especially in recent years (much at the behest of wealthy OECD member nations), but no such standard exists for data collection in wealthy countries. And though wealthier countries tend to have more robust and reliable datasets on myriad issues and characteristics of their population, it is often difficult to compare these data with data from the developing world. Take the $2 a day statistic as an example. In the United States, we do not collect this information: income statistics for households or families under $10,000 per year are simply lumped together. Furthermore, statistics collected for infant mortality, literacy, educational achievement, and nutrition are not typically collected using the same parameters, measurements, and indices common in the developing world. The result is that we are not able to use commensurate measurements of material well-being and disadvantage.


There are a number of very good reasons why scholars in general (and development sociologists, in particular) would want to overcome this North-South divide in the production of knowledge. First of all, from the perspective of the wealthy countries (especially the United States), it is worthwhile to recognize that antipoverty efforts, per se, have basically stagnated since the 1960s and the U.S. government’s declared “war on poverty.” Perhaps it is no coincidence that political support for antipoverty measures in the United States waned at about the same time that Americans became more aware of “global poverty” as images of famine in Africa became commonplace in the 1970s and 1980s on the evening news, in advertisements of international relief organizations, and throughout popular media as celebrities and pop stars urged us all to lend a helping hand (Müller 2013). These representations of “real poverty” in the starkest of circumstances became the measuring rod for “absolute” levels of suffering in the popular imagination and presented the problem of “global poverty” as a thing apart. Much as Ritzer’s words at the beginning of this chapter reveal, most citizens in wealthy countries, confronted with such dire imagery, easily come to the conclusion that people in their own nation who may experience varying degrees of relative deprivation simply “do not have it that bad.” If global poverty is conceptualized as a thing apart, then development efforts targeted at poor regions (like Mississippi) within so-called wealthy countries are likely to garner little support. However, if “global poverty” and “local poverty” are in fact consequences of similar social dynamics and, furthermore, can be seen as connected to parallel systems of exploitation, then perhaps we can tackle both more effectively. We can see the potential of this idea when we hear the phrase “We do so much to help other countries, why can’t we help our own?” (see, e.g., Westneat 2005). Regardless of the veracity of this assertion,2 it does reveal the desire to understand poverty as a collective human problem, one that we actually have some capacity to solve.


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A second reason for overcoming the North-South divide is that there are mutually beneficial lessons to be learned if we bridge the scholarship that addresses solving development questions in wealthy countries and the scholarship that seeks to solve problems of development in less-wealthy countries. U.S. and European development scholars have often used their expertise to offer solutions to the problems of development in poor countries, but it is less common for development scholars who work on community development in the United States and Europe to have opportunities to apply their work in these “less developed” contexts. The larger problem, however, is that it is even less common for development expertise to flow in the opposite direction. Wealthy countries do not typically accept “help,” “advice,” or “aid” from less-wealthy countries. But there may be very beneficial lessons that disadvantaged communities within wealthy countries could learn from policymakers and development experts from less-developed countries and regions. This so-called “South to South” knowledge transfer or assistance has tremendous potential for individuals and groups living in the Global South and is a dynamic area of current scholarly inquiry. In addition, we can see examples where such South-toSouth exchanges could greatly help address common problems faced by the global poor everywhere (see, e.g., Hansen 2012). As researchers, activists, and community development practitioners throughout the world, development sociologists have much to offer in this area as well. The mutually beneficial exchanges between scholars from the Global North and Global South, in addition to South-to-South exchanges, can all serve to shore up truly global antipoverty efforts in the twenty-first century. Rather than building these efforts solely on the perspectives of the wealthy and powerful (like Bono or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), development sociology can offer an even more robust understanding of these problems by building knowledge from a more “bottom up” perspective. Development sociology also needs conceptual tools that allow us to compare conditions of life everywhere. Not only does the “Global South” have the potential to serve as such a conceptual tool, but it could also provide the rationale through which a systematic scholarly effort tackles the difficult questions of social inequalities. This is a huge opportunity and a huge challenge for development sociologists as they will need to devise new datagathering strategies and holistic methodological and theoretical concepts that allow us to speak about human inequality at all levels of analysis (national, transnational, and subnational). But doing this requires a new understanding of what the Global South means.


Much has changed since the original models of “developed”/“developing” and “core”/“periphery” were invented. Although these models form the basis for how many scholars think about “Global North” and “Global South,” in this chapter we have shown that those older models are no longer sufficient for understanding the complexities of global inequality. We need new tools that allow us to visualize the multiscalar and granu-

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lar nature of global inequalities. We do still wish to utilize the nation-state unit of analysis for much of our work, but the Global South should no longer be thought of in nationstate terms (“global south nations” or “nations of the global south” would be preferred terms in those circumstances). Instead, it is time for a new definition of the Global South, one that operates at both the transnational and subnational levels: the “Global South,” then, is a conceptual framework used to observe the contingent and interconnected pockets of poverty, gender inequality, and racism throughout the world, including the so-called “wealthy nations”; it is a framwork that attends to the importance of both local context and global interdependence and privileges the perspectives of the subordinate and subaltern in the production of knowledge. In offering this definition, it is crucial that we take into account four recent theoretical innovations and how they shape our definition. First, this new conceptualization of the Global South is “post nation-state.” Although the nation-state remains a crucial unit of analysis for discussions of global inequality, we believe it is time to consider many levels of analysis simultaneously and that we should move beyond “nation-state centrism” (Robinson 2004). We are trying to see what Saskia Sassen (2006) refers to as “denationalized” spaces and “new territorial configurations” within the global political economy. These spaces can be subnational as well as transnational. The goal is to achieve a granularity and precision in the analysis, one that allows us to carefully identify areas of persistent disadvantage throughout the world and in any part of the world. Identifying the “subaltern voices” historically, as well as in the contemporary moment wherever they are, precedes efforts to identify the common conditions and social forces that create these spaces. The Global South is all of these spaces taken together, as a global whole. The Global South can also apply to methods for analyzing any of these spaces taken alone, so as to understand their particularities within the larger context. Most important, it shifts our attention to the “linkages” between these spaces, the “various forms of border crossings . . . [that eschew] nation-to-nation comparisons and [treat] scale or geographic unit of analysis as historically and culturally contingent” (Kim-Puri 2005: 149). As H. J. Kim-Puri suggest, “the purpose . . . is to call attention to the complex, sometimes contradictory, and often unequal interconnections that exist across cultural settings” (ibid.). Second, the concept of the Global South is post-colonial or even “de-colonial,” in Walter Mignolo’s terms (2009, 2011). De-coloniality refers to recentering the production of knowledge within the historical experiences of subordinate groups. The concept of the Global South must be attuned to, and even prioritize, the counter-hegemonic or subaltern perspectives of those occupying marginalized social positions throughout the world. This includes privileging the voices of scholars from historically disadvantaged spaces within the academy, using their insights to guide the critical examination of the structures and representations of inequality. In terms of development sociology, we need “to give salience to the forms of knowledge produced by those who are supposed to be the ‘objects’ of development so they can become subjects in their own right” (Escobar 2007, 21).


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Perhaps some of the greatest theoretical advances in this area have been made in transnational feminist scholarship, which has wrestled with issues of how to give voice to marginalized groups and, for decades, has confronted power dynamics between socalled “First World” feminists and “Third World” feminists (see, e.g., Mohanty 2002). The conflicts that have occurred within the international feminist movement—and the realizations feminist scholars have made as a result—are extremely valuable for scholars in other areas. For example, transnational feminism has proposed a “feminist solidarity model” that helps us see “the interconnectedness of the histories, experiences, and struggles of U.S. women of color, white women and women from the Third World/South [in a way that is] attentive to power, each historical experience illuminat[ing] the experiences of others” (Mohanty 2002, 522). Furthermore, this approach seeks to avoid the “West and the rest” model that “locates the pernicious effects of capitalist globalization only within the Third World and masks inequalities that are deepened in the West itself, particularly against the poor and immigrant population” (Kim-Puri 2005, 140). Similar theoretical inroads have been made in the areas of critical race studies, post-colonial studies, and antiracism theory (see, e.g., Collins 2000). To transcend the boundaries of nation-state in this fashion is to privilege the voices of individuals and groups in the subordinate positions regardless of their geo-spatial location. We believe that such “bottom up” epistemologies are essential for understanding the lived consequences of inequality and for creating knowledge that both empowers subordinate groups and fosters social justice (Collins 2000, 269). Third, and perhaps most controversially, our redefinition of the Global South is “postdevelopment.” Development is an ideology that emerged after World War II based on the application of models of European reconstruction to the “poor countries” of the world. The logic of “developmentalism” posited the experiences of industrialized nations like the United States as the model for all other nations to follow (Escobar 1995; Sachs 1993). Our new definition of the Global South recognizes that current patterns of life, particularly in the Global North, are not universally applicable or desirable to all peoples and all places. Instead, we need to “[focus] on the adaptations, subversions and resistance that local peoples effect in relation to development interventions . . . and . . . [highlight] the alternative strategies produced by social movements as they encounter development projects” (Escobar 2007, 21). Furthermore, we are beginning to see more clearly how current patterns of life under modernity are not ecologically sustainable. Therefore, new attention to the Global South should not be focused solely on trying to ameliorate conditions of poverty and disadvantage but should also address the conditions of unjust wealth, wastefulness, greed, and decadence that define the Global North. In other words, it may be the Global South that needs to send its missionaries into the North, instead of exclusively the other way around. The Global South can be a source of potential solutions to development problems in the twenty-first century; it is not solely an object in need of “development.” Fourth and finally, redefining the Global South must be an interdisciplinary effort. For too long we have separated ourselves with borders of our own invention, economists

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from historians, humanities scholars from social scientists. None of us have been able to adequately understand global inequality from within our own silos. Therefore, we need to move beyond disciplinary blind spots to find productive angles of vision from which to mutually understand these inequalities. The concept of the Global South can provide us with common ground if we define it in interdisciplinary terms. When we say “Global South,” we want to examine transnational circuits of both capital and culture. It is a model that allows us to interrogate both representations and realities in defining the conditions of human life everywhere. We need to utilize the empiricism of the social sciences that concretely shape our lived experience in conjunction with the narratives we tell one another about that lived experience. “The point is that the material and cultural are conjoined and shaped through each other” (Kim-Puri 2005, 143), and both are equally important in developing a comprehensive picture of Global South and Global North.


In conclusion, scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences should recognize the increasing use of the terms “Global South” and “Global North” within their midst. For many scholars using these terms, they are simply the latest way to refer to “developed”/“developing” and “core”/“periphery”—the contemporary equivalents to the old concepts, models, and mindsets of the postwar years. But taking such an approach and using the terms in this fashion, we believe, is a mistake. We would argue that something new is actually taking hold, and it is time to capture the essence of what more nuanced observers using these concepts are trying to say. In this chapter, we have attempted to do just that, arguing that the “Global South” is a concept that is theoretically moving away from nation-state centrism and has the potential to provide scholars with a clearer opportunity to see the multiscalar and granular nature of global inequalities. This approach focuses on context and the intersectionality of human social inequalities. In particular, we believe that conceptualizations of the “Global South” and “Global North” as articulated within transnational feminist theories, post-colonial theory, and critical race scholarship, as well as within global political economy approaches such as world-systems theory, allow for a more sophisticated and complex set of analytical tools with which to examine and understand the dynamics of global inequality. The future of these kinds of frameworks and tools of analysis remain to be seen, but we would offer the following three recommendations to development sociologists (or any humanities scholar or social scientist studying issues of global inequality). First, we should all be clearer in making the distinction between “global south nations” and the broader notion of the “Global South.” The former term can be used within the context of nation-state-based analysis as a synonym for “less developed countries” or “peripheral countries,” but the latter should not. This broader concept of Global South, as we have argued and defined it here, draws our attention to the transnational and subnational levels of inequality that exist everywhere on the planet. Many scholars fail to


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make this distinction and use the term “Global South” when they really mean “global south nations” or “nations of the global south.” If one is utilizing nation-state-level data or is undertaking international relations analysis or comparative analysis, then “global south nation(s)” should be the preferred term. Second, we should be more careful not to attribute the characteristics of poverty and disadvantage universally to populations contained within regions or countries traditionally labeled as part of the “Global South.” Labeling China or India (or Ghana, for that matter) as universally “part of the Global South” would be a mistake (though, again, to reiterate, calling China or India a “global south nation” is acceptable). This is because there are extremely wealthy interests and practices in China, India, and Ghana (i.e., Global North) in addition to the extremely poor conditions and experiences in those countries (i.e., Global South). The inverse is also true, and we should exercise caution in labeling the United States or Italy as universally “Global North” when, in fact, there are regions in those nations where conditions of life do not match that descriptor (as we have shown here). In this sense, we simply need to pay closer attention to the variation that exists within all regions or nations. The Global South refers to disadvantaged portions of these spacialized inequalities, wherever they might be located. Third, we are calling for a clearer understanding of what is meant by the term “Global South.” Rather than being simply a crude descriptor or a fashionable buzzword that means different things in different disciplinary settings, we believe the concept has the potential to carry great analytical power for all scholars of inequality in the global age. Constructed as a signifier operating simultaneously at transnational, national, and subnational levels, “the Global South” can allow us to see more clearly the pockets and splotches of poverty, uneven development, subalterity, disenfranchisement, and disadvantage throughout the globe as well as to zoom in on the discourses of counter-hegemony, antiracism, anticolonialism, and social justice that are produced within those places and spaces. The Global South is, ultimately, a potential site of knowledge construction that takes as its starting point the human condition as seen and experienced from the bottom up. Although academic scholarship within all disciplines of the university has historically been a project of human knowledge construction taken on by elites for elites (an inherently “Global North” perspective), we would argue that considering the Global South is, ultimately, an attempt to restructure the institution of knowledge production itself. This is not an easy (nor even likely) undertaking within the academy as it currently exists, as there are many challenges and obstacles that prevent scholarship from being created from a bottom-up perspective. Since at least the 1960s, however, significant inroads have been made in this direction from anticolonial, feminist, and antiracist theorists (among others). In fact, we believe many current scholars are contributing to a truer understanding of what the Global South really means in this regard: see, for example, Patricia Hill Collins’s theoretical innovations in her attempt to locate “black feminist thought” (2000, 22); Saskia Sassen’s work on “expulsions” and the denationalized

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“spaces of the expelled” where human beings are trying to survive at the margins of the global economy (2014, 222); and recent work on the concept of “precarity” by Guy Standing (2011) and others that seeks to better understand the latest economic realities experienced by these same human beings. Furthermore, a large number of scholars working for decades in the post-colonial and post-modern traditions have created numerous “terminological inventions meant to specify and reinforce particular forms of resistance to dominant social hierarchy” (Sandoval 2000, 68). In recent years, we have begun to observe a much clearer effort within the academy to develop a “methodology of the oppressed” (Sandoval 2000), “southern theory” (Connell 2007), and “theory from the south” (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012). All of this work points in the direction of the meaning that is becoming more deeply attached to the concept of the “Global South.” Paying attention to these developments and to how they shape and reshape our understanding of global inequalities, and being more attuned to how we, as scholars, are using this term and thinking about its meaning, will be of increasingly greater importance as we are asked to face the challenges of “development” in the twenty-first century.


This research was supported by the University of Mississippi Faculty Working Group on the Global South and the UM Office of Research. 1. Tacit assumptions within sociology are often revealed in our efforts to distill the vocabulary of the discipline in a textbook. For that reason, in this chapter we have chosen to explore definitions taken from textbooks, handbooks, and encyclopedias that we consider to be appropriate sources to investigate the distilled disciplinary understandings of key concepts in addition to the more robust and nuanced conversations of these issues found in full-length scholarly articles and books. 2. U.S. taxpayers spend much more on domestic antipoverty efforts than on U.S. government assistance abroad.


Aulette, Judy. 2012. “North-South.” In The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization, edited by George Ritzer, 1547–48. West Sussex: Blackwell. Bookmiller, Kirsten Nakjavani. 2008. The United Nations. New York: Infobase Publishing. Brewer, Benjamin. 2011. “Global Commodity Chains and World Income Inequalities: The Missing Link of Inequality and the ‘Upgrading’ Paradox.” Journal of World-Systems Research 17, no. 2: 308–27. Accessed June 20, 2013. /Brewer-vol17n2.pdf. Burd-Sharps, Sarah, Kristen Lewis, and Eduardo Borges Martins. 2009. A Portrait of Mississippi: Mississippi Human Development Report 2009. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Measure of America: A Project of the Social Science Research Council. Accessed Nov. 13, 2012. http://www


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Caldeira, Teresa. 2008. “Worlds Set Apart.” London: LSE Cities. Accessed June 19, 2013. http:// Chase-Dunn, Christopher. 2006. “Globalization: A World-Systems Perspective.” In Global Social Change: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Christopher Chase-Dunn and Salvatore J. Babones, 79–105. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. Chase-Dunn, Christopher, and Kirk Lawrence. 2010. “Alive and Well: A Response to Sanderson.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 51, no. 6: 470–80. Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge. Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 2012. Theory from the South or, How Euro-America Is Evolving toward Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Paradigm. Connell, Raewyn. 2007. Southern Theory: Social Science and the Global Dynamics of Knowledge. Cambridge, Engl.: Polity Press. Ebersole, Ryan C. 2011. “Third World Mississippi Shows Failure of Conservative Policies.” People’s World (June 24). Accessed Oct. 19, 2012. Escobar, Arturo. 1995. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. . 2007. “ ‘Post-Development’ as a Concept and Social Practice.” In Exploring PostDevelopment: Theory and Practice, Problems and Perspectives, edited by Aram Ziai, 18–30. New York: Routledge. Giddens, Anthony, Mitchell Duneier, Richard P. Appelbaum, and Deborah Carr. 2013. Essentials of Sociology. New York: W. W. Norton. Gray, Kevin, and Craig N. Murphy. 2013. “Introduction: Rising Powers and the Future of Global Governance.” Third World Quarterly 34, no. 2: 183–93. Green, John, and Debarashmi Mitra. 2013. “Intersections of Development, Poverty, Race, and Space in the Mississippi Delta in the Era of Globalization: Implications for Gender-Based Health Issues.” In Poverty and Health in America, edited by Kevin Fitzpatrick, 177–206. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. Guterl, Matthew. 2007. “South.” In Keywords for American Cultural Studies, edited by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, 230–33. New York: New York University Press. Hall, Stuart. 1993. “The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power.” In Formations of Modernity, edited by Bram Gieben and Stuart Hall, 275–331. Cambridge, Engl.: Polity Press. Hall, Thomas, and Christopher Chase-Dunn. 2006. “Global Social Change in the Long Run.” In Global Social Change: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Christopher Chase-Dunn and Salvatore J. Babones, 33–58. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. Hansen, Suzy. 2012. “What Mississippi Can Learn from Iran.” New York Times, July 27. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012. = alland_r = 0. Holt, James B. 2007. “The Topography of Poverty in the United States: A Spatial Analysis Using County-Level Data from the Community Health Status Indicators Project.” Preventing Chronic Disease 4, no. 4: 1–9. Accessed June 20, 2013. /pmc/articles/PMC2099276/.

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Kim-Puri, H. J. 2005. “Conceptualizing Gender-Sexuality-State-Nation: An Introduction.” Gender and Society 19, no. 2: 137–59. McCartney, Scott, and Christopher Sullivan. 1990. “Mississippi Delta: Third World Poverty in America’s Heartland.” Los Angeles Times, May 13. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012. http://articles–05–13/news/mn-82_1_mississippi-delta. Mignolo, Walter. 2009. “Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom.” Theory, Culture and Society 26, nos. 7–8: 1–23. . 2011. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Latin America Otherwise). Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. Milkias, Paulos. 2010. Developing the Global South: A United Nations Prescription for the Third Millennium. New York: Algora. Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2002. “ ‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28, no. 2: 499–535. Mott, Ronni. 2008. “Third World Mississippi.” Jackson Free Press, Dec. 24. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012. Müller, Tanja R. 2013. “The Long Shadow of Band Aid Humanitarianism: Revisiting the Dynamics between Famine and Celebrity.” Third World Quarterly 34, no. 3: 470–84. NBC News. 2014. “Tale of Two Deltas: Poverty and Affluence Side by Side in Mississippi Town.” Apr. 21. Accessed Sept. 25, 2014. Ritzer, George. 2011. Globalization: The Essentials. West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons. . 2013. Introduction to Sociology. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage. Robinson, William I. 2004. A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and the State in a Transnational World. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. . 2011. “Globalization and the Sociology of Immanuel Wallerstein: A Critical Appraisal.” International Sociology: 1–23. Accessed June 19, 2013. /9c21h2pv. Sachs, Wolfgang, ed. 1993. The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power. London: Zed Books. Sanderson, Stephen. 2005. “World-Systems Analysis after Thirty Years.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 46, no. 3: 179–213. Sandoval, Chela. 2000. Methodology of the Oppressed (Theory Out of Bounds). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Sassen, Saskia. 2006. Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. . 2014. Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press. Shaefer, H. Luke, and Kathryn Edin. 2012. “Extreme Poverty in the United States, 1996 to 2011.” NPC Policy Brief 28, Feb. Ann Arbor, Mich.: National Poverty Center. Accessed Oct. 15, 2012. .pdf. Standing, Guy. 2011. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury Academic Press.



Sychov, Alyaksandr. 2011. “Global Development: Will It Ever Succeed?” Globality Studies Journal 23: 1–21. Accessed June 19, 2013. /uploads/2011/04/no23.pdf. Turner, Jonathan, and Salvatore J. Babones. 2006. “Global Inequality: An Introduction.” In Global Social Change: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Christopher ChaseDunn and Salvatore J. Babones, 109–34. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. U.N. Development Programme. 2011. Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. New York: UNDP. Accessed June 20, 2013. /hdr_2011_en_complete.pdf. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 2011. Geography of Poverty. Washington, D.C.: USDAERS. Accessed June 20, 2013. /rural-economy-population/rural-poverty-well-being/geography-of-poverty.aspx# .UcNTheA5t5g. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. Westneat, Danny. 2005. “Why Can’t We Help Our Own?” The Seattle Times, Sept. 2. Accessed June 20, 2013. World Bank. 2009. “Population Headcount Ratio at $2 a Day (PPP).” Washington, D.C.: World Bank. Accessed June 19, 2013. . 2011. “GNI per Capita, PPP (Current International $).” Washington, D.C.: World Bank. Accessed June 19, 2013. /countries. Wright, Alison. 2009. “Third World America.” New York: Alison Wright Photography. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012. /Third_World_America-8.

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6 MAGIC POTION/POISON POTION The Impact of Women’s Economic Empowerment versus Disempowerment for Development in a Globalized World

Rae Lesser Blumberg

Bill Clinton famously said “It’s the economy, stupid!” and his emphasis propelled him to the presidency of the United States. In the movie Jerry Maguire, the star athlete’s mantra was “Show me the money.” Yet, despite the importance of economic and monetary factors on our lives, I argue that the impact of whether or not women control money and other economic assets is insufficiently recognized by development scholars. This chapter is about women, money, and development. My claim is that a woman’s economic power is important for her, her family, her community, her nation, and even for global development. I also assert the importance, in recent years, of the nearly worldwide increase in the number of women who are not only earning but also gaining more control of income. Why does this matter? The central point of this chapter is that when women generate—and control—money and other assets, their economic empowerment is linked to a cornucopia of benefits, from greater gender equality to more income growth and well-being for both families and nations. Indeed, I suggest that women’s economic power is a virtual “magic potion for development.” But the converse—women’s economic disempowerment—is linked not only to subjugated women but also to a woeful array of problems, including a widespread worsening of human welfare and a strong correlation with armed conflict. It is a veritable “poison potion for development” that is generally distorted, slowed, or stalled. In the first section below, I present two examples from the Global South where women’s economic position has risen but they have been endangered by practices linked to demands from today’s globalized capitalist economy. The first example is from my own


fieldwork in Ecuador. (Since being in the Peace Corps in Venezuela, I have worked in forty-five countries in almost every sector of development except large-scale dam projects.) The second example concerns Bangladesh. Both cases involve relatively poor nations exporting products made or processed mainly by young women to richer, more powerful nations in today’s world system. In the second section of the chapter, I introduce hypotheses from my gender theories about how and why women’s control of income is so important to their own position and to development. It also presents supporting data for the “magic potion” thesis. The third section presents theory and data for the “poison potion for development” argument—that where women do not have economic power, outcomes are often grim. For example, the most male-dominated economies and societies seem more vulnerable to armed conflict and extremist movements. In the final section, I present conclusions.


Starting around 1990, nontraditional agricultural exports (NTAEs) boomed in Ecuador, especially in flowers and broccoli (Blumberg 1992).1 Both cultivation and processing of these crops are very labor-intensive. And employers have generally preferred females—for their delicate touch, lower likelihood of organizing, and lower wages. In Ecuador’s central and southern Andes regions, where economic growth had been low and jobs for young women scarce, a new day dawned. In most places, employers sought young women with above-average education for their locality. Since there is a lot of seasonal overtime, they could earn more than graduates of the highest academic high school track (baccalaureate). In my “rapid appraisal” research (Blumberg 2002), young women processing flowers or broccoli for export said they felt personally empowered and so happy that they could help their families: most of them gave some money from each paycheck to their mother (not one gave to the father). But, they said, it was at their own discretion. Almost all stated that their help led to greater appreciation and respect from their families. Another common outcome was that their parents encouraged them to delay marriage and keep on working. They said, too, that their parents often pushed their younger sisters to stay in school so they could get those jobs that paid so well by local standards (Blumberg 1992; Blumberg and Salazar-Paredes 2011). The risk factor has been pesticide exposure, but protective gear and measures can cut the danger, and international “green label” campaigns have already led many firms to adopt such procedures, especially in flowers. Even so, real dangers to the women persist (Blumberg 1992; Blumberg and Salazar-Paredes 2011). Ecuador is third in global flower exports, behind Holland and neighboring Colombia (which has a minimum wage almost $100 less per month). Ecuador’s position is more precarious in flowers than in broccoli, where its location on the equator and fields at just the right (high) altitude result in the world’s greenest, densest florets. But on June 27,

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2013, President Raul Correa renounced the Andean Trade Preference Act, which permitted free entry of those products (and thousands of others) into the United States. Current reports about the flower industry range from rosy (Collyns 2015) to cautious (Conefrey 2015).2 Overall, the future seems less certain for Ecuador’s NTAEs and their mostly female young labor force.


With a population of about 169 million, Bangladesh is the world’s eighth most populous nation (CIA 2015b; Ecuador is under 16 million). It is overwhelmingly Muslim, with a patrilineal-patrilocal kin/property system3 and traditional norms of female seclusion (purdah). But when the Grameen Bank and BRAC (the world’s largest NGO), brought microcredit to poor Bangladeshi women in the 1980s, the women challenged purdah to spend a few hours every week or fortnight going to the meetings to pay their loan installments and to hear talks on, and then discuss, everything from group buying and marketing to the importance of keeping their daughters and sons in school. Bangladesh is arguably the most microcredit-saturated country on Earth, with mostly female-targeted programs in almost every village. It is germane that microcredit programs grew up concomitantly with the government’s strong family planning (Ahmed 2004, 2006). The total fertility rate declined from 6.3 children per woman in 1975 (a few years before Muhammad Yunus launched the Grameen Bank) to 2.2 in 2013 (World Bank 2015a)—just a hair above replacement fertility. Meanwhile, women earning income helped send both their boys and their girls to school. The deficit of girls in primary and secondary education has vanished; they now predominate at both levels (UNESCO 2015; Shamsuddin 2013 found that this was aided by an inclusive secondary school Conditional Cash Transfer program).4 A better-educated female labor force now is the backbone of the country’s $20 billion/ year export textile industry (Motlagh 2014), second largest after China (Haider 2007), with over four million workers, some 5,600 factories (Weiss 2014), and over 80 percent of exports by value (Stratfor Global Intelligence 2015). It has helped boost women’s total labor force share from 15 percent in 1996 to 36 percent in 2010 (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2012, xxi). Today, fully 57 percent of women in Bangladesh are in the labor force (World Bank 2015b). Unfortunately, the industry has burst onto the global media scene because, in 2013, a factory fire killed 112 workers and an eight-story building housing five factories collapsed, leaving over 1,134 dead and 2,515 injured (Motlagh 2014)—in both cases, almost all young women (Weiss 2014). There is no reason such risks cannot be fixed. So far, more than 150 mostly large European firms that buy these products have signed the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, and 26 mostly large U.S. firms (e.g., Walmart, Sears, and Gap) have committed to less rigorous safety upgrades and liability limits. There are also new labor laws on paper, though it is not clear how much they will help worker rights (Motlagh 2014). As in Ecuador, outside pressure and campaigns by



rich, country-based consumer, NGO, and labor-oriented groups has helped reduce practices endangering the workers that may be partly attributable to pressures from the powerful firms and countries that buy the products. All in all, it appears that Bangladeshi women earning income from microenterprises or factory jobs have more voice in their households and somewhat more freedom of movement than before the transformation began a generation ago, although men remain quite dominant (Ahmed 2008).5 What do these two examples show? First, globalization promotes women’s work and earning power, though often in precarious jobs or activities. Second, globalization also has brought oversight or “green label” campaigns (often with a strong female presence) that have led to reducing some of these mostly female export workers’ risks. And, third, countries making products that rely on women’s paid labor become more gender-equal (Do, Levchenko, and Raddatz 2011). The next section helps to illuminate how this happens: it more closely examines the result of women’s controlling the income from their labors.


There are both theoretical and empirical reasons why, for women, money they can control matters so much at both micro- and macro-levels and why their growing economic power is virtually a “magic potion for development” at levels ranging from the micro (the woman, her children and family, her community) to the macro (the state and even the world economy). First, with respect to theory, both my general theory of gender stratification (e.g., Blumberg 1984, 1988, 1991, 2001a, 2004b, 2009, 2015a) and my still-evolving theory of gender and development (e.g., Blumberg 1989a, 1989b, 1995, 2001b, 2004a, 2008/9, 2015b) posit that the single most important—although not the only—factor affecting the level of gender equality is relative female/male economic power, defined as the control of key economic resources (e.g., income, property, credit). Second, this chapter also presents empirical data that, for gender equality, economic power is both the most important as well as the most achievable of the five main types of power. The other types are force/violence, political, ideology, and information/ education. In fact, economic power is the only form of power where women, not infrequently, have surpassed men—that is, the only one that crosses the “50–50 line” of gender equality. It ranges from near zero for women (men control almost the whole economic pie, as in Afghanistan today; see Blumberg 2015b and further discussion below) to near 100 percent (women control almost the whole economic pie, as among the Iroquois of colonial North America; see Brown 1975; Blumberg 2001a). In none of the other types of power do women effectively and broadly wield more than half.

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So, let us consider women’s relative empirical position in those other four types of power:





Women fare worst with the power of force/violence. They are more often the victims than the wielders of violence. (It is relevant that women have one-third to a half less upper-body strength and that men historically have controlled most heavy weapons.) Women are moving up in political power, though mainly in representation in parliaments, where the world average in September 2015 was 22.9 percent of women in a lower legislative house; the United States ranks seventy-sixth, with 19.4 percent of women in Congress (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2015). Actually, 22.9 percent is double that of 1995. The “quota revolution” began in earnest that year, when all 189 nations at the Fourth World Conference on Women adopted a Plan for Action and the Beijing Declaration encouraging governments to establish targets (Blumberg and Vichit-Vadakan 2012). By 2015, 128 nations had some form of gender quota in parliaments at the national and/or subnational levels (International IDEA 2015). But in top cabinet posts and as heads of state, women’s proportion remains much lower. With respect to ideology, there are still many societies that consider men superior and none that consider women superior (although 136 nations’ constitutions now proclaim male-female equality/nondiscrimination; World Bank 2012, 2). Concerning information/education globally, girls’ gender gap in primary education narrowed from 92 girls per 100 boys in 1999 to 97/100 in 2012.6 Regionally, only sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States remain below parity, though some of the South Asian countries also remain well below, such as Afghanistan, with 72 girls per 100 boys enrolled in primary school (UNESCO 2015). Overall, secondary education improved from 91 girls/100 boys in 1999 to nearly 97/100 in 2012 (UNESCO 2015). And at the level of higher education, more women than men now attend universities (World Bank 2012, 9). Despite this progress, however, full educational equality for the world’s females remains a long way off, especially in the poorest region (sub-Saharan Africa) as well as in the traditionally most male-dominant regions (the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] and South Asia). In the United States, females outnumber males at all levels of higher education, up to and including the doctorate, and women now outnumber men as college graduates (Nelson 2015). But women still lag well behind men in most of the (better paying) science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields—with a major exception: U.S. women are at parity with men in life/biological/health sciences Ph.D. degrees (Blumberg 2009).



Just because a country has opened its educational system to women does not mean that it will welcome their labor force participation (LFP). Four of the places in MENA with the world’s lowest female LFP rates (World Bank 2015b) have more women than men in higher education (UNESCO 2012, 79): Algeria (15 percent female LFP); Iran (17 percent female LFP); Jordan (16 percent female LFP); and the West Bank/Gaza (15 percent female LFP). Furthermore, empirical data show that women’s economic position remains the strongest form of power in affecting the wealth of nations. Comparing losses due to inequality in female employment and in education, a U.N. economic and social survey of Asia and the Pacific estimated that the region lost $42 to $47 billion annually because of women’s limited access to employment, versus only $16 to $30 billion lost annually because of inequality in education (United Nations 2007, 103). More recently, in a 2014 Washington Post column, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, cited a study that “women’s low economic participation created income losses of 27 percent in the Middle East and North Africa.” That study, by David Cuberes and Marc Teignier (2012), also estimated that raising female employment and entrepreneurship to male levels could improve average income by 23 percent in South Asia and by 15 percent elsewhere. In sum, economic control is, indeed, women’s most consequential form of power. And it continues to grow. In 2008, women constituted 40 percent of the world’s labor force and 44 percent of its paid labor force (World Bank 2012, 212). Using World Bank (2014a) data, I calculated that the current world average of female LFP is 53 percent—that is, in the average country, more than half the women are in the labor force. Within India, the “states that have the highest percentage of women in the labor force have grown the fastest as well as [have] the greatest reductions in poverty, according to the World Bank” (Faiola 2008, A12). Moreover, in an analysis of the strongest factors promoting growth in global GDP from ca. 1985 to 2005, The Economist concluded: “The increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth for the last couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than has either new technology or the new giants, China and India (2006).” To drive home the point, the article’s title was “Forget China, India and the Internet: Economic Growth Is Driven by Women.” Next, as the foundation for understanding just how female economic power acts as a “magic potion for development,” I will present some hypotheses from my gender stratification and gender and development theories and will briefly discuss some supporting empirical studies.


More self-confidence. The link between greater economic empowerment and increased self-confidence is well-established empirically. An early

Greater personal autonomy

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study by Ken Kusterer and his colleagues found that well-paid Guatemalan female processing plant workers controlled their income and gained in independence/selfreliance, self-confidence, self-esteem, and perceived respect of their families; the researchers called this “the most important and most positive [finding] of all” (Kusterer, Estrada de Batres, and Cuxil 1981, 81). I, too, found that more female-controlled income led to greater self-confidence in a follow-up study in the same plant (Blumberg 1994). In studies of microcredit and informal sector businesses in Ecuador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Swaziland, and Guinea Bissau, I encountered greater self-confidence among men and women microentrepreneurs whose income—which all said they controlled— had risen; also, their families usually respected them more (Blumberg 2001a). Marta Roldan (1988) found the same among a sample of fifty-three women in her Mexico City study of women doing garment industry piece-work at home. More say in household decisions. In the United States, Robert Blood and Donald Wolfe (1960) were the first to find that women who were employed had more voice in domestic decisionmaking. Later research refined this. For example, Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz (1983, 1991) found that American wives and husbands gained an equal boost in their say in household decisions from every dollar (or $10,000) of increased income. More recent work finds that married working women’s amount of income and economic autonomy translates to more bargaining power and less housework (Gupta 2010) as well as not having to settle for less than a satisfying, mutually supportive relationship (Gerson 2010). In countries with much more gender stratification than the United States, however, there may be a big “discount” on the amount of clout in decisionmaking a woman’s income brings her: it might take her $2 or more to match her husband’s $1 (I discuss this further below). Here, however, I propose that even in societies where there is a steep cultural “discount,” women who have income under their control have, with few exceptions, more “voice and vote” in various kinds of family decisions than those who do not. This applies to three particular kinds of decisions. First, women with greater economic power have more say in decisions about domestic well-being. (For example, should we seek medical care for the sick baby boy/baby girl? Should we send our girls to school for as many years as the boys, despite the expense?) In general, women push for more spending on children’s nutrition, health, and education—that is, human capital. Later in this chapter, I posit that women who control income spend more of their money on their children. I also provide references to numerous studies that empirically document women’s disproportionately greater expenditures on their children’s human capital. And, I suggest, women tend to be more evenhanded than counterpart men about promoting the well-being of both their girls and their boys. Second, women with greater economic power have more say in economic decisions (acquiring, allocating, and selling assets). The classic work was by Meena Acharya and Lynn Bennett (1981, 1982, 1983). Their random sample research involved 279 households



in eight villages in Nepal (four Tibeto-Burman and four Indo-Aryan/Hindu). They studied the allocation of major resources and farm management decisions as well as domestic decisions. They found that, though these rural women provided at least half the productive labor in unpaid subsistence farming, only those females who earned their own income from their economic activities (mostly Tibeto-Burman women traders) increased their influence in their household’s economic decisionmaking. And, third, women with greater economic power have more say in decisions about fertility. (Most women use income power to lower their fertility). Studies date back to Robert Weller’s Puerto Rico research (1968), which found that women who earned/ controlled income soon tended to use contraception. Since then, a large literature has emerged that supports this finding (see, e.g., United Nations 1987; Blumberg 1993; Engelman 2008). Robert Engelman says most women’s preferences are for fewer children, spaced farther apart and starting after their adolescence—but he ignores income and does not consider how women would get the power to realize their fertility preferences if they had no money they could control. More control of their “life options” (Blumberg 1984). These are the main dependent variables in my general theory of gender stratification, and they involve aspects of one’s destiny that exist in all human societies, such as marriage, divorce, sexuality, fertility patterns, and freedom of movement. Women’s degree of control of these options relative to males—concerning marriage, for example, their relative freedom to decide whether, when, and with whom—depends not only on their own economic power but also on macro-level legal systems and gender norms. These may respond more slowly to growing female economic empowerment. Control of her own fertility, however, may be the single most important life option affecting a woman’s prospects.7 Increased spending to promote their children’s welfare Building on a 1986 World Bank paper I wrote, in 1988 I published “Income under Female vs. Male Control,” hypothesizing that women with children tend to allocate income differently than male counterparts, spending income under their control disproportionately on their children’s nutrition, health, and education (i.e., human capital).8 There were only a handful of supporting studies at that time. For example, women’s more focused dedication of income to children’s nutrition has been known since the late 1970s.9 The literature documenting women’s greater spending on children’s health and education also has grown by leaps and bounds. Now there are numerous empirical studies of women’s greater proclivity to spend on children’s human capital. For example, I recently compiled a partial list of over twenty sources (including two of mine) encompassing more than double that number of individual articles and a score of countries.10 Let us now examine the macro-level impact of just two of these effects of women’s greater economic power: women’s increased control of their fertility, and their disproportionately higher spending on their children’s nutrition, health, and education.




Fertility has been found to be inversely related to national income growth in developing nations (e.g., Hess 1988; Das Gupta, Bongaarts, and Cleland 2011). So, though lower fertility is still linked to greater GDP growth, high fertility continues to be a disaster for development. Patrick Nolan and Gerhard Lenski (2011, 304) present data showing that, from 1961 to 2006, the world’s “industrializing [hoe] horticultural” (IH) societies—almost all in sub-Saharan Africa—had a population growth rate of 2.6 percent, whereas the population growth rate was 2.1 percent in “industrializing agrarian” (IA) societies (encompassing MENA, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean).11 The GDP per capita growth rate was a scant 0.3 percent in IH societies, versus 2.4 percent in IA ones. This means, they write, that “90 percent of the gains in gross domestic product of [IH] societies, on average, was consumed by the need to support population growth, thus leaving only 10 percent of the benefits of economic growth available for improvements in living standards” (Nolan and Lenski 2011, 304). In IA societies, the fertility rate—high, but not as high as in IH nations—absorbed 47 percent of national income growth (compared to fully 90 percent in IH nations). Women tend to use their control of income to achieve their own fertility preferences, generally opting to have fewer children; in turn, as the data show, this increases national income growth in poorer countries.12 Decreased fertility contributes to GDP growth

Increased human capital contributes to GDP growth and enhances welfare Increased human capital is linked both to more national income growth and to greater well-being. In short, women’s child-focused spending on nutrition, health, and education promotes positive development, and they tend to be more even-handed toward educating both daughters and sons. Girls’ education has a high rate of return, spurring development as well as lower fertility, thus multiplying the impact of women’s income on national wealth and welfare.


Development initiatives that channel income to both women and men enjoy what I term a “synergy bonus” of increased economic impact as well as enhanced human capital (Blumberg 1989a, 1989b, 2008/9, 2015a). An example of increased economic impact (World Bank 2012, 35) can be seen in Papua New Guinea, where a palm oil industry has been promoted. Traditional gender roles mean that men climb the trees and harvest the fruits while women collect those that fall to the ground. But there was a problem: the industry realized that fully 60–70 percent of fruit on the ground was not being collected by the women:



They tried multiple initiatives designed to deal with constraints women faced, including giving the women special nets to use, and timing the collection . . . with women’s care duties. None of these worked. Finally, the Mama Lus Frut scheme was introduced whereby women received their own harvest record cards and were paid directly into their personal bank accounts. Yields increased significantly, as did female participation in oil palm harvesting. (World Bank 2012, 35, my emphasis)

Enhanced human capital is what results from what most women with children do with the money: as noted above, they spend disproportionately more of it on their children’s nutrition, health, and education than counterpart men do. In fact, all of the studies I list in endnote 10 document this empirically. This is the reason that development projects can get a “double bang for the buck” from incorporating women into economic initiatives: on the one hand, the women are likely to do as well or better than men on the economic component of a development scheme, even when economic incentives are small;13 on the other hand, not only do women typically devote any income they control that they do not need for their economic endeavors to their children’s human capital, but they also usually keep less for themselves (Mencher 1988; see also my endnote 8). Another hypothesis from my gender stratification theory is that one gets more power from surplus income (because one has more choices in allocating it) than from income barely enough for survival. Accordingly, the synergy bonus should be bigger if women’s income is raised above subsistence-level poverty. For example, such women might choose to both expand their business and send their children to school beyond the required level or age.


In the modern world, the money economy has penetrated to even the most remote outposts. Women, however, face cultural factors that can erode a little or a lot of the economic power they get from income they make and control. So, before going on to the “poison potion” discussion, we should look at those cultural factors that can undercut—but not wholly nullify—the clout women get from income. Much of the power women get from their earnings can be reduced by what I term macro- and micro-level discount factors (Blumberg 1984, 1991). These involve mainly “sticky,” slow-to-change cultural factors, including sociocultural norms and the religious, legal, and ideological spheres of a society or nation. But even in the most conservative places I have been (e.g., Afghanistan), I have never found that “discount” factors ate up 100 percent of the power and benefits that come from women’s control of income. In the great majority of cases, those women had more leverage and a bit more “wiggle room” than women who were completely dependent.



Macro-level discount factors measure the extent of overall female disadvantage in a society. So, in addition to cultural factors, structural variables—such as the political and economic system as well as the kin/property system, which in MENA/South Asia is male-dominated—affect women’s position and fate. Although macro-level discount factors currently are at least somewhat negative everywhere, they vary by nation and over time (e.g., they are far more negative in Saudi Arabia than in Sweden and are almost always less negative today than fifty years ago). In general, they are also more important than micro-level discount factors. Micro-level discount factors, interestingly, can be negative or positive for either partner—that is, they can subtract or add metaphorical pennies of power from or to every dollar that each partner brings into the household. Micro-level discounts include each person’s gender ideology. There also are two factors whereby the person with less has more power: relative commitment to the relationship, and relative dependence on the other’s income. In three other micro-level discount factors, the person with more has more power: relative ability to leave the relationship (exit options),14 relative attractiveness, and relative assertiveness. What happens to those women who are highly economically disempowered—whether they do not work in production or whether they do so but are not able to monetize unpaid family labor or keep anything significant from their earnings?


This section starts with a little more theory. I propose that the economic disempowerment of women and the low status of women can stem from their lack of an essential precondition: they are not involved in important productive activities.15 As it happens, this lack is geographically limited, affecting mostly the women of MENA and much of South Asia, which are the world’s most gender-unequal regions. The reasons why men in these regions came to dominate productive labor and why women’s economic role became marginalized go back to the invention of the plow in the Middle East about 5–6,000 years ago. (Previously—and still—among hunters and gatherers and hoe-horticultural farmers, women typically provided half or more of the food supply.)16 The plow diffused across the vast West-East axis of the Eurasian landmass, reaching China about 3,000 years later. Before the plow, hunters and gatherers or hoe-horticulturalists usually lived a nomadic or semi-sedentary existence. But plows permitted permanent cultivation and permanent settlement. They dig deep into the soil, bringing up nutrients and breaking up weeds. Manure from the abundant domesticated animals found in the Eurasian landmass17 provided fertilizer. All told, the plow greatly increased the food supply. Two plow systems emerged: “dry” and “wet.” In the drier (usually more northern) areas, the system was rain-fed plow agriculture. “Dry” (nonirrigated) agriculture



encompasses much of MENA, parts of South Asia, and elsewhere.18 It is considered the quintessential male farming system (Boserup 1970). Women there have long been little involved in key productive activities, and especially if the kin/property system favors men, they have also had low economic power and a subordinated position. To this day, these are the world regions with the lowest proportion of women in the labor force. Farther south, in wetter areas, irrigated rice cultivation emerged (e.g., in South India, South China, and the Southeast Asian lowlands). In the form of irrigated paddy rice, the “wet” system is the most labor intensive in the world, but irrigated rice is also the world’s most labor-elastic crop: if labor is added slowly, each new person’s hands can raise more than that person’s mouth will eat. This is an “everyone works” system—men, women, girls, boys, and suitable domesticated animals (such as oxen and water buffalo). Over time, as rice cultivation intensifies, it can support huge, dense populations. This is why India and China, which cultivate wet rice in the south, have populations approaching 1.3 and 1.4 billion, respectively (World Bank 2015a), of our planet’s 7.2 billion people. However, even in areas of the world where women play critical roles in economic activities, “mere work” is not enough to bring them economic power—or more gender equality. I specifically posit that “mere work,” no matter how important, that does not lead to control of economic resources is not related to a woman’s overall equality (nor does it give her greater say in fertility or other “life options”). In short, it is not automatic that the sheer amount of productive labor invariably leads to economic power. (Think of peasants, workers, and slaves, for example; they have yet to inherit the Earth.) Traditionally and even now, most of the women in the irrigated rice areas of South and East Asia did not and still do not have control of the means of production (especially land) or the fruits of their farming labors. To be sure, their labors have been and are recognized and appreciated (as opposed to the view of women in the “dry” agrarian areas as economic zeroes or even parasites). In East Asia, the traditional kin/property system privileged the men: it involved patrilineal descent. The bridal couple typically lived with the groom’s father, whereas the bride usually arrived without kin, allies, or friends. Most important to my theory, inheritance favored males. The situation in Southeast Asia has been pretty much the opposite. It has traditionally been the world’s most gender egalitarian region: it has raised irrigated rice for thousands of years. Yet its kin/property system remains mostly bilateral, with descent traced through both mother’s and father’s sides. Their bilateral groups often have a matrilocal tilt: the traditional preference for the bridal couple to live with/near the bride’s female kin lingers in a number of groups. Until recent decades, inheritance was almost always either equal among female and male children or favored the females. Now, inheritance is generally equal among all children. And there are some matrilineal groups but very few patrilineal ones. (Blumberg 2004a and 2015a provide more detail, including the fact that Southeast Asian women have been market traders and entrepreneurs going back into the mists of time.) More generally, how do women who do work in key production activities transform “mere work” into economic power? I originally posited three factors (see Blumberg 1984



for a full discussion): the “strategic indispensability” of women’s labor (the variables I cite as raising the strategic importance of women’s work include if it is difficult to replace the women and/or their activities, if the women are able to organize on their own behalf, and/or if there is competition for their services); whether the kinship/property system is favorable, neutral, or unfavorable to them (and it has been unfavorable in all the original agrarian regions except for Southeast Asia); and the level of inequality in the society’s overarching stratification system (the more stratified, the less favorable it tends to be for women). Here, I am positing a fourth factor, which acts as an obstacle to transforming women’s work to economic power: the inability to monetize one’s efforts, either because it is unpaid labor on a family endeavor or because there are no markets women can easily access. In short, low contributions to economically important activities or an inability to transform their work in such activities into control of some of the fruits of production hinder women’s access to economic power (and, thereby, constrain the extent of control over their life options, such as marriage, fertility, and freedom of movement). When I first wrote about the negative impact of women’s economic disempowerment (Blumberg 2008/9), I invoked the image of the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse” from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. The first horseman represents war. Let us start there.

WA R / A R M E D C O N F L I C T A N D W O M E N ’ S D I S E M P O W E R M E N T

Mary Caprioli blazed a new path for quantitative analysis of the roots of war by considering gender stratification as an important variable. Her first analysis (2000) dealt with a state resorting to armed conflict to resolve international disputes. She analyzed a large dataset of most of the world’s countries to test the relationship between state militarism and domestic gender equality. Although she did not claim causality, she “substantiated the theory” (Caprioli 2000) that domestic gender equality has a pacifying effect on state behavior at the international level. She found that female labor force participation (LFP) is inversely correlated with state bellicosity, whereas fertility is positively related.19 Caprioli stated her findings in the positive direction, but looking at the mirror image is more thought-provoking: a mere 5 percent lower female LFP is correlated with a 495 percent greater likelihood of war across international borders. Similarly, nations with higher fertility—generally indicative of less gender equality (and, in my theories, indicative that women have low control of income and/or other economic resources)—are more likely to engage in international warfare. Caprioli (2005) then turned to a multicountry quantitative analysis of internal conflict (at levels resulting in significant deaths but less than all-out civil war). Her findings were quite similar: an increase of nearly 500 percent for a 5 percent reduction in women’s LFP. More dramatically stated, the relationship between low female economic empowerment and (male) armed violence is that nations with only 15 percent female LFP are almost 35 times—nearly 3,500 percent—more likely to have deadly armed conflict within or across



their borders than nations with 50 percent female LFP (and this is still below the national average of 53 percent female LFP, as mentioned above). It is worth looking at specific cases. The seven countries with the lowest female LFP are Algeria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria; all but one are at 15–17 percent female LFP (World Bank 2015b). And all seven are presently engaged in armed conflict. We can also consider another measure: the gender gap between male and female LFP (Gender Gap Report 2014). Here, there’s one change in the “bottom seven”: Pakistan replaces Jordan on the list. But the results remain the same: all seven are presently engaged in armed conflict. I was in Afghanistan in July–August 2011, where I carried out two final evaluations of U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) projects: the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (Blumberg 2011a), and the Afghanistan National Development Program (Blumberg 2011b). Afghanistan is a tribal, multiethnic society where, even now, women have almost no economic power. For example, even though the nation is over threequarters rural, a study found that only 1.87 percent of women owned—or had rights to—land (Grace 2005, 15). And this figure might actually be too high because the “dominant and traditionally more conservative ethnic group” (Pashtuns) were not well represented in Jo Grace’s sample, which was composed primarily of “minority ethnic groups” (2005, 18). The Pashtuns have an exceptionally male supremacist tribal code (Pashtunwali). Valentine Moghadam (2002) quotes Nancy Tapper, an anthropologist who studied Pashtuns in north-central Afghanistan (the Durrani): “The members of the community discuss control of all resources—especially labor, land, and women—in terms of ‘honor’ ” (Tapper 1984, 304). Moghadam’s comment is: “Note that ‘community’ is the community of men and that ‘women’ are assimilated in the concept of ‘resources’ ” (2002, 20). So, women and children are viewed as property, period. Moghadam also characterizes the Pashtun as dominating women more completely than almost anywhere else on the planet, via “a particularly entrenched form of patriarchy and a tribal-based social structure in which only men have rights, equality, and unlimited access to public space” (19). Statistically, only 8 percent of women had nonagricultural employment, and only 5.6 percent owned businesses (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2010, 10). With such a negligible economic power base, very few women have anything to counter their subordinate position and lack of freedom. Tellingly, Afghan women have more rights in Islam than they actually exercise in their nation. Islamic law gives them rights to own property, to half-share inheritance, and, as brides, to a property or money gift (maher). Currently, however, “Women’s rights to property and inheritance are not upheld, and the bride’s maher is given to the bride’s family even if it rightfully belongs to the bride according to law and Islam” (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2009, 22). What about the other four main types of power, as discussed earlier in this chapter? On the one hand, an imposed political quota system has given Afghan women 27.7 per-



cent of seats in the lower house of parliament (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2015). On the other hand, women wield almost no power in that body, and brave, intelligent women (members of Parliament or otherwise) who speak out are in danger of being killed. With respect to ideology, the no. 3 person in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs told me and an Afghan female UNDP program officer that “most Afghan men don’t think that women are quite human beings.” The UNDP woman (a non-Pashtun) nodded agreement. The ideology of the predominant Pashtuns was outlined above. Concerning the power of force/violence, it is hidden but women are subjected to an overwhelming amount. The Afghanistan Country Report 2008–2010 states that violence against women is deliberately concealed in the name of family honor (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2010, 10) but notes that “UNIFEM [has estimated] that 87 percent of women face abuse and violence in Afghanistan” (Khan 2012, 2; UNIFEM 2006). The ultimate fate of the controversial 2009 Elimination of Violence against Women law, which was issued by presidential proclamation, is unknown, but it remains under attack by conservative members of Parliament. The law criminalized twenty-two acts, including domestic violence, rape, underage and forced marriages (which were found by UNIFEM 2006 to constitute 60–80 percent of all marriages [Morgan 2008]), setting women on fire, dousing them with chemicals (such as acid), the practice of baad (use of women to settle a feud), preventing “women’s rights of inheritance” or “possessing personal property,” and deterring women from education, work, access to health services, and/or seeing kin (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2010, 5). Finally, concerning information/education, only 6 percent of women aged 26 and up have ever been to school, and some 88 percent are illiterate (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2010, 13). Among women aged 18–24, the illiteracy rate is 82 percent (ibid.), as opposed to 50 percent for males. Given women’s almost total lack of economic power in Afghanistan, my theory predicts that their “life options” there would be severely curtailed. And they are. Women, de facto, have no (or virtually no) say in marriage. Their rights to divorce are much less than men’s. With respect to sex, even the tiniest shadow of suspicion of forbidden behavior is enough to have a woman killed. Concerning fertility, Afghanistan is the only nation outside of sub-Saharan Africa in the “fertility top 10” at an estimated 5.33 children per woman (CIA 2015a; it is tenth). And freedom of movement is limited and precarious. When outside in the streets, the overwhelming majority of women wear an all-concealing burqa (usually the same shade of medium blue) that has no identifying decoration (in contrast to the often highly decorated, embroidered, and individualized black abayas worn by women in the Persian Gulf nations, for example): they do not want to be recognized since most men think they should not be out in public in the first place.20 Even women’s access to medical care is curtailed: only 21.9 percent of all doctors and only 17.1 percent of all nurses in the Afghan government are women (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2009, 14). And, de facto, only a woman can treat



females. This contributes to women’s ill health and maternal mortality as well as to what was recently the highest infant mortality on Earth (some newer statistics show a sharp decline, but they are controversial). The conclusion of the Country Report 2004–2009 is that “the health situation of Afghan women is one of the worst in the world” (ibid.). Personally, I have never encountered another group of women with less economic power or as subordinated.


The second horseman of the Apocalypse represents plague. There is little doubt that, since the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been our modern equivalent of a plague: in 2013, some 35 million people were living with the infection (UNAIDS 2014). We now have anti-retroviral therapy that can turn what was previously a death sentence into a chronic, debilitating disease. In poor countries, however, only a lucky minority of people testing HIV-positive have access to such medications. True, their cost has been lowered by international efforts, but they are still too expensive and difficult to access for most, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease was born in a species cross-over from chimpanzees—and where the plague has hit hardest.21 Less well known than the African origins of the disease is the fact that it has proven to be gendered, with women up to 600 percent more likely to be infected than a male counterpart.22 Furthermore, in much of the developing world, women do not have the leverage to refuse unprotected sex—even when they are aware of how the disease is transmitted. In fact, UNAIDS considers gender inequality as a key driver of the HIV epidemic (WHO, UNAIDS, and UNICEF 2011).23 In sub-Saharan Africa, young women aged 15–24 are as much as eight times more likely than counterpart men to be living with HIV (WHO, UNAIDS, and UNICEF 2011). Although women account for 50 percent of people living with HIV globally, in subSaharan Africa women are 58 percent of the HIV-positive population (UNAIDS 2014). One of the problems with measuring women’s economic power in sub-Saharan Africa has been the fact that labor force statistics in Africa are inconsistent in how they count— or do not count—the large numbers of women engaged in low resource farming on an unpaid basis. In countries where these non-earning women farmers are included in labor force data, the statistics do not provide a clear-cut measure of female economic empowerment. Not surprisingly, then, women’s greater LFP in sub-Saharan Africa is not linked to lower HIV/AIDS prevalence. Accordingly, it is relevant that Curtis Copeland (2006) discovered a direct way to measure women’s economic power and, in a sub-Saharan African sample, found that it was inversely associated with HIV/AIDS rates. He used an African data subset from the Demographic Health Surveys. It includes a variable of whether married women had earned cash income in the previous year and, if so, who controlled how it was spent. Where the woman controlled her own income, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates were lower,



but where her husband (or, infrequently, others) controlled her income, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates were higher. So far, Copeland’s HIV/AIDS study still appears to be the only one that uses women’s control of income to measure their economic power.


The third horseman of the Apocalypse symbolizes famine. Here, I discuss its somewhat less deadly cousin, malnutrition. I was recently involved (Blumberg, Dewhurst, and Sen 2013a, 2013b), in a study that documents profound damage being inflicted by pervasive malnutrition. It might be called “Gender and the South Asian Enigma.” The “South Asian Enigma” is a term known to nutrition researchers because it describes the fact that South Asia has the world’s highest levels of child malnutrition even though it is not the poorest region (World Bank 2011). Much of South Asia, in fact, has enjoyed a decade or more of robust economic growth. Lamentably, 42 percent of all South Asian children under age 5 are underweight, as opposed to only 23 percent in the second-worst region, West and Central Africa, which is the world’s poorest (UNICEF 2012). In recent years, researchers have made the connection that South Asia’s child undernutrition problem is causally linked to the fact that it also has some of the world’s most subordinated (and undernourished) women. In one study, Lisa Smith and her colleagues (2003) estimated that malnutrition in the region would drop 13 percent if gender equity were to be achieved there. I suggest that women’s low status in most of South Asia is linked to their poor economic position in several regards. First is women’s economic dependency: few women earn income, and even fewer control it. Second, the predominant South Asian kinship/ property system disadvantages females: as noted above, descent is patrilineal, and males are favored in inheritance (de facto, if no longer de jure, as in India today, where equal inheritance laws have been passed but may not be widely observed in practice). In addition, residence is patrilocal—the bride goes to live with/near the groom’s male kin. In most cases, this means that she arrives in his father’s house without kin, allies, or friends, the lowest in rank. These multiple disadvantages for women that flow from the kinship/ property system are rarely mentioned in the nutrition literature on the region. The economic power and kin/property variables interact, but South Asian females’ economic dependency seems crucial. Women and teenage girls are much less likely to generate and control income than male counterparts. Since so few adolescent girls earn income, they are more likely to be viewed as economic burdens than productive, assetproducing members of either their natal household or that of their new in-laws. In fact, this is part of the reason that South Asia has the highest proportion of underweight, poorly nourished adolescent girls on the planet (UNICEF 2012). Their poor nutritional status is likely tied in with their parents’ valuation of them as expenses, not assets. Norms are also a factor: in the absence of girls’ economic value, conventional gender norms about their marriage and motherhood are not challenged (as happened in the Ecuadorian



example, when some parents urged daughters to delay marriage and keep working). Instead, these traditional norms retain their strength. Thus, adolescent girls (who often are quite underweight) are married off very young: South Asia has the world’s highest proportion of teens that marry and give birth. If a bride arrives as an economic liability rather than an asset, her husband’s family will expect a first child within a year (and a lot of housework labor in the interim). Sadly, such teen births are estimated to have maternal mortality rates two to five times greater than those of adult women (Sethuraman and Duvvury 2007). South Asia also has the world’s highest proportion of low birth weight (LBW) babies: some estimates indicate a third; others range from a quarter to half (Sethuraman and Duvvury 2007). Factors associated with LBW babies are too-young maternal age and low pre-pregnancy weight (ibid.). LBW is also directly associated with the mother’s malnutrition during pregnancy, and South Asian women gain an average of only 5 kg. (11 pounds) during pregnancy. This compares to the 10 kg. (22 pounds) recommended by experts (World Bank 2009). LBW babies are prone to cognitive and health problems that last a lifetime, including a higher risk of early-onset heart disease starting in middle age. Enhancing the economic power of women and girls might help reduce all of these problems. For example, in Bangladesh, BRAC runs a path-breaking Economic Livelihoods for Adolescents (ELA) program. It was cleverly introduced by first gaining support of local imams and community leaders. The teen girls are taught income-generating activities and are eligible for microcredit loans, but the program also gives them a social space where they can read for pleasure and socialize with other girls their age (Shahnaz and Karim 2008). Among the relevant outcomes were, first, the parents’ growing dependency on their daughters due to the income training and loans they received, and, second, reduced early marriage. To reiterate, the evidence makes it crystal clear that income under female (versus male) control is more likely to be used for nutrition. Perhaps the most dramatic data come from Patrice Engle’s (1995) econometric research in Guatemala and Nicaragua. She found that it would take an extra $166 per month in income earned by a father to equal the improvement in a child’s nutrition24 brought by an extra $11.40 per month earned by a mother. And among Grameen Bank microloan clients in Bangladesh, nutrition was significantly better among female borrowers’ children than those of male borrowers (Khandker 1998; Pitt and Khandker 1998).25 So, the BRAC ELA approach is definitely on the right track.

D E AT H : A B R I E F S P E C U L AT I O N A B O U T G E N D E R , E N V I R O N M E N T, A N D G E N O C I D E I N RWA N D A

The fourth horseman represents death. In my first paper that explored women’s economic disempowerment (Blumberg 2008/9), I examined Jared Diamond’s 2005 recasting of the Rwandan genocide as an ecological catastrophe (versus the usual explanation that it

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was caused by ethnic hatred of the Tutsis by the Hutus). I then looked at both interpretations through a gender lens and came up with my own view. Here I give just a short summary of my speculative argument. In about 100 days from early April into July 1994, an estimated 800,000 people— overwhelmingly Tutsi, and approximately one-tenth of all Rwandans—died at the hands of (overwhelmingly male) Hutu extremists. Most analyses ascribe the genocide to ethnic conflict between the Hutu (84 percent of the population) and the Tutsi (15 percent and once highly favored by the Belgian colonialists; Twa pygmies, the original inhabitants, are 1 percent [CIA 2015c]). The Tutsi were originally herders, and the Belgians enhanced their position as feudal overlords of the hoe horticulturalist Hutus. Land scarcity might have also added to ethnic hatred as a cause of the genocide. Diamond goes further: he minimizes the ethnic explanation and focuses on land pressure and ecological degradation. He cites the fact that, in Rwanda’s western region, where there were almost no Tutsis, Hutu extremists killed Hutu neighbors mainly for their land. He argues that the seeds of genocide were planted when inheritance changed from primogeniture by the oldest male to all sons inheriting equally, which soon led to “parcelization”—tiny farms too small to be viable. Diamond, however, ignores the fact that both groups are patrilineal/patrilocal (as are 75 percent of sub-Saharan ethnic groups; see Eloundou-Enyegue and Calves 2006, using data from Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas). So, women did not inherit land; rather, their use rights had to come from their husband or his male kin. Now let us look through that gender lens. In the mid-1980s, Rwanda’s total fertility rate was over 8 children per woman (it was ca. 4.5 in 2013 [World Bank 2015a]). By 1990, it was Africa’s most densely populated country. Also, more than half the population is Catholic, and the Church did not (and does not) back modern contraception. One study found that women do 74.1 percent of family labor in (mainly hoe horticultural) farming (Von Braun, de Haen, and Blanken 1991), but it was mostly unpaid labor so it did not give them economic clout.26 And men controlled the land and Church. In sum, women lacked the economic power that might have given them greater influence in both curbing their fertility and controlling intensifying patterns of deforestation, soil exhaustion, and erosion. Women could not apply brakes to an accelerating express train—driven by men—of overpopulation, land scarcity, and environmental degradation. At the end of the track, ethnicity provided the spark that blew up the train. Partly because of the genocide, Rwanda adopted quotas for women in Parliament. Women currently hold 64 percent of lower house seats, the world’s highest (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2015)—and they have over 40 percent of cabinet posts and constitute over 50 percent of the judiciary (NPR 2014). But how much power do those women actually wield in this state dominated by its president/head of state Paul Kagame? Is it enough to give them enforceable rights to land? A 1999 law excluded land inheritance in granting women equal inheritance rights. Now “women are able to own land,” according to a 2014 NPR broadcast on the twenty-year remembrance of the genocide. Yet approximately


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90 percent of Rwandans live from mainly subsistence farming (CIA 2015c), and it is not clear how many women actually control rural land, since both main ethnic groups are patrilineal/patrilocal and land remains the most important livelihood resource. Nor is it clear that recent changes allowing for both spouses’ names on the title changed perceptions in rural areas that men are still the legitimate landholders.27 Rwanda’s economy— but not its land—has tripled since 1994. Will the female members of Parliament be able to change men’s de facto (versus de jure) near-total control of land?28


The price of oil has fluctuated wildly up and down, from over $106 for a 42-gallon barrel when I drafted a first version of this article in June 2014, to the mid-$40s, where it has been hovering as I finish in October 2015. Though few see a quick return to $100 or more, petroleum’s volatility is so great that it is useful to review Shankar Vedantam’s case (2008) that rising oil prices feed patriarchy and undermine women’s economic position. He bases his argument on studies by Michael Ross (2008) and Lisa Blaydes and Drew Linzer (2008). Ross’s work draws on four decades of data from 169 countries. When oil prices soar (e.g., they reached $147 a barrel in July 2008), oil-producing countries get “rich atop a tidal wave of foreign currency” that “strengthens their currencies and makes it easier for them to buy everything from textiles to cars from other nations, instead of manufacturing such goods at home” (Vedantam 2008). That fossil fuel and mineral wealth stunt a country’s manufacturing is well known; it is called the “Dutch disease.” (Ross gives a good summary of this; the “disease” also boosts [male] construction in oil countries.) Ross finds that oil producers in MENA have lower female labor force rates—especially in low-wage light manufacturing such as textiles—than oil-poor nations in the region (e.g., Tunisia and Morocco). But he does not cite Moghadam, who was the first to document this (see, e.g., Moghadam 1995). Ross further claims that it is oil wealth, not Islam, that is the main reason countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have such regressive gender policies (e.g., with respect to the vote; in addition, Saudi Arabian women still are not permitted to drive). He shows how this oil bonanza harms women economically, as well. Low-wage manufacturing jobs, especially in textile/garment production, have been the usual entry point into the labor force for poor women, and these jobs dry up in an oil boom. Instead, jobs in maleoriented construction industries rise sharply. Ross found that, as a nation’s oil profits skyrocket, the number of women in the labor force invariably drops in the next year. Vedantam also discusses the work by Blaydes and Linzer (2008). The latter indicates that a lack of jobs for women in oil-producing nations is associated with more support for religious fundamentalism. Blaydes and Linzer analyzed eighteen Muslim nations and found that women who lacked financial independence and job opportunities were more likely to support fundamentalist movements. Vedantam (2008) quotes Blaydes:

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Women who don’t have good job opportunities create economic security for themselves by becoming better marriage-market candidates. . . . They try to show how pious they are because there is a value for piety on the marriage market. When there is a large gap between men’s and women’s wages, you see higher support for fundamentalism cross-nationally.

Is it coincidence that the so-called Islamic State group has made the greatest conquests of territory in Syria and Iraq, where only 14 and 15 percent of women, respectively, are in the labor force (World Bank 2015a)? Both countries were significant oil producers before being ripped asunder by conflict. Indeed, it is easy to look at a map and identify most of the world’s current hot spots as involving places where most women remain or are being kept economically dependent.


Some sociologists remain skeptical that earning income helps women. This is partly because of older studies such as that by Maria Mies (1982); she found that homeworker female lace makers in India toiled hard but the men kept all the money. This is precisely why I focus on control of income. But the empirical record is compelling, even without the backup of theory I have presented.29 It shows that women generally do benefit from income they earn and that increasing income that goes directly into women’s hands (e.g., via personal bank accounts and mobile phone banking) empowers them. Even when discount factors cut into the clout women get from their income, their “net economic power” (Blumberg and Coleman 1989) is greater than the skeptics would have guessed. So let us look at the two biggest development vehicles for women’s economic power: microfinance institutions (MFIs) and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs).30 There was a recent debacle with for-profit programs in India,31 but almost all MFIs remain nonprofit to this day. The growth of microcredit has been astounding. From near zero in the early 1980s, the number of clients rose to around 205 million by the end of 2010.32 About two-thirds of these were classified as “among the poorest when they took their first loan,” and over 80 percent of the poorest were women. The average client family consisted of five members, so, roughly, more than 650 million very poor people were affected (Maes and Reed 2012, 9). Indeed, by the same metric, the households of over 200 million clients total a billion people, nearly one-seventh of the world population. “Feminization of microfinance” has been a big part of MFI success: now these loans go overwhelmingly to women—based on their better use of the funds and lower rates of arrears (Blumberg 2001b). There are critics, to be sure, such as Aminur Rahman (1999), who found that, in one Bangladesh village, men were taking 60 percent of the loan proceeds obtained by their wives—which the wife remained responsible for repaying even if he did not give her money to do so. But, overall, most studies show a preponderance of benefits from the “best practices” MFIs going mainly to women (see Blumberg 2001b and Otero and Rhyne 1994 for discussions of these practices).33


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CCT programs are now in more than thirty nations (World Bank 2012). Brazil’s effective Bolsa Familia is the biggest, serving some 14 million families (ca. 50 million people) in a population of approximately 204 million (Bruha 2014). Most CCTs target the mothers for transfers aimed at bettering children’s education and/or health. And studies comparing giving money to the woman versus the man find greater positive impact if the money goes to the woman (see, e.g., Davis et al. 2002). More children stay in school and their health improves as women make sure their sons and daughters meet school attendance requirements and the health check-ups that are the CCT “conditions.” A variation in Bangladesh also merits mention: programs that gave cash to women for work in local road rehabilitation boosted their household power in nontraditional spheres (e.g., money management), not just in domestic issues (Ahmed et al. 2009). In sum, CCTs involve governments, whereas most MFIs are nonprofit organizations, but both provide money mostly to women. Combined, they constitute the biggest direct monetary boost to poor women in human history, and almost all research shows how much this has helped their children. I argue that it has also often helped the women themselves as well as their communities and nations. I want to reiterate here that work is not enough: female-controlled income really matters for household clout. It is worth repeating Acharya and Bennett’s (1981, 1982, 1983) findings in Nepal that only women who controlled income gained a stronger say in household economic, farm management, and domestic decisions; the amount of work women did in unpaid subsistence farm work was neutral with respect to their voice in decisionmaking, and the amount of domestic housework they did was actually negatively related to their say. Almost all of us can think of couples among our acquaintances where the women’s income or lack of it was unrelated to their influence in household decisions. But research shows that, on average, money does amplify one’s “voice and vote” in family decisionmaking. Regarding the effects of violence, Caprioli (2000, 2005) and others who introduced gender variables into the international datasets used to study macro-level armed conflict found them stronger than most variables used in “mainstream” (gender-blind) analyses (Hudson et al. 2009). They also found that the relationship between war and women’s position was inverse. Looking at the world’s fragile and failing states, most share a number of traits: not only armed conflict but also patriarchy, low female economic and, often, educational levels, high or medium high fertility, large proportions of unemployed young men, and an amazing prevalence of weapons.34 These are problems too big for a few MFIs and CCTs to put a dent in. But unless much of the country in question is made a shooting gallery or worse by the conflict, so that women’s economic activities are stymied by the horror of “war close to home” (Collins 1971; Blumberg 2015b), programs that put money into women’s hands should still have positive effects, even if muted. At the micro-level, the World Bank (2012) indicates that a spike in violence against women caused by, say, a CCT is not inevitable. Nor is it usually long-lasting. This is in line with my hypotheses and data on the inverse relationship between male domestic violence

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against women and women’s consolidated (i.e., well-established) control of income and economic resources (Blumberg 1978, 1984, 2004a). In sum, force seems to flourish where female power—especially economic power—does not. And vice versa. In short, there seems to be an economy of life and well-being associated with women having economic power. The converse is also often true: male-run economies lead to female dependency and all the negatives this entails; and, currently, in the worst cases in MENA and South Asia, a men’s economy is rife with violence, death, extremist movements, and oppression of women. The Islamic State has imposed such a system in much of Syria and Iraq. Worldwide, however, an increasing number of women are earning and controlling at least some income—many times more than the number of men currently engaged in armed conflict. And this may help ameliorate another growing global problem, as well: environmental degradation. Would increasing women’s economic power save the planet? It would probably help. More research is needed, but rural women with more economic leverage seem to have more say in environmental and land-use decisions than women with less economic power, and they tend to opt for more conservation (Blumberg 2008). I myself have seen this at work in the Central Andes of Ecuador and atop a mountain in northern Thailand. I have also seen how women who were not economically empowered had less say in environmental decisions in the buffer zone of an Ecuadorian environmental reserve, as well as how their lack of access to family planning was making them unwilling producers of large numbers of babies that might well grow up to deforest the neighboring ecological reserve—which sits on some of the most biodiverse land on Earth. The evidence indicates that women often opt for better, more ecofriendly stewardship (Blumberg 2008). In part, this is because in nearly all rural areas, it is women (sometimes helped by an older daughter reluctantly pulled out of school for the purpose) who bring most of the firewood and most of the water for household use. They often spend hours every day at this and, in my experience, have a keen awareness that deforestation reduces rainfall and water tables. They see that cutting down the trees makes collecting firewood an increasingly time-consuming endeavor, covering longer and longer distances. They see, also, that it all too frequently makes their well unusable (if, say, the water table has fallen below the bore hole) and forces them to go much farther to get water from an often contaminated stream. For example, in March–April 2010, in northern Uganda, I did the baseline study for the first development project after the ceasefire that ended twenty-three years of war with the horrific Lord’s Resistance Army (Blumberg 2010). I interviewed people in six villages35 to which they had recently returned after the government pushed most able-bodied people out of the Internally Displaced Person camps. They made their way back on overgrown, undrivable roads to villages that had been largely deforested by the LRA and/or government troops and where the wells were no longer deep enough to draw water. The average woman, I ascertained, had to make two trips per day to a stream averaging several kilometers away, bringing back 55 pounds of water each trip: she would carry


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a 20-liter jerry can on her head (i.e., 44 pounds) and a 5-liter jerry can in her hand (i.e., another 11 pounds), for a daily total of 110 pounds of water, which was barely enough for her family’s minimum needs. Those women understood the connection between deforestation and environmental degradation because they paid the consequences every day. But economic power amplifies women’s say, including in conservation matters from the home and village to the global level. And this could be very significant as climate fluctuations increase and heat rises on all continents and bodies of water. To conclude by once again invoking popular culture, Star Trek’s Spock frequently raises his hand in the “V” greeting of Vulcan, his native planet: “live long and prosper.” This chapter first linked women’s control of money and other assets to nearly “magic potion” outcomes for gender equality, development, and well-being. Then it linked women’s lack of economic resources to the “poison potion” opposite, including harming the ecology (Blumberg 2008). Doubling down on the “magic potion” strategy would seem to give both Mother Earth and most of us a better chance to “live long and prosper.”


1. I have worked in Ecuador nearly thirty times since 1989, totaling about 1.5 years, including five times with NTAEs. 2. Mick Conefrey (2015) found that only 41 percent of current flower sales are going to the United States, coupled with a drop in exports to economically troubled Russia, whereas plantations in East Africa, which are closer to European markets, are booming. 3. Patrilineal descent is reckoned through males; in patrilocal residence, the bride lives with/near the groom’s male kin, usually far from family or friends. Rural women rarely have de facto land rights, no matter the inheritance law. 4. Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) give money, almost always to the woman, in return for children’s regular school attendance, health visits, or other conditions. They are mostly successful, but these interventions may be short term. 5. In ethnographic research on Muslim, Hindu, and “rishti” (low-caste) Bangladeshi villages where all women had microcredit loans, Fauzia Ahmed (2008) found that husbands commonly beat their wives but that a few did not and treated their wives more equally; she recommends using such men to change other men as a highly cost-effective way to curb domestic violence. The men’s violence may not be immutable, however: where women have well-established control of income, they are less likely to be beaten (Blumberg 1978, in a sixtyone-society sample; Blumberg 2004a); indeed, the strongest predictor of violence against women is economic dependence (Levinson 1989, in a ninety-society sample); and, in Mexico, there was an initial spike in wife beating when women first received income from a CCT program; other CCT programs have since avoided this via proactive measures (World Bank 2012, 34). More generally, some laws can constrain women’s economic activities, whereas other laws and government policies, including those against domestic violence, can help their economic empowerment as well (World Bank 2014b). Valentine Moghadam’s chapter in this volume discusses government policies and programs affecting women.

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6. Parity has been defined as 97 of either gender to 100 of the other (UNESCO 2015). 7. Where a woman cannot control her own body (i.e., is not permitted or able to access modern contraception), she is likely to have more children than she would choose. And if she is unable to control when she has her first child, or how far apart her children are born, let alone the number, most of her other life chances are dramatically reduced. 8. Not only do women with provider responsibilities tend to spend more on their children, but they also tend to hold back less for themselves than counterpart men (e.g., Mencher 1988 found this in twenty villages in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, India; so did Roldan 1988 in Mexico City). But where women have no obligations as providers, they may spend income on, for example, jewelry (Maher 1981 found this in Morocco) or jewelry and clothes for themselves and their children (Dey 1981 saw this among the Serahuli of the Gambia). It should be noted that jewelry may be pawned or sold if needed. In fact, women’s assets merit more attention— and measurement (Doss, Grown, and Deere 2008). 9. Among the early studies are Kumar 1978 (South India) and Tripp 1981 (Northern Ghana). Then came Guyer 1988 (Cameroon), Thomas 1990 (Brazil), and Engle 1995 (Guatemala and Nicaragua). The number of such studies has soared since. 10. My partial list includes Blumberg et al. 1992 (Santiago, Chile); Thomas 1997 (Brazil); Quisumbing and Maluccio 1999 (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and South Africa); Panjaitin and Cloud 1999 (Indonesia); Blumberg 2001b (Ecuador); Davis et al. 2002 (Mexico); Ahmed et al. 2009 (Bangladesh); Helen Keller International 2010 (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, and the Philippines); Alam 2012 (Bangladesh); and Shroff et al. 2011 (India). Another recent list compiled by the World Bank (2012, 39–44) includes (in their order) Haddad, Hoddinott and Alderman 1997 (a few of the seventeen articles discuss countries such as India, Pakistan, and the Gambia, but a good share of contributors are economists constructing or critiquing different models); Katz and Chamorro 2003 (Nicaragua and Honduras); Duflo 2003 (South Africa); Hoddinott and Haddad 1995 (Cote d’Ivoire); Lundberg, Pollak, and Wales 1997 (United Kingdom); Attanasio and Lechene 2002 (Mexico); Rubalcava, Teruel, and Thomas 2009 (Mexico); Doss 2006 (Ghana); and Schady and Rosero 2008 (Mexico). 11. IH societies are those that cultivate with the hoe; IA ones use the plow. The reason that much of sub-Saharan Africa continues to rely on hoe cultivation (done primarily by women), rather than the plow, is because of poor geographic luck: much of it has soils too thin to permit plow cultivation, which needs much deeper soils, since the plow bites so much deeper into the ground. Where soils are deeper, plow cultivation has been adopted almost uniformly, since it permits much higher yields (Blumberg 2009). 12. According to United Nations 2010, however, fifty-nine nations were already below replacement fertility of ca. 2.1 children per woman, including some developing countries. Where this happens, it is a looming problem for everyone’s future since such low fertility means fewer young workers to support longer-living older cohorts. Most very poor nations still have growth-sapping high fertility, though, so increasing female control of income there will help to curb it. 13. Jeanne Henn’s 1988 study in Cameroon of a village that got a road versus one that did not shows women working harder for seemingly small incentives: in the village with the new road, women increased their time producing newly marketable perishable foods far more than men, even though the women already worked more hours per week and the men’s plantains


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and bananas were much more profitable. But those women earned an average net income of $570 from selling food crops, versus only $225 earned by the women in the village that did not get a road (Henn 1988, 323). Microcredit is a far more common example of women seeking even small incentives; the women are also likelier to make payments on time, resulting in microfinance projects’ tendency to feminize (as I will revisit in the final section of this chapter). 14. Poor women in patriarchal societies rarely have viable exit options. It is socially unacceptable and dangerous to live alone, but few have parents or brothers they can live with long-term; remarriage is iffy; and jobs are scarce. 15. I have likened the precondition of working in a society’s main economic activities to a toll that gets you onto the metaphorical Yellow Brick Road that leads to the Emerald City of Oz—in this case, gaining economic power from that work and translating it to greater gender equality. 16. See Nolan and Lenski 2011 and Blumberg 2009 and 2015a concerning the gender division of labor in human societies prior to and after the invention of the plow. 17. Jared Diamond (1997) says that all but one of the twenty-five major species we have domesticated originated there, including the most valuable (i.e., cattle/oxen, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels). 18. Dry farming is also the traditional system in northern parts of East Asia and all of Europe. It was brought to the New World and Australia/New Zealand by Europeans—who came with their bilateral kin/property systems, not the unilineal-patriarchal systems of MENA/South Asia that also are found in East Asia. The European bilateral kin/property system and, in colonies, initial frontier conditions meant that women were rarely as uninvolved in economic livelihood pursuits or as bereft of property as in MENA/South Asia and in East Asia. 19. The United States is an “outlier” here. In recent history, it has both high proportions of women in the labor force and a number of international armed conflicts. 20. The little rectangle of the burqa over the eyes does not allow peripheral vision. Women see through thick, cross-hatched fibers, which make things look fuzzy. An unknown number of women are hit by drivers they did not see or by drivers who did not see them in their blue burqas at dawn or dusk, or when it is raining. 21. Even once on anti-retrovial therapies, women are disadvantaged and more at risk. The medications must be taken on a full stomach and consistently, or the virus can develop resistance. Poor women are more likely to feed their children first and so take a pill on an empty stomach, or to feed their children instead of paying bus fare to get to the clinic to get more medication—even if those meds are free. 22. Women are considered more biologically vulnerable to infection from a single act of unprotected intercourse. In a review article, Ravinder Sachdeva and Ajay Wanchu estimate women’s biological vulnerability as “at least two to four times greater than men’s” (2006, 129). In Kenya and Zambia, J. R. Glynn and her colleagues (2001) found sexually active females, aged 15–19, had an infection rate six times that of same-age males. In South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Thomas Quinn and Julie Overbaugh (2005) found that young women aged 15–24 were three to six times more likely to be infected than same-age men. 23. As Emma Ross asserts: “The inequality women face—from poverty and stunted education, to rape and denial of women’s inheritance and property rights—is a major obstacle to victory over the virus” (2004, A3).

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24. For example, an increase of half a standard deviation on height for age. 25. Duncan Thomas (1990, 1997) also found that income in the mother’s hands is even more important for child survival than for nutrition: almost twenty times as large for survival, compared to four to eight times as large for nutritional measures. 26. In horticultural cultivation, which predominates in Rwanda and most of sub-Saharan Africa, women are primary or equal farmers who raise up to 70 percent of locally grown food crops (see, e.g., Saito and Weidemann 1990). 27. During a discussion of papers given at a session of the International Sociological Association Research Committee 09 in Yokohama, Japan, in July 2014, two unidentified scholars who had recently done separate studies in rural Rwanda responded to a paper describing new land reforms that improved women’s land rights there; the scholars stated that villagers still saw the man as the legitimate landholder, even if his spouse’s name was also on the title. 28. Fairly recently, new female land rights laws remained in limbo in most African nations; customary laws still prevailed almost everywhere in the largely patrilineal and rural societies, despite such new laws (Blumberg 2004c). 29. Mine is one of four structural-comparative general theories of gender stratification; see also those by Janet Chafetz (e.g., 1984, 1990, 1991), Randall Collins (1971, 1975; Collins et al. 1993), and Joan Huber (1991, 2007). Mine is the only one with economic power as the key factor, so it is best suited to making the case for it. Space limits preclude presenting the others. 30. Projects putting women into formal sector jobs (versus informal sector microenterprises) are less common. 31. The big tragedy occurred in Andhra Pradesh State, India (though Compartamos, a Mexican profit-making MFI, was the first to put out an IPO to attract shareholders, and it was much criticized for its exorbitant interest rates). SKS, an Andhra Pradesh for-profit MFI, also floated an IPO. Then, to make money for its investors, it gave many women multiple loans beyond their ability to repay and used ultra-aggressive collection techniques. Tragically, some 200 women who could not repay their loans committed suicide in 2010. SKS collapsed, nearly taking down India’s numerous nonprofit MFIs as well. Muhammad Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for creating Bangladesh’s famed Grameen Bank that launched the microcredit revolution, denounced the for-profit MFIs in The New York Times (Yunus 2011). 32. There were about 204 million clients at the end of 2012 (Reed 2014). 33. I researched microfinance in sixteen of the forty-five countries in which I have worked, and I always found that benefits much outweighed negatives so long as the MFIs followed “best practices.” But, if the model is “subsidized credit,” programs invariably fail (Adams 1971, 1984) and beneficiaries are mainly men (Blumberg 2001b). I also worked with Indo-Aryan Hindu women in southern Nepal (in the terai) who proudly described how they got a loan to help their husbands (e.g., to buy a new bicycle rickshaw to transport people and goods) but viewed it as a “family” business. And they described how they learned and benefitted from the 2 or more hours each fortnight they spent at the meetings, making their payments but also socializing and learning about business practices, health, and other useful knowledge. Most of the studies criticizing MFIs because wives turn over a high percentage of loans to husbands are from India or Bangladesh. Loans diverted to husbands are less common in less


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patriarchal countries (such as Latin America or Southeast Asia). Research is needed on benefits going to women using loans versus those giving the money to husbands (but who still participate in MFI activities and may feel proud of contributing to household welfare). 34. I have worked in Afghanistan and a dozen other conflict/post-conflict countries. Most fit this description fairly well. 35. Although I still sometimes do survey and quantitative research (I originally studied chemistry/chemical engineering in college and started my sociological research as a “quant”), in recent years I have most frequently used my own version of “rapid appraisal” (Beebe 2001; Blumberg 2002). This was how I carried out most of the NTAE research in Ecuador, the two Afghanistan final evaluations, and the northern Uganda baseline study. Validity in rapid appraisals is based on “triangulation”: having a limited number of variables/issues, with at least two sources of information for each, ideally generated by two different methodological techniques (such as key informant interviews, focus groups, participant observation, content analysis of documents, reanalysis of datasets, or a “last step” survey after most issues have been resolved). See Blumberg 2015a for a further discussion of rapid appraisals.


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Thomas K. Rudel

Beginning in the eighteenth century, the scale of human activities began an unprecedented expansion that continues to this day. The population increased from several hundred million to more than seven billion people. Economic activity increased multiple times over. For example, the volume of international trade increased between 1950 and 2006 by five times for agricultural products, ten times for minerals, and more than fifty times for manufactured products (World Trade Organization 2007). Echoing Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation (1944), sociologists have begun referring to this massive set of interlinked changes as “the great acceleration” (Rosa and Dietz 2010). This set of changes also marks our entry into the Anthropocene, the age of human domination on Earth. Others might describe these changes as the continuation of two centuries of “development.” Terminology aside, this scaling up of the human enterprise has had manifold effects on almost all aspects of human life, especially on the ways in which humans use land. This review of the interrelationships between development and land use begins with a description of the classical theories about central places that hypothesize about the ways development affects land use. To understand these historical dynamics, we need to supplement central place theories with two sets of additional drivers, one largely economic and the other predominantly political. The economic drivers manifest themselves in the values of individual parcels or clusters of parcels. Although they involve globalization, they occur in increments with the expansion of markets. They involve farmers on frontiers, rural-urban migrants, landowners making more intense use of their lands, and


rival groups contesting each other’s plans for land-use changes. The political drivers occur in historical waves and involve many nation-states. The rapid expansion of colonial empires in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the rapid decolonization of the Global South following World War II, and the spread of neoliberal political philosophies during the past thirty years have all shaped the development/land-use link in profound ways. Hopefully, central place theory—coupled with the sets of economic and political drivers—will provide readers with a framework for understanding how land uses have changed as part of the great acceleration and how, given this framework, landuse patterns might be expected to change in the coming decades. The chapter begins by discussing two variants of central place theory that offer useful points of departure for understanding land-use changes during the past two centuries. Then it describes economic changes that farmers and other landowners have experienced with the globalization of economies and the urbanization of populations. This focus includes a review of land-use dynamics on frontiers, in urbanizing societies, with intensifying land uses, and increasingly combative sets of neighboring land users. Descriptions of three waves of political transformations with their impacts on land use follow. The rapid expansion of colonial empires, their disintegration after World War II, and the widespread acceptance during the late twentieth century of neoliberal politicaleconomic philosophies all have shaped land uses in ways distinct from economic dynamics. The chapter concludes with a somewhat speculative analysis about the ways in which these economic and political dynamics might intersect during an era of climate change to shape land-use changes in unprecedented ways.


The grand narratives about industrialization, modernization, and development by the classical theorists (Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Émile Durkheim) provide comprehensive theories about the ways in which social fabrics change with development, but they do not, for the most part, discuss issues of development and land use. Marx does discuss the metabolic relationship that emerges between urban and rural places with industrialization (Marx [1863–65] 1981; Foster 1999). Neither Weber nor Durkheim talk about the direct effects of the natural environment on societies, but at least in Durkheim’s case there are clear ways in which his theories about division of labor and specialization can be extended from people to plots of land (Durkheim [1893] 1997). As people become more specialized in their skill sets, plots of land become more specialized in their uses, devoted to one or another activity. Although these links between the grand theories of development and land use exist, other strands of theorizing, most notably central place theory, provide the most intellectually fruitful point of departure for exploring the connections between development and land-use changes. Two types of central place theory offer the most explicit accounts



about the ways in which political and economic development shape land uses. Writing during the first half of the nineteenth century, Johann-Friedrich von Thunen ([1826] 1966) developed the first version of central place theory. He reasoned that variations in transportation costs to a center city would explain variations in land uses in the surrounding rural area. As distance from center cities increases, the costs of transporting any product to market would increase, and for this reason the rents on the land would decline. Land uses would intensify as one approaches a city. For example, a belt of dairy farms would begin right outside a city’s walls because the perishable quality of dairy products requires that producers minimize the time that the product spends in transit by locating as closely as possible to consumers in cities. As distance from the city increases, the income earning opportunities from agriculture dwindle because progressively more of the potential profits from growing a crop get spent on transportation to the market. Eventually, farmers cannot earn a profit on any crops grown in a remote locale, so these places remain uncultivated and frequently forested. Needless to say, the land values in these remote locales approach zero. With growth in the human population in central places, increases in economic activity, and the introduction of new transportation technologies, the feasible area for cultivation expands, and people move into these frontier regions. Globalization, understood as the spread of supra-territorial connectivity (Scholte 2005), occurs and, with it, extensive areas of hitherto remote areas in the tropics are deforested (Lambin et al. 2001). Robert Park, Ernest Burgess, and Roderick McKenzie (1925) elaborated a somewhat similar theory with application to urban areas. Although typically considered a “human ecology,” their concentric zone theory presumes the existence of central places that are growing in size, so it is easy to reconceive the emergence of these zones as part of the great acceleration. Park and his coauthors reasoned that “like attracts like,” so similar activities, social classes, and ethnic groups would concentrate in the same zone. The zones would emerge in a concentric pattern around the central business districts of cities. Growth coalitions of bankers, farmers, realtors, and public officials would promote the outward expansion of metropolitan areas and profit from the conversion of farms and forests into subdivisions of single family homes (Logan and Molotch 2007). As metropolitan areas expand, the zones also move outward. Beginning in the 1930s, people in the predominantly upper-class zones began to use controls over land use to erect barriers to entry to their communities. In this manner, the outer zones of many metropolitan areas gradually became exclusive residential communities for wealthy families (Rudel 1989). Both versions of central place theory have clear applications to developing societies. The patterns of tropical deforestation over the past four decades can be reconceptualized in terms of changes in the agriculture/forest margins as urban areas in the developing world have expanded outward (Angelsen 2007). Although concentric zone theory has not been widely applied in the Global South, the economic dynamics that drive the process would seem to apply. For example, the restoration of colonial architecture in the center



cities of South America has encouraged the creation of warehouse districts in the outlying areas of the cities. In a similar dynamic, the flower industry has created greenhouse districts in close proximity to the airport in Bogota, Colombia, in order to minimize the ground transportation time from the greenhouses to urban consumers in advanced industrial societies. Central place and concentric zone theories provide explanations for important features of human land-use patterns, but they miss essential empirical features of the changing relationship between development and land use, both those that unfold over time among parcels of land in more or less linear fashion and those that have emerged in more episodic fashion at the larger scales of national politics. The following sections of this chapter outline these missing empirical dimensions and suggest how they might be incorporated, along with central place theory, into a more comprehensive theory about the ways that land uses change during the course of development.


With the introduction of new technologies of transportation like railroads, steamships, airplanes, and trucks, the forest/agriculture margin in von Thunen’s theory kept moving into progressively more remote settings, from coastal locations to the interior of continents, for instance. The spread of agriculture into these places followed a predictable sequence, as outlined by Francois Ruf (2001). The growth in overseas markets for an agricultural commodity like cocoa, coupled with transportation improvements, opens up new regions for settlement and cultivation. (For example, during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, coastal West Africa, the Pacific lowlands of Ecuador, and the outer islands of Indonesia all experienced surges in cocoa cultivation.) Migrants from other rural areas and sometimes from other countries move to the area, deforest the land, and plant the crop. The initial yields are high because the lands, having been forested for long periods of time, contain abundant subsoil organic matter. The boom in cocoa production floods the markets, driving down prices for it. At the same time, yields fall because soil fertility declines with continuous cultivation and pests begin to infest the crops. Invasive species like imperata grass (Imperata cylindrica) and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) become more common in these now disturbed landscapes. The labor force grows old and finds it progressively more difficult to open up new lands for production. The fall in prices for the commodity ceases with the decline in production and then begins to rise. The price rise spurs other migrants to open up new frontier regions for cocoa cultivation, spurring another cocoa boom, but this time in different regions of the tropics. These lands had only vaguely demarcated boundaries between small populations of indigenous peoples before the cocoa boom. Once the settlers arrived, they partitioned the



land, but few people acquired secure titles to their newly partitioned plots of land. Only when the price of land rose considerably, as it often does in close proximity to cities, would landowners spend substantial sums of money to acquire a secure title to land (Alston, Libecap, and Mueller 1999). Most smallholders did not have the means to acquire secure titles to land, so tenure insecurity became a pervasive condition across remote rural areas. The returns to labor in frontier regions varied wildly, with outright exploitation in the form of slavery and indentured labor common in many of the early tropical frontiers where planters, for example, exploited slave labor to produce sugar (Mintz 1985). In the more populist frontiers organized around small independent producers of coffee, wheat, and corn, family labor provided most of the labor for production (Chayanov 1966). The state was largely absent from this narrative of land-use change. Only during the latter half of the twentieth century did the state begin to play a prominent role in assisting cultivators on frontiers through the provision of roads, ports, or railroads to transport crops to markets. Additional episodes of resource partitioning occurred on the fringes of cities when real estate developers converted forests and fields into building lots for suburban neighborhoods. There, as in rural frontiers, people sought competitive advantages by being the first to claim and exploit choice natural resources. This dynamic has led some observers to talk about “crabgrass frontiers” (Jackson 1985). On an international scale, the pace of outward expansion in metropolitan areas roughly followed the rate of economic growth, with Asian countries having experienced the most dramatic growth in the geographical extent of urban areas over the past twenty-five years (Seto et al. 2012a). The continuing expansion of urban areas seems to hinge on a trade-off between the synergistic effects of interactions between clustered people as opposed to the interference and conflict generated by the close proximity of people. That close proximity in cities generates opportunities and creates interferences (negative externalities) that spur demands for collective action (Bettencourt 2013).


Development occurred unevenly across nations throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and land-use trends varied accordingly. While frontiers in one area, like southern Brazil, would be expanding, frontiers in another place, like the lower forty-eight states in the United States, would be closing (Turner [1893] 1920). In those nations that became early centers for industrial production, industrialization and urbanization triggered forest transitions. The free land in frontier settings disappeared, and industrial expansion in cities began to lure workers away from rural areas. With these changes, net deforestation declined and then gave way to net reforestation in a locale. Two dynamics drove the reforestation of rural areas. First, farmers became better acquainted over time with the production capabilities of the fields on their farms. As the capabilities of fields became better known, farmers chose to retire their least productive lands from production



(Mather and Needle 1998). These fields then reverted to forests in at least some instances. Second, the dynamic that leads to forest regrowth also involved losses of labor in many cases. The increase in manufacturing employment and the improved provision of important services like medical care in nearby cities pulled farm laborers off of the land. In response to the loss of labor, farmers cut back on the extent of their operations, abandoning agriculture on their least productive lands. At the same time, shanty-towns grew in size on the outskirts of the growing cities. In some societies, disparities in the quality of services like schools and hospitals between urban and rural districts have fueled an “urbanization without industrialization,” leading to what some have called the “overurbanization” of societies (Hoselitz 1955; Mohanty 2014). The number of nations characterized by forest transitions has grown over the past two centuries. The first transitions occurred in the old industrial societies of Western Europe. By the mid-nineteenth century, forest transitions had begun to occur in northeastern North America, and, by the late twentieth century, countries as varied as Vietnam (Meyfroidt and Lambin 2009), Costa Rica (Kull, Ibrahim, and Meredith 2007), and Romania (Olofsson et al. 2011) had experienced forest transitions. Given the increased amounts of international trade during this period, the increase in forest and decline in agriculture in one country may have come at the expense of deforestation and agricultural expansion in another. An investigation of trends in FAO agricultural trade statistics does show some displacement of demand for agricultural products overseas when a country like France experiences a decline in agricultural land. On a hectare-by-hectare basis, the expansion of agricultural area in the developing world only amounted to 22 percent of the decline in agricultural area in countries undergoing a forest transition between 1970 and 2005 (Meyfroidt, Rudel, and Lambin 2010). This pattern has led some observers to hypothesize the emergence of a global forest transition in which global reforestation exceeds global deforestation in extent (Meyfroidt and Lambin 2011). Alternatively, the global trilemma of growing food insecurity, biodiversity losses, and climate change may prevent further cropland abandonment and forest expansion. Increasingly, scientists have argued that the only way out of this predicament is through the sustainable intensification of agricultural practices (Tilman et al. 2011).


Despite the dramatic differences in the appearance of rural and urban land uses (e.g., fields in the former and parking garages in the latter), both sets of land uses intensified during the course of the twentieth century. Land uses intensify when human activities on a piece of land increase. In rural settings, agricultural intensification often takes the form of land improvements. Converting land from forests into fields intensifies land use because croplands require more human labor than do forests (Bentley 1989). The installation of irrigation systems also intensifies land use. Even passive land uses like parks



can be intensified if a park service builds facilities to handle the large numbers of people who want to visit a site. In a metropolitan setting, the conversion of lands from rural to urban uses intensifies land use. The construction of a larger building in place of an older, smaller building would intensify the use of a particular plot of land because it would serve more people. The trend toward more intensive land uses springs from growth in populations and economic activity over fixed land areas. People intensify land uses to extract a larger product, loosely defined, from spaces used for agriculture in rural areas and used for non-farm economic activities in urban areas (Boserup 1965). In this sense, efforts to intensify land use reflect social and economic pressures attributable to development. Because efforts to intensify land uses are often costly, the sunk costs of a particular land use on a site increase. The increased investment that landowners have in that land use gives them incentives to resist wholesale transformations in land use on their site and in adjacent areas. In other words, the increased investment in a particular land use creates incentives for people to engage in defensive environmentalist practices (Rudel 2013). Defensive environmentalists try to preserve the immediate environment in which they live. For example, suburban homeowners will often defend their community against a plan to transform the community through extensive real estate development, perhaps by proposing the preservation of more open space in the community. Amerindians like the Shuar of southeastern Ecuador who hunt and gather as well as practice shifting cultivation do something similar when they mobilize to prevent extractive industries from mining or drilling on their ancestral lands. In sum, the partitioning of natural resources and subsequent intensification of land uses in the different parcels clarifies the interests of local residents in those land uses and promotes defensive environmentalist reactions to plans for transforming them.


As economic development proceeds, a distinct pattern of specialized land uses emerges in developed landscapes. Specialization gets inscribed into landscapes in ways that the concentric zone theorists (e.g., Park, Burgess, and McKenzie 1925) would have understood. The landscape in central California exemplifies this pattern. Some zones specialize in highly productive agriculture, supported by extensive irrigation works, specialized technologies, and technical assistants (Warner 2007). An accumulation of social and physical capital supports this land use. Fifty or sixty kilometers away, another group of specialists with appropriate physical facilities support the use of the Yosemite region as a national park that hosts hundreds of thousands tourists annually. These zoned, highly specialized landscapes have their limits—as urban planners have emphasized with their push for more mixed uses in urban areas over the past two decades (Seto et al. 2012b). With political and economic interests organized around each existing land use, it becomes difficult to transform these landscapes. Armed with lawyers, interest groups can, through



legal action, at least slow down if not entirely derail efforts to change land uses in a place in substantial ways (Rudel 1989). These “improved” landscapes and the dynamics of change within them presume that landholders all have secure land tenure. This assumption is only tenable in affluent societies. Secure land tenure is the exception rather than the rule in rural areas of most developing countries. The costs of acquiring titles are usually beyond the means of smallholders. Without secure tenure, smallholders are usually powerless to prevent wellfinanced, sometimes overseas investors from usurping the smallholders’ landholdings in what have been called “land grabs” (Borras et al. 2011). In court proceedings, individuals with secure titles have a tremendous advantage, so, not surprisingly, the legal system in these settings favors wealthy landowners to a tremendous degree. Environmental crises that are truly global in extent, like the climate change crisis or the biodiversity crisis, have focused attention on institutional arrangements that govern land use in even the most remote locales. For example, the potential for significant amounts of carbon sequestration in primary and secondary forests has prompted proposals for payments for environmental services (PES) through a U.N.-approved REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) program. These programs require, for participation, that landowners and landholders have secure titles to their lands. Because PES schemes like REDD+ cannot function if participants do not have secure titles to land, the impetus to launch REDD+ programs should also lead to the extension of secure land tenure to smallholders. The titling of these lands enables resistance by smallholders to invasions or incursions by more affluent land users, so it increases the probability of legal conflicts in even remote locations. International nonprofit groups concerned with the environment represent another force for change in rural land tenure. The increased presence of the environmental nonprofits along with hedge funds and agribusinesses signals the emergence of a multitiered pattern of land-use regulation of rural land and land uses in the developing world (Rudel and Meyfroidt 2014). Particularly large-scale initiatives like the Chinese oil palm initiative in upland Borneo in 2005 mobilized coalitions for and against the proposed oil palm plantation. Environmental NGOs, allied with indigenous groups, disputed with the Chinese developers who had support in the Indonesian government. Eventually, the government approved the creation of a large park, the “Heart of Borneo” on the contested lands (Persoon and Osseweijer 2008). These disputes often take years to resolve, and their substantive outcomes remain difficult to predict. Indonesia’s first REDD+ project appeared to have failed in the fall of 2012, only to be rescued and concluded as intended in May 2013 (Butler 2013). The dynamics in these multinational issues frequently take novel forms. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these dynamics involves the “boomerang effect” (Keck and Sikkink 1998) in which a relatively powerless indigenous group or civil society association in a developing country builds an alliance with well-connected environmental groups outside the country. The international environmental organization then uses its influence in international forums



to bring pressure to bear on the national government in the country with the relatively powerless indigenous group. In an early example of this dynamic, indigenous people working with Brazilian anthropologists teamed up with Cultural Survival, a well-known North American NGO, to put pressure on the World Bank about its financing of an extensive road-building project in Rondonia that raised the probability that mestizo colonists would encroach upon or invade the Amerindian preserves. Under the pressure generated by the negative publicity, the World Bank decided to cancel its funding for the roads (Keck and Sikkink 1998). The incremental advance of resource partitioning through development in urban as well as rural locales would appear to support more intensified land uses, accelerate legal conflicts, and perhaps, at least according to the findings of one recent meta-analysis (Robinson, Holland, and Naughton-Treves 2014), enable the protection of more natural environments. These incremental trends only describe one land-use dynamic associated with development. A second set of dynamics occurs in waves and shapes the development/land-use link in profound ways. A description of these historical waves of change is presented below.


The processes described above occur incrementally, in a cumulative way, over time and across landscapes. Other drivers of land use appear to come in waves. Political institutions established to govern one place get adopted by people in another place in a mimetic process that often occurs during a relatively short period of time (DiMaggio and Powell 1983). World society theorists (Meyer et al. 1997; Meyer 2010) focus on these processes of institutional change. Through these processes, land-use practices and regulations adopted more or less simultaneously by political regimes begin to resemble one another. Eventually, these waves of land-use change diminish, undone by large-scale structural changes in the world system. The same set of structural changes can unleash a new wave of changes in landscapes. In the following pages, I outline three waves of changes in land use, each one generated by ongoing processes of development that have had major impacts on land-use patterns across the globe.


Colonial landscapes took on a distinctive appearance beginning with the emergence of these regimes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Enclaves of commercial agriculture defined a majority of the first colonial landscapes. The spreading appetite for tropical agricultural commodities like sugar and bananas encouraged entrepreneurs to set up export-oriented agricultural enclaves along coasts in the tropics (Wolf and Hansen 1972). With the intent of returning to the mother country in a few years with a fortune earned from the plantation and its workers, colonial planters exploited immigrant and slave laborers on plantations mercilessly (Dean 1995).



Another wave of changes initiated by colonial regimes occurred during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the competition for colonial possessions among European leaders precipitated “the scramble for Africa” (Pakenham 1992; Chamberlain 2014). To extract political and economic benefits from these places and peoples, the European powers—the French in Algeria, the English in Kenya and South Africa, and the Portuguese in Angola—established settler societies in which colonists from the home countries received the most agriculturally desirable lands and indigenous peoples were confined to less agriculturally optimal zones. For example, the British reserved the well-watered highland areas west of Nairobi for settlers from Britain and confined Kenyan natives to semi-arid lowlands to the north and east of Nairobi (Tiffen, Mortimore, and Gichuki 1994). These circumstances contributed to the creation of natural-resourcedegrading poverty traps on indigenous lands. The natural resources available to indigenous people could not provide them with sustenance, so cultivators had to exploit the lands however possible, leading in many instances to degradation and deforestation on indigenous lands. Because this dynamic degraded the one resource available to indigenous peoples, it made them less likely to escape poverty. In this sense, colonial land policies trapped indigenous peoples in poverty. Politicians in some South America countries, like Ecuador, continued until the midtwentieth century to promote European settlement of the Amazonian lowlands as a device for securing Ecuadorian sovereignty over these lands (Perez Guerrero 1954). Some colonial regimes, like Portugal, did not abandon the policy of transplanting poor Europeans to choice lands in the colonies until the 1950s (Bender and Yoder 1974). These practices ended in most places after World War II when independence movements gathered force in the colonies. The colonial regimes did, however, leave behind a legacy of unequally distributed landholdings, especially in Latin America, which has complicated efforts to increase agricultural productivity and eliminate rural poverty in recent years (Thiesenhusen 1995).


The wave of decolonization began immediately after World War II when weakened European states decided, under pressure from their colonial subjects, to relinquish control of their colonies. The leaders of the newly independent states, along with the heads of weak Latin American states, shared a common concern with their territorial integrity. The new states had unresolved border disputes with neighboring countries. In Asia, secessionist movements, founded sometimes on ethnic differences, had bases in border regions. In Latin America, leftists, inspired by the success of the Cuban revolution, launched armed insurrections from bases in remote rural regions. Forests covered the landscapes in many of these regions, and they provided the dissidents with cover from the militarily superior armed forces of governments. Under these circumstances, political leaders sought to reaffirm their control over these remote rural places and border regions by declaring all



unoccupied land to be “state land.” Given the weakness of the central state in these border regions, no one exerted any control over these public lands other than the informal customary controls exerted by indigenous leaders (USAID 2007). Nearly open-access conditions prevailed in these places. To strengthen their control over these remote regions, curry favor with restive rural peoples, and take advantage of newly offered American development assistance, the heads of weak or fledgling governments launched new land settlement schemes. Modeled after the Homestead Act of 1862 in the United States, these programs, sometimes called colonization programs, carved up the state lands into small parcels of forested lands that officials awarded to landless families with the proviso that these households would develop farms on the awarded lands. These programs proved especially popular with government officials because, unlike agrarian reforms, they did not require the expropriation of lands held by other farmers, so colonization programs did not stir as much political controversy as the more politically radical agrarian reforms (Domike 1970). The colonization programs did, however, generate conflicts with indigenous peoples already living in these remote regions. Governments also built roads as part of these new land settlement schemes. They built both trunk roads and farm-to-market roads into these regions in order to facilitate access to markets from the newly created farms; thus, the land clearings along the roads took the shape of a fishbone. By constructing a network of roads and settling poor but politically reliable families in these remote locations, the new nations brought these regions more firmly under the control of the central government (Rudel et al. 2009). For two decades, the 1960s and the 1970s, these state-led, new land settlement schemes accounted for substantial increases in cultivated areas, particularly in Southeast Asia and Latin America. A series of events in the 1980s made these programs less appealing to political elites. The relatively high cost of these programs per beneficiary diminished their appeal when fiscal crises made budget cutting necessary. Related packages of neoliberal reforms reduced the subsidies for acquiring titles to land, making it more expensive and therefore more difficult for smallholders to acquire secure titles to land. The rural insurrections lost strength in a substantial number of nations like Bolivia, Brazil, Malaysia, and Thailand during the 1980s. Finally, the gradual increase in the proportion of the population residing in urban areas persuaded left-of-center political elites to alter their political programs so as to emphasize policies that appealed to the urban poor—such as subsidies for basic goods like fuel—and deemphasize policies like agrarian reform and new land settlement schemes that appealed primarily to the rural poor (Wickham-Crowley 1994; Vandergeest 2007).

N E O L I B E R A L I Z AT I O N , G L O B A L I Z AT I O N , A N D A G R I B U S I N E S S E S

A political consensus during the early 1980s among newly ascendant conservatives in American and British governments, along with like-minded leaders in the IMF and the World Bank, promoted rapid expansion in international trade and encouraged the rise to



power of other free trade–minded conservatives in governments of the Global South. This Washington-based consensus reduced trade barriers for some agricultural commodities (Babb 2012). The rapid spread of this political-economic philosophy exemplifies the dynamics of policy diffusion described by the world-society theorists. This shift in political philosophies worked in concert with other trends to increase trade in agricultural commodities. With the acceleration in scale of human enterprise over the past two centuries, the volume of trade has changed accordingly. For the past five hundred years, traders have steadily expanded the geographic reach of markets for agricultural commodities, and this process of globalization has transformed landscapes throughout the world, but these trends accelerated during the late twentieth century. Improvements in livestock health, like the eradication of hoof-and-mouth disease in the Brazilian Amazon, opened up new markets in Europe and North America for the freerange beef cattle of Brazil (Nepstad, Stickler, and Almeida 2006). The growing proportion of livestock produced in confined settings increased the demand for grain-based livestock feed, which in turn raised the volume of soybeans traded internationally (Naylor et al. 2005). With the advent of mass production of biofuels between 2000 and 2005, the interrelated dynamics of global trade and land use became more obvious. By 2008, demand for corn-based ethanol had driven the price of corn to high levels, and 30–40 percent of the American corn crop went to the production of ethanol. In response to the high prices for corn, American farmers had reduced their cultivation of soybeans, which in turn had caused the price for soybeans to increase; Brazilian farmers then increased their acreage in soybeans (Searchinger et al. 2009). This episode underscores how tightly coupled land uses in the world agricultural sector have become. With little underutilized arable land available to meet additional demand through expanded production in one country, a shift in crop mixes there triggers a shift in crop mixes in other countries, and a cascade of changes in land uses across borders begins. Producers have taken advantage of economies of scale in the production and shipping of agricultural commodities, so the size of export-oriented agricultural enterprises has grown steadily (DeFries et al. 2010). When these producers move into a forested area, they clear large contiguous blocks of forest that they can then cultivate with machines. The increased salience of large operators along the forest frontiers as well as the extensive amounts of slash in logged areas or peat in lands being converted into oil palm plantations have increased the frequency of large-scale and uncontrollable fires in the tropics (Butler 2012). Not surprisingly, agricultural expansion has accounted for a large majority of the deforested land in the tropics during the past two decades (Gibbs et al. 2010). Finally, the growing importance of large-scale agribusinesses has ensured that the unequal distribution of agricultural land ownership has persisted into the twenty-first century. The increase in “land grabbing” (the purchase of prime agricultural lands in sometime remote rural settings with the intention of producing food crops for sale in



distant markets) represents an extension of this long-term trend toward politically and economically consolidated production of foodstuffs on a large scale.1 For the residents of the regions in which the grabbing has occurred, the sudden alienation of these lands raises important food security issues (Borras et al. 2011). Will the loss of access to the agricultural production from the purchased lands cause local people to go hungry?


Development drives changes in land use through several different dynamics. Some of it occurs through the growth of central places and the effects on lands that radiate outward from these places. Some of these effects occur incrementally, parcel by parcel over time. Farms on frontiers flourish, age, and then consolidate, with some of the marginal lands reverting to forest. Cities grow household by household, and rural communities lose people the same way. Investments in land improvements usually occur parcel by parcel, intensifying operations. In this manner, either farms grow bigger or the farmers get out of agriculture. The defense of these improved lands also occurs in an incremental way, from one locale to another, often in courts of law. Globalization provides the economic backdrop for these processes; it manifests itself through growing consumer demand in far-away central places, so many of these changes can be understood through central place theory. These changes in economic structures need to be considered in the context of shifts in political-economic regimes that have occurred in historical waves through a dynamic best explained by world-society theorists (Meyer et al. 1997). Colonial regimes, the leaders of newly independent states, and the neoliberal political coalitions have all inscribed their political agendas into landscapes at the same time that economic changes have created new frontiers, reforested hilly lands, intensified agriculture, and stirred political controversies between land users. This long history of intersecting trends invites questions about future directions of change in development efforts and land-use patterns. One obvious point of intersection in the future involves the wave of climate changes that are now occurring amid growing political-economic inequalities fostered by neoliberal states. The core regions have interest groups organized around valuable land uses who will mobilize to defend or exploit local environments when faced with stressors like heat waves, droughts, or tropical cyclones. In these circumstances, conflicts break out over the availability of water or, as in 2008, imports of food. These crises in turn have spurred aggressive moves to expand intensive agriculture through land or water grabbing in places with weak states. The harvests from these tracts of land would be reserved for beneficiaries selected by the new owners of the lands. These initiatives formalize access to land or water, but in such instances the impetus to do so comes primarily from affluent economic interests that find in formalized water rights or land tenure another



way to defend their privileged positions. Fundamental changes in this trajectory of development and land use would most likely come from substantial changes in the posture of national governments, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Popular and elite mobilization to initiate this kind of wave, like political change, appears most likely in the aftermath of focusing events such as severe weather that highlight human vulnerabilities to climate change. These circumstances could, at least theoretically, encourage the emergence of sustainable development states organized around a hegemonic project of sustainability (Rudel 2013).


1. For a profile of the participants in the land grabs and tracts of land they have acquired, visit


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David L. Brown and Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue

This chapter uses a sociodemographic perspective to examine the reciprocal associations between population change (especially changes in age structure) and development. An early articulation of this perspective can be found in a volume published by the United Nations in 1953, The Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends. This influential work situated population studies in a multidisciplinary framework where population dynamics affect and are affected by changes in social and economic organization, culture, and the natural environment. The similar position taken in this chapter is that social change and demographic change are both mutually constitutive and contextually contingent (Brown and Kandel 2006). Although population change constrains and facilitates social and institutional transformation, the impacts of population change are neither automatic nor mechanistic. Rather, they are mediated and conditioned by changes in social and institutional structures and policy regimes. Similar demographic trends can therefore have vastly different outcomes in different communities, regions, or nations depending on institutional arrangements, cultural norms, and/or policy regimes and choices. In other words, population change is important, but “demography is not destiny.” This perspective extends the debate on population and development in three important ways that are of interest to development scholars. First, it steers the conversation away from the Malthusian focus on population growth and its adverse consequences, instead highlighting the potential opportunities and challenges presented by transformations in age structure. Second, it strikes a middle ground between grand theories involving hardto-test macro-level processes and overly micro-level relationships that, despite being more


readily testable, sidestep the policy interest in national development. Third, as indicated above, it emphasizes the highly contextual nature and the reciprocity of these relationships. We have organized the chapter into two broad sections describing, respectively, the effects of economic development on population dynamics and age structure, and the effects of changing age structure on socioeconomic development. Reflecting the expected contextual contingency, we discuss the circumstances under which changing age structure will most likely affect and be affected by socioeconomic development. Ideally, any discussion of the population/development debate must begin with clear definitions. This is particularly relevant here because definitions have evolved during the long history of this debate—from narrow and reductionist to a broader, multidimensional conceptualization. Whereas classic debates reduced population dynamics to population growth— and development to economic growth—more recent debates recognize the multidimensional nature of both population change and development (see, e.g., Leahy 2007; Leahy, Daumerie, and Hardy 2010). Our chapter adopts this more nuanced definition of development that embraces not only economic growth but also concerns over distribution, the achievement of basic needs, and socioeconomic goals such as those expressed in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals and its Sustainable Development sequel.


Scholars have been examining the association between economic development and population change since at least the fourteenth century, when Ibn Khaldun proposed a theory of growth with stages of development and associated population growth regimes. Although he generally saw population growth and the resulting increase of labor supply as a primary source of wealth, he nonetheless suggested that, ultimately, “abundant civilization (large populations) [were found] at the end of dynasties, and pestilences and famine frequently occur then” (Rosenthal 1967, 17). Modern extensions of these associations have focused on the process whereby a country moves from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates, the so-called “demographic transition,” and how this transition is driven by economic change. The theory of demographic transition has dominated demographic thinking for nearly the past century (Weeks 2012). After World War II, social scientists used this framework to examine how the increased access to modern medicine and public health measures affected rapid population growth in less developed regions. Historical demographers likewise used it to study the impacts of improved nutrition and public hygiene on population change during Europe’s industrial revolution (Drake 1969). The overall conclusion of these studies was that “modernization,” whether endogenous, as in Europe during its industrial revolution, or exogenous, as in the post–World War II scenario, results in lower mortality rates and rapid population growth followed some time later by a decline in fertility itself induced by the growing awareness of better



survival chances for children. This lag between mortality decline and fertility decline was crucial in shaping the amount and rapidity of modernization-induced population growth as well as the time it took for this population growth to ultimately stabilize. Accordingly, researchers have focused on the preconditions that hasten a fertility decline. These include ideational changes promoting individual agency, perception of the advantages of fewer births, and knowledge of effective methods of control (Coale 1973). In societies where such preconditions are met, scholars have then identified the proximate determinants of fertility change, including how exposure to intercourse and conception are regulated, and factors affecting gestation (Bongaarts 1978; Davis and Blake 1955). Although the focus of this early work has generally been to explain why the population growth rate changes over time, some precursors began to draw attention to age composition and its possible implications for future development. This wider conceptual focus required attention to all three basic demographic processes, including mortality and migration. Ansley Coale and Edgar Hoover (1958), for instance, demonstrated the central importance of changes in age composition for economic development, an argument forcefully reprised in recent years by David Bloom and his colleagues (2002), even though Coale (1957) also recognized that declining fertility had a greater impact on population aging than reduced mortality. Seen in broad historical perspective, the theory of demographic transition is derivative of, and parallel to, modernization theory insofar as societies are assumed to develop through a series of fairly predictable stages that are associated with the maturation of industrial capitalism. Change is seen as gradual and incremental, and as contributing to the maintenance of basic social systems rather than to challenging the fundamental social order. As Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel observe, “Modernization is a syndrome of social changes linked to industrialization. Once set in motion, it tends to penetrate all aspects of life, bringing occupational specialization, urbanization, rising educational levels, rising life expectancy, and rapid economic growth. These create a selfreinforcing process that transforms social life and political institutions” (2009, 33). Critics of both transition and modernization theory have countered that social change and development are mobilized by conflict rather than by consensus, and that many societies experience fundamental system changes rather than evolving toward an equilibrium state in a predictably gradual, linear fashion.1 Other critics contend that demographic transition theory is ethnocentric and not transferrable to non-Western situations. Furthermore, its modifications, such as Richard Easterlin’s (1978) relative cohort size hypothesis, which examines demographic feedbacks including how the relative size of successive birth cohorts affects fertility, are thought to be plagued by a middle-class bias. Still others lament the theory’s largely descriptive and macro-level orientation, which obscures the possible diversity of experiences across national subpopulations. Regardless of these critiques, the theory of demographic transition has proved to be robust and informative in a wide variety of societal settings and across time. Hence, the transition theory’s core assertions have been exposed to empirical examination, and the theory



remains a compelling description of the interaction of population change and social change. Moreover, it has been elaborated and strengthened over time with additions such as John Caldwell’s (2006) wealth flows hypothesis that explains how childbearing decisions are affected by reversals in the direction of wealth flows across generations.


Coale and Hoover (1958) pioneered demographic work on the associations between population change, changing age structure, and development during the late 1950s. Their analyses and subsequent work demonstrate that, as a population moves through the demographic transition, not only does it grow in size but it also experiences a change in the relative shares of persons at various ages. These changes lead to a historical transformation of national population pyramids: gradually from a triangular to an hour-glass and ultimately to an increasingly rectangular shape. The young age structure (and triangular shape of the population pyramid) during the beginning and middle parts of the demographic transition occur because births are plentiful and infant mortality is controlled so that most babies survive the first years of life. In other words, not only does population size increase during the demographic transition but the growing population is also younger on average. In contrast, once a nation completes its demographic transition, lower fertility rates and increased longevity begin to result in population aging. Virtually every nation in the world has either begun, partially completed, or completed its demographic transition, so it is not surprising that the lower and more stable birth and death rates that occur during the mid- to late stages of the transition have led to global population aging today. What is particularly interesting, however, is that populations tend to age for different reasons in developed versus less developed countries. Samuel Preston and Andrew Stokes (2012) have used a comparative cohort approach to examine the relative contributions of changes in fertility and mortality rates on age structure over time, during and after the demographic transition. They have demonstrated that, in developed countries, improvements in adult survivorship from one cohort to another account for population aging. In contrast, aging in less developed countries is attributable to declines in the growth rate of births. This means that, in less developed countries, successive cohorts will be relatively smaller than their predecessors, hence reducing age dependency and, where appropriate policies are implemented, producing a “demographic dividend” (e.g., a relatively large share of working-age persons in relation to persons at younger or older ages where labor force participation is less likely). Hence, the combined declines in birth and death rates that occur in the mid- to latter part of the transition can produce an age structure that contains a relatively abundant supply of labor force–age adults compared with the share of persons either too young or too old to work. Since each nation moves through the demographic transition in its own way and at its own pace, the size and duration of the demographic dividend varies from country to country, though the average duration has been estimated to be about five decades or

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more (Lee and Mason 2006). Thus, the magnitude and duration of the “demographic bonus or dividend” is contingent on the manner in which populations proceed through their respective demographic transitions. In more developed nations, where populations are becoming older because of increased longevity in addition to near- or below-replacement fertility, aging is typically thought to contract the labor force, diminish the rate of economic growth (McNicoll 1986), and induce the need for additional services, social security, and other forms of assistance for older persons (Coale 1986; Preston 1984). Some scholars have referred to this as the “demographic deficit.” However, not all agree that extreme population aging is a social problem. Some economists propose that population aging in more developed countries can result in a “second demographic dividend” if saving and investment are incentivized during the working years and spent during retirement (Mason 2005). Moreover, social gerontologists have identified social benefits and services produced by older residents that can contribute significantly to local and regional development (Brown and Glasgow 2008). Hence, the development implications of changing age structures likely differ across countries, depending on the timing and nature of their demographic transitions, and contingent on social and economic institutions and policies that mediate the impacts of a changing balance of older and younger persons.


Following Coale and Hoover’s lead, a number of prominent scholars have recently drawn interest in the possible implications of changing age structure for socioeconomic development, dubbing this “a new perspective on the economic consequences of population change” (Bloom, Canning, and Sevilla 2002; Lee and Mason 2006). Viewed historically, this perspective can be seen as the latest installment of a long debate on population and development, which can be divided roughly into a classic and a modern phase. The classic debate on population and development can be traced back to Thomas Robert Malthus, who examined the interactions between population growth, economic change, and social welfare in sixteenth-century Britain. He believed that population growth had the capacity to outstrip resources and continually plunge a population into poverty. Although Malthusian thinking continues to be influential (see, e.g., Brown and Hutchins 1972; Ehrlich 1968), scholars such as Ester Boserup and Julian Simon have rejected the “Malthusian dilemma” (Lee 1988). In fact, Boserup (1981) went so far as to contend that, rather than plunging populations into misery, population growth actually induced innovation, leading to higher standards of living. And Simon (1981) characterized population as the “ultimate resource,” contending that, as resources become more scarce, their prices rise, which creates an incentive for people to discover more of the resource, ration and recycle it and, eventually, develop substitutes. Regardless of their divergent conclusions, conventional thinkers on population and development share an almost singular focus on the impacts of changes in population size as a central



determinant of poverty or well-being while neglecting the impacts of changes in population age structure that result from the interplay of fluctuations in fertility, mortality, and migration over time. Moving away from Malthusian arguments, contemporary social science has developed more nuanced explanations of the interplay among population change, resources, economic development, and social well-being. Space does not permit a deep review of this literature and its historical evolution, but we will identify a few influential trends that have turned the focus of analysis toward changes in age structure rather than simply focusing on the amount and rapidity of population growth (or decline). In the past half century, the debate has evolved into three main phases (Hodgson and Watkins 1997). The first, between the early 1960s and 1974, was still shaped by the Malthusian legacy because the rate of global population growth was reaching its height at that time and, along with slow economic growth, fueling concerns about the effects of population growth on national welfare. This debate remained largely reductionist in its selective emphasis of a few quantitative and aggregate outcomes. The focus on the population side was firmly on the rate of population growth. At the development end, it was on GNP, reflecting what Geoffrey McNicoll (1995, 307) termed the elision of equating economic growth with well-being. A second period, from 1974 to 1985, saw a rejection of neo-Malthusianism. At the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest, the international community firmly rejected the U.S. recommendation for programs aimed at rapid fertility reduction. Instead, they recommended “a mild developmentalist position that ensconce[d] birth control firmly within individual-rights rhetoric” (Hodgson and Watkins 1997, 473). It was also during this period that Simon (1981) published The Ultimate Resource, arguing that the long-term positive impacts of population growth on economic development were likely to be more important than the short-run negative effects. He also distinguished between direct and indirect effects, paving the way for future revisionist thinking (Ahlburg 1998). The third phase (1985–95) saw further erosion of neo-Malthusianism and the emergence of a feminist population policy as exemplified by the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. This phase saw a shift from macro-level societywide concerns to a micro-focus on households and individuals (Cassen 1994). This new debate sought micro-level answers to old questions armed with evidence from increasingly available household surveys. Studies thus focused on the effects of high fertility on such household outcomes as child and maternal mortality, child nutrition and schooling, and gender roles (Cassen 1994; Desai 1995; Lloyd 1994). Population change, per se, had diminished as a publicly prominent social issue as a result of the post-Cairo shift to a human-rights rationale for population policy, the decline in global fertility rates, and the rise in AIDS mortality. Yet, in the wake of the U.N. Millennium Development agenda, more nuanced and focused questions arose in which the population/development debate was broadened at both ends. On the development side,

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the Millennium debate covered multiple development indicators, such as poverty, schooling, health, and gender equity. At the population end, the debate now expanded beyond total fertility or population growth to consider new aspects of fertility behavior, such as timing, socioeconomic distribution, or wantedness as well as AIDS mortality, overall mortality, and, importantly for this chapter, age dependency (Birdsall, Kelley, and Sinding 2001; Montgomery and Lloyd 1999). In particular, age structure and the related theory of a “demographic dividend” received special attention thanks to a series of influential papers around the turn of the century (Bloom, Canning, and Sevilla 2002). By 2007, in fact, the U.N. Commission on Population and Development had focused its fortieth session on the socioeconomic implications of changing age structure (United Nations 2007). Consistent with this emergent interest in age structure and the demographic dividend, we critically examine the supposed relationships between changing age structures and development in the balance of our chapter.


There are at least four main reasons why the demographic dividend has become an important hypothesis for development scholars. First and foremost, the dividend makes it possible to eschew the Malthusian “obsession” with rapid population growth, a perspective that is increasingly out of favor among researchers, policymakers, and the broader public. To be sure, changes in fertility rates contribute to changes in age structure as do changes in mortality rates and age-specific migration. In other words, the Malthusian perspective had the merit of integrating all three basic population processes and exploring their net effect on poverty or social well-being. Yet its gloomy and under-qualified predictions about the dire consequences of rapid population growth overstated the evidence and downplayed the importance of social policy and context. In contrast, the demographic dividend paints a more optimistic picture of the impact of population change on well-being. The general argument is that a window of opportunity opens up during the demographic transition when the number of working-age persons is relatively abundant compared with persons less likely to be economically active. Hence, development economists and economic demographers tend to emphasize the ways in which changing age structure can promote aggregate saving rates (Williamson and Higgins 2001), economic growth (Bloom and Canning 2001; Mason 2001), and increased per capita income (Bloom and Williamson 1998). Furthermore, the dividend argument and its temporary window of opportunity move away from linear perspectives on development, proposing instead a more contingent and opportunistic perspective. A second reason for interest in the demographic dividend is its intuitive appeal. The idea of dependency broadly matches popular intuition about the normative unfolding of the life course, from a phase of socialization and human capital formation to the adult age of production and to older ages of reduced economic activity. Dependency also builds on well-accepted expectations of resource transfers across generations, and similar



expectations have been expressed in theories of wealth flows (Caldwell 2006) and models of national transfer accounts (Lee and Mason 2006). Third, and contrary to grand theories of development that are spatially and temporally invariant (Rostow 1960), the demographic dividend proposes a nuanced, spatially grounded, and time-bound argument about how changes in a nation’s age composition affect its development trajectory over both the short and the longer terms. Nations have a window of time during which the opportunity of a dividend materializes and can be seized. Related to this, and as a fourth advantage, the dividend is more empirically testable than grand development theories, in part because it is explicit about operative mechanisms, steps, and time lags. Research on age structure and the dividend can help to bypass the respective limitations of micro- and macro-level analyses of the effects of population on development. Macro-level investigations of aggregate population changes and their macroeconomic effects are useful in focusing attention on the national-level concerns that often animate global policymakers. Yet these analyses are less rigorous from a statistical standpoint, and they obscure differences and inequality across subpopulations within the same country. Micro-level studies are consistent with the individual and human rights rationale for population policy that emerged in the 1990s, and they can be more detailed and rigorous (Cassen 1994). Yet, as a downside, their findings do not directly inform national development debates, and they must be carefully scaled up since micro-level relationships can often differ from those found at the aggregate level (Robinson 1950). It is established, for instance, that a larger number of siblings might impede schooling, but a decline in national fertility will not necessarily improve schooling outcomes if the decline in fertility occurs predominantly among higher socioeconomic groups (Eloundou-Enyegue and Giroux 2012). Studies of age structure represent a middle ground where analyses can focus on the economic behavior of smaller subunits within national populations and understand broader economic change in terms of both the behavior and the relative size of these subunits (Mason 2005; Bloom, Canning, and Fink 2010). A focus on age structure also advances understanding of possible demographic dividends by clarifying the steps that move a country from changes in age structure to socioeconomic improvements.


In light of global changes in age structure and the theoretical and practical salience of the demographic dividend, a number of studies are investigating these dividends across various world regions. By far the largest of these efforts is the national transfer accounts project, which collects data on age-specific income, consumption, and transfers for a wide range of countries as a way to understand both the magnitude and contextual conditions of the dividend (Mason 2013). The empirical strategy in this and other projects is to analyze socioeconomic transformations as a result of changes in age structure as well as

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in age-specific economic behavior. Reflecting Preston and Stokes’s (2012) distinction between the two principal sources of aging, and consistent with other authors (e.g., Mason 2005), it is useful to distinguish between the dividend (driven by declining fertility) and the social and economic implications of extreme population aging. The demographic dividend is most salient in contemporary developing nations in the early stages of their fertility transitions. In these countries, declines in fertility are expected to spur socioeconomic improvements through a sequence of influences that include changed age structure, reduced age dependency, better resource mobilization for saving and investments, and, finally, improved socioeconomic outcomes. Although the initial outcome of interest had been economic growth, this framework lends itself to investigating a variety of development indicators, including education, health, poverty, and inequality. Its explicit sequence also makes it easy to monitor how countries progress through the process of achieving their dividend as well as the contextual factors that facilitate or complicate the achievement of each step. For instance, the transition from declining fertility to changed age structure is expected to depend on the pace and irreversibility of the fertility decline as well as on concurrent changes in adult mortality. The next transition, from age structure to actual age dependency, depends on patterns of adult employment and child labor, for instance. The following transition, from reduced dependency to resource mobilization, depends on the country’s economic trends and budget priorities, including debt servicing. Finally, whether the mobilization of resources is translated into better socioeconomic outcomes depends on the effectiveness of sectoral policy to direct investments and returns. Using this framework, an analysis of Africa’s trends between 1990 and 2010 showed that the most important factor determining the achievement of a schooling dividend during that time period was the extent to which countries maintained the share of national budgets devoted to public education (Eloundou-Enyegue and Giroux 2013). However, recent research on the dividend suggests a possible divergence. Just as “a rising tide does not lift all boats,” the dividend from demographic transitions may not be shared evenly, especially in a context where fertility declines faster among higher socioeconomic groups (Eloundou-Enyegue and Giroux 2013; Shapiro and Tambashe 2002). In those situations, demographic transitions might exacerbate and reproduce educational and socioeconomic inequality from one time period to the next across social classes, especially if dividend-related gains in education among these higher socioeconomic groups feed back to promote lower fertility among the better off. The main approach currently used to estimate the dividend is the national transfer account methodology (Mason 2013). It builds on the expected differences of resource accumulation, consumption, and transfers between three age groups, notably the youth (0–14), adult (15–64), and older (65+) populations. In general, this pattern shows on a per capita basis that income generation outstrips consumption among the adult population, which makes it possible for this group to transfer resources to the other two. On an aggregate basis, the volume of these transfers and the growth of support to youth and



older populations will thus heavily depend on national age structure and its historical changes. Empirical work on this question consists in collecting reliable information on age-specific patterns of income and consumption and estimating their implications for growth under different scenarios of population change (specifically changes in fertility and related changes in age structure). Using this approach, Mason shows how rates of economic growth, dependent support, and human capital investment in selected countries of Africa vary widely with fertility trends. For instance, in Ethiopia, the country expected to experience the most rapid fertility decline, the educational investment per capita reached by 2020–25 would grow by 32, 47, and 67 percent, respectively, under a high-, medium-, and low-fertility scenario. In contrast, for some other countries (such as Nigeria, South Africa, and Senegal), growth in educational investment is modest or even negative under the high-fertility scenario (Mason 2013). Although the national transfer account methodology assumes the effects of age structure to be largely mechanistic, there have been efforts to specify more interactive and dynamic models incorporating a larger number of influences. David Canning and his colleagues (2015), for example, have tested a model that incorporates, in addition to labor participation and savings, the influences of health and education and their differential implications across agriculture and manufacturing sectors. An alternative approach that has the merit of parsimony but is limited in its largely retrospective focus is the use of decomposition methods, whether these are applied to health (Saifuddin et al. 2013) or schooling (Eloundou-Enyegue and Giroux 2013). By and large, all these approaches suggest that impending reductions in age dependency in developing nations are expected to boost both economic growth and education. However, these effects vary widely depending on national budget policy, patterns of economic transfers, and changing consumption in response to declining fertility.

E X T R E M E P O P U L AT I O N A G I N G : A D E M O G R A P H I C T H R E AT O R A S E C O N D D I V I D E N D ?

Whereas the previous section focused on the positive economic development ramifications of the “demographic dividend,” other aspects of age structure—for example, having a relatively high percentage of older persons—may also affect development trajectories. According to the Population Action International classification, mature age structures have between 15 and 26 percent of their populations aged 60+, and this compares with about 8 percent aged 65+ worldwide (Population Reference Bureau 2012a). All countries with “mature populations” have completed their fertility and mortality transitions and are experiencing either slow population growth or decline. In 2007, there were forty-five countries with “mature age structures,” concentrated mostly in Europe, North America, Japan, and Oceania. The Population Action International classification of age structures is useful, but, like any classification scheme, its categories are not homogeneous. In this case, it is useful

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to distinguish between mature populations currently experiencing below-replacement fertility (about two-thirds of the category) and nations with mature age structures having at least slightly more births than needed to replace previous generations. In the first case, below-replacement fertility characterizes seven out of nine East European countries as well as Germany, Italy, numerous other European nations, and Japan. Mature populations with above-replacement fertility are found elsewhere in Europe as well as in North America2 and Australia. In addition, some countries with mature age structures and above-replacement fertility overall may have particular regions where deaths exceed births. In such regions, extreme aging is brought about by chronic net out-migration of people in the childbearing ages, which results in the loss of parents and their children as well as future parents and their children. Hence, natural decrease is a result of a distorted age structure, not a lower than average rate of childbearing among persons in the childbearing years. Regardless of the fertility rate of those left behind, such places lack a sufficient number of persons in the childbearing years to produce more births than deaths.3 Hence, even in a developed country with a relatively high rate of population growth, at least as compared with that of Europe, natural population decrease and extreme aging are wide ranging phenomena (Population Reference Bureau 2012a, 2012b).4 Natural population decrease, whether resulting from below-replacement fertility or chronic out-migration of younger persons, is thought to be a substantial brake on development, and it has resulted in significant angst across Europe where it has been characterized as “the demographic time bomb” (Haughton 1990).5 Among other things, it is thought to result in a shrinking labor supply, reduced levels of technological change, declining investment, and reduced consumption. In fact, natural decrease is often claimed as a justification for increased immigration of workers to substitute for the lack of labor force replacement generated by the indigenous population (Der Spiegel 2013). However, as Anne Green and David Owen (1995), Geoffrey McNicoll (1986), and others have demonstrated, these concerns are not necessarily warranted. Green and Owen find that, relative to changes in participation rates, the impact of an aging labor force is likely to be of diminishing significance. McNicoll is even more assertive. He contends that the adverse outcomes of an aging population are rather slight, and he observes that the consensus among economists is that “adjustments to an older labor force, altered factor prices, and shifts in consumer demand need not be economically damaging” (1986, 233). In contrast, he argues that serious, potentially adverse economic consequences of low fertility are chiefly found in distributional changes, not changes in labor force or aggregate demand. For example, a rise in the percentage of people aged 65+ puts a growing burden on public pension programs, which typically transfer income from working-age to older persons. Extreme aging may also slow social mobility among younger persons if older workers choose to work longer, hence occupying positions that would otherwise be open to younger workers. This situation has occurred recently in the United States, where the percentage of men aged 65–69 remaining in the workforce increased from



28 percent in 1995 to 36 percent in 2010 (Shattuck 2010). Of course, it is difficult to determine if longer persistence in the workforce is attributable to population aging or to the recent Great Recession. Extreme aging poses many questions about intergenerational equity, especially with regard to decisions over public spending on age-graded services such as education, specialty medical care, and para-transit. However, as Mildred Warner and her colleagues (2010) have shown, population aging does not necessarily result in intergenerational competition; in fact, it can create new opportunities for coalitions and collaboration across generations. And such coalitions can mediate the inequities in intergenerational spending, even generating a second dividend. An example of a multigenerational strategy is found in Denver, where young professionals want to age in place as they have children and to unite generations over a common development agenda. Kids in Downtown Denver Organized (KIDDO) attempts to create intergenerational programs as well as advocate for more play areas and services for children downtown (Warner et al. 2010). Warner’s work shows that the impacts of extreme aging are not automatic or mechanistic. Rather, they are mediated by social structure and a nation’s (or region’s) public policy regime. In addition, scholars and policymakers now seem to recognize that, though population aging poses significant challenges at the national, regional, and local levels, especially with respect to service delivery, infrastructure, and income maintenance, an increasing share of older persons can also present opportunities. As David Brown and Nina Glasgow (2008) demonstrated, many older persons have a wealth of experience and knowledge, and, when retired, they have the time and often the inclination to provide communities with significant volunteer expertise and labor. Some people complain that this can undermine the demand for paid work, but most community leaders agree that older volunteers are valuable assets who contribute significantly to community development. Glasgow and her colleagues (2013) have also observed that older persons tend to be social entrepreneurs. In other words, rather than simply donating money to organizations or volunteering their time, older persons take leadership in the establishment and management of organizations that contribute to community development and betterment. As populations grow older throughout the world, it is important that older persons be viewed in a balanced way, as resources rather than simply as a care and pensions problem.


Recent contributions to the population/development debate have moved discussion beyond a narrow Malthusian discourse to a more nuanced, testable, and actionable discussion of how various aspects of population change might affect multiple dimensions of socioeconomic development. The thesis of a “demographic dividend” epitomizes this

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newer debate and its departure from classic Malthusian formulation. In contrast to draconian predictions about the impact of aggregate population growth on poverty and a one-directional negative influence on macroeconomic growth, the dividend hypothesis explores the effects of age structure on both growth and other aspects of socioeconomic development, including savings, education, health, inequality, and poverty. Beyond their attention to multiple aspects of economic development, some of the newer debates innovate by deploying a meso-level framework that strikes a balance between reductive macro-level structures and rigorous, but policy-unwieldy, micro-level linkages. In addition, contemporary research and discourse focus attention on reciprocal relationships, especially the feedback of economic transformations on further demographic change, and privilege the significance of context and social contingency on all these relationships. Since the development response to population change—including changes in age composition—is diverse, development within and between countries is often unequal. For all these reasons, changes in age structure, whether the “dividend” or extreme aging, should be understood as an opportunity or a challenge whose materialization depends on appropriate policy. Contingent on policy and context, rapid changes in population size and structure can spur either a “virtuous” cycle of improved well-being and stable vital rates or a “vicious” cycle of uneven fertility decline and economic divergence (Eloundou-Enyegue and Giroux 2013). Similarly, extreme aging can be seen as a “care and pensions” issue or as an opportunity for enhanced community and economic development. Given these alternatives, the challenge for research is to better understand the circumstances and policies that favor a “virtuous” rather than a “vicious” scenario. Some of the early insights emerging from recent literature on the demographic dividend, for example, indicate that these circumstances fall into three main categories: characteristics of the transitions themselves; characteristics of families and key primary development institutions; and features of the economic and policy environment (Eloundou-Enyegue and Giroux 2013). Demographic transitions must be swift, steady, and even, rather than protracted, stalled, and led by urban middle classes. Previous changes in age-specific fertility and mortality produce momentum for future growth or decline simply because of their influence on age composition, and this also affects the size and breadth of the dividend. The ability of birthrate transitions to produce a favorable dividend is contingent on “favorable” transitions in the family that augment the resources available to families and the share of those resources devoted to education, health, and investment, and on a responsive and flexible policy environment where policymakers can continually respond to the unique and changing opportunities and challenges posed by their specific pattern of demographic and economic transformation. This policy stewardship, and its close attention to contingencies associated with context and specific features of demographic transitions, is the hallmark of a post-modernization, post-Malthusian discourse on population and development.




Our work on this chapter was supported by the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Competitive Program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), grant number 2011–68006–30793. Our work also contributes to USDA multistate research project W-3001 as administered by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station NYC159825. 1. A new version of modernization theory has emerged since the end of the Cold War that responds to many of its earlier critics. Inglehart and Welzel (2009), for example, differentiate the “new modernization” from its predecessors in three ways: modernization is not linear; history matters in explaining social and cultural change; and industrialization-based modernization is not strictly constrained to the West. New modernization theorists contend that “the new concept of modernization sheds light on ongoing cultural changes, such as the rise of gender equality” (Inglehart and Welzel 2009, 34). Hence, modernization’s role in framing the examination of population/development interdependencies should not be discounted. 2. Although the United States has had below-replacement fertility since 2010, it usually has enough births to replace its parental generation. The U.S. total fertility rate is likely to rise as its economy recovers. The U.S. total fertility rate was 1.9 in 2012 and was estimated to be 2.06 in 2013, just slightly below replacement (Population Reference Bureau 2012a; U.S. Central Intelligence Agency 2013). 3. In 2012, 1,135 U.S. counties, 36 percent of the total, experienced more deaths than births. These counties were disproportionately rural and concentrated in the middle of the country, although they have spread more widely in recent years (Johnson 2013). 4. In 2012, the U.S. total fertility rate had fallen to 1,931 births per 1,000 women, as compared with 2,001 in 2009. This is one of the lowest rates in American history: it is lower than during the Great depression of the 1930s and is almost as low as during the oil crisis in the 1970s. In contrast, U.S. fertility was at or above replacement (2,100 per 1000 women) during most of the preceding two decades (Population Reference Bureau 2012a). 5. See also, e.g., Krause 2005.


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9 DEVELOPMENT, DEMOGRAPHIC PROCESSES, AND PUBLIC HEALTH Joshua Stroud, Philip Anglewicz, and Mark VanLandingham

Substantial previous work on the demographic transition, including chapters in this volume, have focused on the underlying causes of the profound shifts in population size and structure that have taken place over the past three centuries, transforming human society. An underlying theme in those discussions is that shifts in fertility and mortality have taken place both in fairly automatic ways as responses to structural changes in social organization and from changes in purposeful individual behavior—that is, from agency. Indeed, a central controversy within the field involves the extent to which these demographic shifts were because of the former versus the latter. Missing from those discussions is a major role for purposeful collective action. We argue in this chapter that an important but often neglected force underlying these transformations is the rise of public health campaigns that orchestrated organized efforts to decrease fertility and to mitigate important sources of premature mortality and morbidity. We explore how development, public health, and demography are intricately linked and mutually reinforcing, and we consider how public health campaigns have evolved since the advent of public health as a profession and the ways in which they have maintained a marked similarity to the early and effective efforts of more than a century ago. For example, we consider what water and sanitation projects in London at the end of the nineteenth century have to do with human migration and urbanization in Nairobi today, and what the public health response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 has to do with tuberculosis in the United States in the early twentieth century. We explore these and other important questions about mortality and fertility as we describe the emergence


of public health as a social movement and as an applied scientific discipline in the midst of these demographic transitions.


The scope of demographic change over the past century has been transformational. Life expectancy in the United States and Europe has increased by more than thirty years since 1900. Improvements in mortality were particularly pronounced among those aged 5 and younger (Arias 2012; Hoyert 2007; Mackenbach and Looman 2013). Alongside these declines in mortality, fertility has fallen as well. Fertility declined from over six children per couple just fifty years ago to below-replacement levels today in some countries (World Health Organization 2013). As a result of these sequential mortality and fertility transitions, the age structures of most populations look dramatically different than they did a century ago. In this chapter, we revisit the mortality and fertility transitions that are the focus of other chapters in this volume, and we add to the mix a third remarkable transition and a social movement that occurred alongside and interacted with the mortality and fertility transitions: the epidemiologic transition, which is the shift in the cause-of-death profile for a population, and the emergence of public health as a social movement. As we shall explain, public health played a principal role in all three of these interrelated transitions. Hypothesized causal relations between economic development and declines in mortality and fertility are controversial. Some demographers argue that economic development is not necessary to achieve declines in mortality and fertility. Instead, some propose that political and social will are the primary engines underlying mortality decline. For example, John Caldwell suggested that government investment to increase access to and utilization of education and health services is crucial for mortality declines, whereas income is of “surprisingly little importance” (1986, 179). Others concluded that the historical record suggests that the relationship between economic growth and human welfare is interdependent (see, e.g., Szreter 1997), and development is characterized by economic growth that cannot be sustained without “the mediation of the social and institutional forces promoted by the politics of public health” (Szreter 1997, 719). Similarly, additional research suggests that increases in income bear relatively little responsibility for increases in longevity and decreases in mortality, finding instead that educational attainment accounts for the majority of the mortality decline observed since 1870 in a panel of seventy countries (Murtin 2013). Education affects fertility as well: six years of primary education could decrease fertility by as much as 80 percent in the same panel (Murtin 2013). In summary, a principal and simple causal role for economic development in mortality decline—an idea still widely promulgated in the popular press—is not a consensus view among development scholars and demographers. Rather, such declines appear to result from interactions involving economic development and new movements in education and especially public health, mediated and administered by increasingly



sophisticated bureaucracies at the behest of governing bodies responding to social will and scientific knowledge. As we shall explain, public health as a social movement spurred the development of public health both as a discipline and as an important function of government.


The mortality transition refers to the shift from high mortality to low mortality that has come to characterize nearly all populations over the past two and a half centuries. In 1945, Frank Notestein provided the first formal elucidation of demographic transition theory when he proposed that mortality decreased in the context of economic development. The underlying idea suggests that expanding markets provided a buffer against local crop failures that had proven catastrophic in the past. However, well before then, there was substantial evidence that the context of such declines in mortality were in fact varied. Adolphe Landry observed in 1934 that mortality declines could occur without significant population-wide improvements in socioeconomic status (Kirk 1996). More recently, Ansley Coale and Susan Watkins (1986) summarized the European Fertility Project’s research on declining fertility in Europe and found that mortality (and fertility) declined under a wide variety of socioeconomic contexts. Although economic development is often still given a place of primacy in explaining demographic transitions, the current experience of very poor countries as they begin to transition from high mortality regimes to lower ones continues to belie this early generalization. One feature of this variability likely has to do with individual decisionmaking (i.e., agency). For instance, in the face of a raging cholera epidemic in nineteenth-century London, a factory worker might well choose to ride it out with relatives in the less-affected rural countryside. But, as we argue below, the collective purposeful decisionmaking that led to a nascent public health movement seems also to have played an important role in reducing mortality. This occurred first within the richer countries during the latter parts of their mortality decline during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and throughout the duration of the mortality decline within the poorer countries later in the twentieth century.


Coale and Watkins’s summary of the European Fertility Project provided substantial evidence that fertility declined across settings that varied considerably in social and economic status and that pre-modern contraception methods of fertility control were widespread, demonstrating an important role for purposeful individual action (Andorka 1986; Tilley 1986). Multiple frameworks and conceptual models have attempted to describe the fertility transition, some giving more weight to cultural factors, others giving more weight to economic factors, and still others highlighting the importance of increasing agency, especially among women. Increasing education for women is cited as evidence by all,



and the empirical evidence supporting the important role of education in fertility decline is clear. Education is considered to be a primary driver of the European demographic transition, in large part because of its association with lower fertility (Murtin 2013). Discerning the mechanisms is more challenging. Female education can reduce childbearing by delaying marriage and thus reducing exposure to pregnancy during a woman’s most fertile period. Education can also shift the center of gravity in decisionmaking by increasing women’s agency, changing social norms, and providing women with skills for employment outside the home. The opportunity costs of childbearing increase considerably when household income loss is a consequence of having children. Education can induce changes in parental family size preference, access to contraception, and attitudes and beliefs about procreation and contraception, changes that may all foster lower fertility rates.1


Abdel Omran (1971) first put forth the contention that underlying causes of mortality change as mortality shifts from high to low. Omran’s theory of epidemiologic transition consisted of five propositions that, taken together, described an overall shift in the causeof-death regime from principally infectious disease to principally chronic illness as populations develop economically and age. Notably, he showed how socioeconomic factors, modernization, and anthropogenic illness influenced shifts in morbidity and mortality. Since Omran’s original iteration of the theory, others have suggested that the theory of the epidemiological transition operates best as a model for understanding how population dynamics, mortality, and disease interrelate rather than as a predictive or explanatory model (McKeown 2009).


Declines in mortality and fertility can also leverage substantial changes in the pace of socioeconomic development by making possible a shift in how societies allocate societal resources, including those resources made newly available by socioeconomic development. Education may be a principal determinant of fertility decline, but widespread education is not possible without the wealth, efficiencies, and bureaucracies that accompany economic development. As societies are able to afford mass education and child labor is deemed less necessary, children’s school enrollment rates increase, marriage is delayed, and fertility rates decline. However, education is not an automatic consequence of economic development. A society must value education and prioritize it over alternative expenditures. Similarly for public health, the emergence of such a movement required not only a minimum threshold of economic development to make such an endeavor feasible but also purposeful collective action that was mission-driven.




Often overlooked by both development and population scholars is that transformational improvements in public health drove—and were driven by—these economic and demographic transformations. Public health as a profession and as a function of government did not emerge automatically as a natural consequence of economic development. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the wealthier classes in the United States and Europe were not inclined to be particularly concerned with the plight of those who labored for them, and the laboring classes had little or no leverage to demand conditions that would improve health and well-being (Shryock 1937). Public consciousness about the living and working conditions of the working class began to change as England enacted its Poor Laws in 1834, which, though heavy-handed, were an early effort to decrease illness among the poor (Krieger 1998). By the 1840s, conditions for the poor and working classes began to improve more rapidly with the publication of influential reports and campaigns to remedy these conditions. Louis-René Villermé published the first report on the condition of French workers in 1840, Edwin Chadwick began crusading for clean water and for public sanitary measures in 1842, Friedrich Engels highlighted the plight of workers in England and called for collective action to demand humane conditions in 1844, and in 1849 John Snow published his landmark discovery that cholera outbreaks in London were due to poor sanitation and the living conditions of the poor (see Birn, Pillay, and Holtz 2009; Krieger 1998; Shryock 1937). As a result, workers rioted across Europe in 1848, and Sikhs revolted against the British East India Company in 1848 and 1849. These revolts did not provoke any revolutionary changes, but they did facilitate the emergence of a perceived relationship between politics and public health, and Rudolf Virchow cemented this perception by writing in 1848 that democracy was necessary to prevent typhus outbreaks (Birn, Pillay, and Holtz 2009). A modern form of public health emerged as workers, owners, reformers, suffragists, scientists, politicians, prohibitionists, doctors, and bureaucrats began to focus their collective attention on a related set of issues: who was responsible for the health of the public; who should provide public health services; who should benefit from them; and who best understood the complex determinants of health. As a direct result of this initial focus, a wide variety of national and international committees, conventions, and associations were started, abandoned, or strengthened throughout the latter half of the 1800s and the early 1900s.2 The discipline and practice of public health evolved alongside economic development and modernization, demographic transitions that led to massive international migration, and biomedical advances. But public health developed in response to the social movements that emerged in the nineteenth century to address the lot of working people. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the new discipline had emerged both as a perspective and as an approach. As a perspective, the discipline of public health began by focusing on the determinants of morbidity, mortality, and general well-being or health. The study of epide-



miology and demography are examples of the sort of research that informed this perspective. As an approach, the discipline of public health promotes initiatives that benefit the health of broad classes of people, often employing the resources and authority of government and other institutions. Modern family planning programs, vaccination campaigns, and antismoking legislation are examples of practical approaches to public health challenges identified by epidemiologists and demographers. But, during its early years, public health concerned itself with a much narrower range of activities. Containing the primary infectious disease killers, especially among the large numbers of new arrivals to America around a century ago, was its early focus. Quarantine and sanitation were principal tools. In the United States, these efforts were often conceived in new schools of public health that were being formed at the time (Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine was the first school of public health established in the United States, in malariaprone New Orleans in 1912)3 and planned and carried out by new bureaucracies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.4 By the mid-twentieth century, in part beause of the expanding field of demography, public health began to look beyond infectious disease control as the discipline came to view entire populations as units of study (Duffy and Behm 1964). Today, public health embraces a broad range of issues, such as occupational and environmental health, reproductive health, mental health, food safety, water and sewage sanitation, and health systems effectiveness and efficiency as well as socioeconomic, gender, and racial disparities in health outcomes.

I M P R O V E M E N T S — A N D D I S PA R I T I E S — I N P U B L I C H E A LT H

As noted above, the past two centuries have witnessed profound improvements in longevity. However, variations in these improvements are also profound. Currently, life expectancy ranges from an average of 60 in low-income countries to an average of 80 in highincome countries (World Health Organization 2013). More worrisome, the previous brisk pace of improvement has slowed in many low-income countries. Intimately related to the stalled mortality transition in many poorer countries is the stalled epidemiological transition. Low-income countries are struggling to keep pace with the change in the causes of mortality that has been observed in the high- and middle-income countries, and they will find it increasingly difficult to catch up. In 2008, deaths due to communicable disease constituted 42 percent of all mortality in low-income countries but only 7 percent of all mortality in high-income countries; 50 percent of mortality in low-income countries resulted from noncommunicable illness whereas 84 percent of mortality in high-income countries came from noncommunicable illness (Figure 9.1). Discrepancies are also stark for children under age 5. Under-5 mortality fell globally by 20.5 percent between 2000 and 2010, but the biggest decrease was observed in uppermiddle-income countries (47.5 percent) whereas low-income countries saw a decrease in under-5 mortality of only 13.3 percent (World Health Organization 2013).5 Does economic development or advancing medical technology explain these contrasts?








50% 65%

68% 75%



Non-communicable Communicable

42% 26%

24% 15% 7% Low income

Lower middle income

Upper middle income

High income


FIGURE 9.1. Mortality Cause by Country Income Level, 2008. Source: Data from World Health Organization 2013.

Thomas McKeown and R. G. Brown (1955) proposed that mortality declines and population increases are due to nutritional improvements resulting from economic gains and better social conditions. Although such a thesis is appealingly clear, simple, and policyrelevant (investment in the economy is the best way to improve life expectancy), the historical record is much murkier. The proposed causal role for economic development is undermined by the fact that declining mortality can have a beneficial effect on economic output. Secular declines in morbidity and functioning usually accompany declines in mortality, and this delayed senescence results in a more economically productive population. A one-year increase in a population’s life expectancy can produce a 4 percent increase in output beyond what could be accounted for by the increased experience of older workers alone (Bloom, Canning, and Sevilla 2004). Some of McKeown and Brown’s hypotheses have been partially supported: for example, recent work has shown that economic growth can indeed stimulate the demographic transition, even if it cannot account for much of the total effect of the transition (Murtin 2013). But, in the aggregate, recent scholarship has not validated a straightforward causal role of economic development in improving nutrition and, as a result, reducing mortality as McKeown and Brown proposed. In addition to this better-understood but diminished role for economic development in mortality decline, similarly simplistic and popular theories linking improved longevity



to medical advances have also fared poorly under careful scrutiny. By some accounts, biomedical advances in pharmaceuticals and prophylactic treatment accounted for only 3.5 percent of mortality declines in the United States from 1900 to 1973 (McKinlay and McKinlay 1977). But it is our contention that distinct—and less well studied—advances in public health played a very important role in the demographic and epidemiological transitions. We also contend that these public health advances were not independent from their much better studied medical and economic counterparts. Prior to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, massive public health interventions would have been neither technically nor bureaucratically possible. The major technological advances in engineering that drove economic development (such as steam and gasoline engines, mass production of steel, and implementation of assembly lines) and the resultant ability to administer public engineering projects on large scales laid the foundation for the subsequent investments in public health. Moreover, the political and bureaucratic structure required for enabling and regulating rapid industrialization provided the structure necessary for large-scale public health interventions, such as city-wide water and sanitation systems, quarantine protocols for preventing the spread of tuberculosis among new immigrants into the United States, and the massive malaria eradication campaigns in the southern United States. As an example, until the early decades of the twentieth century, much of what is now the city of New Orleans was covered by malariainfested swamps. In the late 1800s, in response to concerns over sanitation and housing shortages, the city of New Orleans appointed a committee to engineer a drainage solution. These early efforts, though not lacking political will, were only partially successful because pumps sufficient for such a task had yet to be developed (Colten 2002). However, in the wake of the rise of industrialization in the United States, a new type of pump adequate for such an ambitious project was developed in 1917 (Gilmore 1944). The new technological development of massive pumping engines along with the bureaucratic and administrative weight of a city’s government made feasible the effort to drain the swamps, rid the area of malaria, and make possible the expansion of the city. Although economic development was necessary (if not sufficient) for the emergence of public health as a movement, perspective, and approach, it is not essential for its continuation. Many public health campaigns are based on the adaptation of proven practical and often very simple interventions to new settings (Birn, Pillay, and Holtz 2009). One example is family planning, which has been a central obsession of public health since the 1960s; decades of assessment have shown the importance of such programs for fertility decline (Mauldin, Berelson, and Sykes 1978). Research and development remain important, but much of the future success of family planning programs will depend on the successful provision and management of existing technologies. Family planning methods and technologies are now diffused throughout the world, regardless of development status. Likewise, simple and practical public health programs that focus on childhood survival (e.g., vaccination programs) have contributed not only to mortality decline but also to fertility decline because such programs increase parents’



confidence that their children will survive to adulthood (Brauner-Otto, Axinn, and Ghimire 2007).


In this section, we highlight three areas in which public health has played a major role in facilitating the mortality transition and paved the way for the epidemiological transition: water and sanitation; tuberculosis; and malaria.


By the mid- to late 1800s, most large U.S. cities had municipal water systems. However, these systems simply delivered untreated water to homes and businesses, and they often transported untreated wastewater back to the source. Rates of water-borne infectious morbidity and mortality were very high and led to the so-called “urban penalty,” a term first coined to describe the increased mortality rates of urban dwellers in England during the 1800s (U.N. Centre for Human Settlements 2001). With John Snow’s discovery in the 1850s that contaminated water at a community pump was responsible for a massive cholera outbreak and with the emergence of bacteriology in the 1880s, public health officials began advocating for the adoption of water sanitation technologies for municipal water systems. As cities developed water sanitation infrastructure, the declines in mortality were marked. Water sanitation technologies reduced mortality in major U.S. cities by 13 percent from 1900 to 1936 (Cutler and Miller 2005). This accounted for more than 40 percent of the total mortality reduction during that time, almost all of which was due to decreases in infectious illness. During the same period, infant and child mortality fell dramatically; water sanitation technologies accounted for close to three-quarters of the infant mortality decline and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality decline (Cutler and Miller 2005). Similarly, large mortality declines in French cities were observed after those cities adopted water sanitation technologies (Preston and van de Walle 1978). Declines in infectious disease–related mortality began to erase the urban penalty. In 1900–1902, the life expectancy of rural men was ten years longer than their urban counterparts (Klein 2004). By 1940, differences in life expectancy between rural and urban areas had disappeared (Haines 2001). The water and sanitation projects in nineteenth-century London, enacted in response to a rising public concern over the living conditions in London’s slums, offer a model for a public health response to the slums in Africa, where more than 70 percent of the population lives in slums in some cities (UN-HABITAT 2003b). Though not obvious at first glance, the similarities between nineteenth-century London and twenty-first-century Nairobi, for example, are evident in the ways that their slums developed and in the living conditions that their slums’ inhabitants endured (and, in Nairobi, continue to endure). In both cases, slums developed as low-skilled workers flocked to the urban centers in



search of employment. Housing was in short supply, and unscrupulous landlords and developers offered low-quality, cramped, poorly ventilated, and dangerous shelter. Increasing affluence in London played a role in shrinking its slums, but in every case where slums have been eliminated or substantially reduced it has been the result of social will in the form of some combination of government intervention, new societal concerns about protecting the poor, active civic participation by the poor, and access to markets that had previously been unavailable to the poor (UN-HABITAT 2003a). As Nairobi today echoes nineteenth-century London and low-skilled workers flock to the city from Kenya’s rural areas, the rates of disease transmission are high, life expectancies are low, and water and sanitation are limited and of poor quality. The combination of technical innovation and social will that worked to end London’s slums does not need to be reinvented for Nairobi, and it does not require individual affluence. In London, reformers successfully brought social pressure to bear on the government and were successful in improving the living conditions and health of the poor without increasing individual incomes, although incomes did increase in the aftermath of these improvements. The hope is that cities like Nairobi with large slum populations can benefit from London’s hard-learned lessons and improve the lives and health of the poor without having to develop new technologies or new resources.


Public health has also played a central role in the reduction of tuberculosis-mediated mortality. Active tuberculosis incidence in a population is high where there is overcrowding, poor nutrition, harmful working conditions, and low income (Hargreaves et al. 2011). The U.S. immigrant population of the early nineteenth century, therefore, was at very high risk of active tuberculosis. Underlying rates of (mostly latent) tuberculosis were high in Europe and the United States at that time (between 70 and 90 percent at the end of the nineteenth century), providing ample underlying prevalence to fuel outbreaks of active infections among poorly nourished immigrants living in cramped, poorly ventilated housing (Harvard University Library Open Collections Program 2014). As nascent epidemiologists began to focus more on the populations that contracted particular illnesses at higher rates than other populations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, tuberculosis control efforts focused on the quarantine of infected individuals. Public health leaders also began to advocate for improved living conditions for the poor, who contracted the illness at disproportionately high rates (Gandy and Zumla 2002). These public health interventions appear to be primarily responsible for the more than 75 percent decline in tuberculosis-related deaths in the United States between 1900 and 1940—which is before antibiotic therapy for tuberculosis had been developed (Centers for Disease Control 1999). In a similar way, the public health response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa that began in 2014 was shackled by the lack of a medical solution. Although work to develop



a vaccination has been under way, the only medical option for Ebola was supportive clinical care. Efforts to curb the outbreak centered on identification and isolation of infected individuals (World Health Organization 2014). Public awareness campaigns and the mobilization of local groups to identify the infected have appeared to stem the tide of the crisis (World Health Organization 2015). Of course, it is too soon to tell if these efforts were entirely successful, but these methods have led to positive results over the past century in many settings, particularly when medical solutions have not been available.


In the Tennessee River Valley, malaria affected nearly a third of the population in the early 1900s (Centers for Disease Control 2012). Yet malaria was nearly eradicated from the area by 1947, fewer than fifteen years after the Tennessee Valley Authority was created to harness the hydroelectric power of the Tennessee River and to improve the land and waterways for economic development (Centers for Disease Control 2012). The inclusion of insecticide use and engineering solutions to reduce mosquito breeding grounds was responsible for essentially eradicating endemic malaria in the area (and in the entire United States several years later). This is a useful illustration of Simon Szreter’s (1997) contention that public health interventions and economic development are interdependent. This public health approach to malaria control in the Tennessee Valley and throughout the Deep South is a rare success story in an ongoing fight against a disease that has long stymied medical intervention. Modern treatment of malaria symptoms saves lives, too. But the lion’s share of mortality improvement is the result of approaches that are more accurately described as public health.


The epidemiological transition as a model for approaching interrelated processes provides insight into how the dramatic reductions in mortality and morbidity have been positive for economic development and productivity. Healthy labor forces are more productive, have fewer days of work missed due to illness, and are able to handle more physically demanding tasks. In addition, parents miss less work to care for ill children. Likewise, we see how economic development has been positive for health: it has enabled public health improvements that facilitated the epidemiological transition. In the United States, nineteenth-century industrialization created the wealth needed to fund massive public works projects like the creation and then sanitation of municipal water systems and the development of the Tennessee River Valley. The synergistic health and economic returns on these types of investment are illustrated by an increase in life expectancy by 44 percent between 1900 and 1950 and a disappearance of the urban penalty during that same period (National Center for Health Statistics 2011).



At the same time that mortality and development were changing one another, populations began moving from rural to urban areas. Cities became centers of innovation, productivity, economic output, and public health innovation. Urbanization increased the efficiencies of delivering population-based health interventions like vaccination campaigns or treated water and sewage. The shift of centers of population from rural areas to cities occurred in the industrialized world during the Industrial Revolution, but this shift is now taking place nearly everywhere else. Edward Glaeser’s book The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (2011) chronicles this most recent global demographic shift of rapid rural-tourban migration and global urbanization. He argues that the concentration of resources and populations in cities increases human intelligence, attracts talent, enhances innovation, intensifies human capital, creates wealth, and generates efficiencies. Given these features of urban life, it is no accident that the birthing of public health as a discipline took place in the great cities of the Industrial Revolution, such as London, New Orleans, and New York City.


Ultimately, the effects of the demographic transition are mixed for public health as populations age, become more urban, and experience more nonchronic illness but less infectious illness. Older populations are frailer than younger ones and require increasingly costly medical care. Populations that experience increased mobility (whether because of increased incomes and opportunities, economic necessity, or war and violence) are at increased risk for new or reemerging infectious illnesses. The erasure of the urban penalty has led to urban population concentrations that have made possible denser sexual networks, increased crime, and social alienation. As a result, public health resources are stretched in more directions than ever to address an ever-widening array of demands. However, the demographic transition has led to numerous positive benefits as well. Higher survivorship among family members has benefits for the overall family unit both in terms of maintaining consistent household income and in ensuring that children receive adequate nutrition and education throughout the important early development years. Children born as mortality—and then fertility—begins to decline constitute a “dividend” generation who work their way through the age structure of the population during a period when previous—or older—cohorts are smaller (due to previously high mortality) and subsequent—or younger—cohorts shrink in size (due to the onset of low fertility). As seen in David Brown and Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue’s chapter in this volume, this generation is larger than the generations that precede and follow it, and it becomes a labor force with relatively fewer older and younger dependents. In the right circumstances, this dividend generation can increase per capita income and personal wealth due to the relative decline in both young and old dependents in the



population, providing tax revenues and increasing human capital for further economic development. Moreover, increased urbanization has provided opportunities for personal enrichment and happiness not available in rural settings as well as opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and wealth creation. These demographic and epidemiological transitions provide large and unique opportunities to invest in the long-term public health of the transitioning population, especially during the period of the demographic dividend. Societies can invest in health infrastructure, research and development, and educational campaigns, all of which can have long-lasting positive effects for public health.


An important accommodation of epidemiological transition theory to the recent historical record is that we cannot assume unilateral and steady improvement in mortality over time. A wide range of unpredictable factors can—and do—lead to setbacks. A prominent example is the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which reversed gains in life expectancy for much of sub-Saharan Africa and slowed them elsewhere. Other examples are the dire future implications of expanding obesity epidemics in both developed and developing countries, which, under some projections, could slow increases in life expectancy (Olshansky et al. 2005). Along with these threats, public health researchers and practitioners must also anticipate the effects of continued urbanization, continuing low fertility and low mortality, and continued high mobility for population health. Continued very low fertility and low mortality (i.e., high life expectancy) will also likely have mixed effects on economic development and public health. These trends may possess positive benefits if the experience of healthy older adults can be tapped for economic productivity and if fertility declines are not too swift or dramatic. However, living longer may not necessarily mean living healthier. Evidence suggests that increased longevity has been accompanied by declines in functional limitations at older ages (Crimmins 2004; Crimmins et al. 2005). These trends toward lower fertility and higher life expectancy have the potential to challenge economies, making investment in public health and other social programs geared toward social well-being more difficult. Continued urbanization will likely have mixed effects on economic development and public health. Positive effects may come from innovation in public health research and improved public health delivery as resources are concentrated and efficiencies of scale for implementation are achieved. However, concentrated urban populations are vulnerable to terrorist attack, the spread of new epidemics, and higher rates of crime. In the poorest urban sites, where those who dwell in slums can represent well over half of the urban population, these threats are magnified and combined with dangerous conditions such as a lack of modern water and sanitation systems, potential for devastating fires, and widespread poverty.



Finally, very high mobility will also likely have mixed effects on economic development and public health. High mobility puts human populations at risk of facilitating and spreading new forms of highly lethal infectious diseases. Ebola, SARS, bird flu, and swine flu have all made frequent appearances in the news over the past decade as epidemiologists have scrambled to identify and trace new strains and paths of disease that have the potential for catastrophic morbidity and mortality in a mobile world. The AIDS pandemic would not have been possible during an earlier era of sparsely settled and immobile rural populations. Although deadly new forms of infectious disease have devastated local human populations since we emerged as a species, it is only after the emergence of dense, mobile, and interconnected patterns of settlement that such new diseases have the potential to inflict such widespread consequences. However, it may be that increased mobility could have positive effects by facilitating the exploitation of opportunities for improved well-being among investors and workers willing to take risks. The interplay among these new and still-emerging patterns of economic organization, demographic structure, and human settlement will have profound implications for the public health and well-being of future populations. N OT E S

1. However, the conceptualization of education as a form of purposeful collective action (i.e., as a social movement) has received little attention among demographers with regard to its influence on lowering fertility. 2. The American Medical Association (AMA) was founded in 1847. Britain’s General Board of Health was established in 1848. The American Statistical Association was founded in 1849 to support the AMA’s effort to measure conditions in urban areas. The London Epidemiological Society was founded in 1850. Various national sanitary conventions were held in the late 1850s, and the U.S. Sanitary Commission was legislated into being in 1861 to support U.S. Army soldiers during the Civil War. State Boards of Health began to be established in the second half of the 1800s. The American Public Health Association was founded in 1872, and the World Health Organization was founded in 1948. 3. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was established in 1899. 4. The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was established in 1953 and officially became the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980. Its forerunner had been established in 1798 when a network of hospitals was developed to care for ill or disabled seamen. However, the role of the federal government in promoting health initiatives on a large scale began expanding at about the same time that the first schools of public health were opening their doors. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, quarantine duties were shifted to the federal government from states, the U.S. Public Health Service was established, and the lab that eventually developed into the National Institutes of Health was founded (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006). 5. Declines were modest in high-income countries as well, but this is to be expected since child mortality was already low there.




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The idea that education leads to economic growth and development often seems so intuitive as to be not worth questioning. Sociologists have often joined with other social scientists in asserting, or often just assuming, that individuals, firms, regions, and nations are routinely and effectively schooled into the acquisition of the kinds of skills, habits of innovation, modern attitudes, and entrepreneurial casts of mind that produce higher levels of productivity and prosperity. Development agencies, educational administrators, and politicians, no less than parents and their offspring, operate on the belief that a more schooled society, not unlike a more schooled individual, is more likely to be economically dynamic than is a less highly educated society. This instrumental kind of thinking has not always dominated understandings of the purpose of education. In fact, the idea that economic growth relies heavily on the expansion of schooling and the related idea that the chief rationale for the expansion of schooling is economic development are both of relatively recent vintage. As Francisco Ramirez and his colleagues (2006) point out, the very concept “education for economic growth,” which is now virtually hegemonic, would rarely have resonated with earlier generations of political or even business and industrial leaders. Although national visions of the purpose of education have seldom been monolithic, nation building, military might, religious orthodoxy, and political fealty have more often than not trumped economic competitiveness as the underlying rationale for formal schooling.1 But if nations have only recently looked to schools to provide the resources for economic growth, where did they look for skilled and willing workers before mass schooling

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became so widely disseminated across the globe? Unlike today, when it makes some sense to think of “nations” as independent actors in the generation of manpower policies, in earlier eras this sort of agency was located elsewhere, in families, entrepreneurialism, or workplaces. Historically, urbanization has certainly done more to enhance economic development than has the spread of mass schooling. Schools came relatively late to the project of economic development.2 Schooling and economic development may have been loosely coupled in the hearts and minds of scholars and practitioners in the past, but this is clearly no longer the case. The association between education and economic growth is now made virtually everywhere in the world. Indeed, schooling has become the virtually paradigmatic rational investment, whether this is the individual pursuing his or her economic future or a political state investing in the education of its citizenry. On a simple empirical level, there is ample warrant for making this association. Volumes of research have documented— recent uninformed diatribes doubting the value of pursuing a postsecondary degree notwithstanding—that more educated individuals tend to do better economically than do less-educated people. Firms with many skilled employees are more productive than are those with fewer skilled workers. Regions with heavy investments in educational resources of various kinds are richer than regions that do not make these investments. And, for the most part, highly schooled nations are wealthier than less highly schooled nations. Although each of these statements merits an immediate “on the other hand,” each also contains enough empirical support to be taken seriously and to establish the groundwork for more nuanced causal accounts of just why schooling and development seem to fit together so snugly. The reasons for the empirical relationships between schooling and economic growth are problematic. What we can say for certain about the causal chains and underlying mechanisms for the observed linkages between education and economic performance, at any level, is distressingly shaky. As I will explain below, there are many reasons for this indeterminacy, but perhaps the most fundamental is simply that “the relationship between education and growth may not be directly observable” (Vogel and Keen 2010, 384). That is, both “education” and “economic growth” are large, complex, and dynamic sets of structures and processes whose relationships defy any simple or reductive accounting (Tilly 1989). Neither the theoretical nor the empirical literature on education and development has ever gotten much traction by conceptualizing an educational input that leads to an unambiguous economic output. The reminder that “correlation is not causation” is more than an adage learned in Sociology 101, and it takes on particular force when applied to such heterogeneous and ill-defined concepts as education and development. Two prominent contributors to the economics literature, Mark Bils and Peter Klenow (2000), believe that empirical analyses of education and economic growth have rarely been compelling enough to establish anything other than correlation. Much of the reason for this explanatory gap is no doubt the result of deficiencies in research design, poor quality or inappropriate data, and badly



conceived measurement. Other problems are more theoretical and conceptual. As a few examples of the challenges facing researchers in this area, consider the following. First, researchers often pay too little attention to apparently simple matters of the direction of causation. As Cvrcek and Zajicek somewhat caustically observe, “[T]he whole education-growth nexus is riddled with endogeneity” (2013, 6). The “endogeneity problem” (most simply, the indeterminacy of which variable is independent and which is dependent in a given empirical relationship) is common in the social sciences, and sociologists have become adept at developing statistical ways to resolve endogeneity issues (see, e.g., Elwert and Winship 2014). At an empirical level, however, there is no obvious rationale for conceptualizing “education” as somehow causally prior to “development,” as if they were two uncoupled components of any given society. More accurately, the relationships between education and development are reciprocal, and the effects of level of development on educational expansion are as interesting and consequential as are the more commonly considered effects of education on development (Chabbott and Ramirez 2000). Economic development often does follow educational expansion, but this expansion in turn is often endogenous with respect to economic growth. As Philippe Aghion and his colleagues observe, “[A] state’s education investments are non-random. States that are richer, faster growing, or have better institutions probably find it easier to increase their education spending. Thus, there is a distinct possibility that correlations between education investments and growth are due to reverse causality” (2009, 1). Although the direction of causation between education and development is an open question in any given instance, it is also possible and in some cases probable that measures of education and development will be significantly associated with each other, but with no compelling causal component between them. That would be the case if there were a common cause—that is, a third variable or set of variables that “causes” both educational expansion and economic growth. It is not difficult to come up with such possible explanatory factors. Urbanization, the development of sanitation and other measures of public health, and demographic shifts might all affect education expansion and economic growth alike. Further, even if we take schooling as exogenous with respect to economic growth, any number of variables may intervene or mediate the relationships between education and growth. The search for the mechanisms that bring about the parameter estimates between schooling and development has not always been as aggressive as it has needed to be. It is possible, of course, that the largest contribution of schooling to economic development is the churning out of an endless supply of job-ready workers. More likely, it may be that schooling “causes” the production of healthier people with better work ethics and entrepreneurial attitudes who are poised to produce smaller families and serve as nodes on the social network that lead to spillovers and other externalities, and that some combination of these and other factors eventually leads to economic growth.3 The social science verdict is still very much out as to which of these factors are most consequential under varying conditions.


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Finally, even now much of the received wisdom about education and development relies on the analysis of cross-sectional data, when the questions at stake clearly demand the careful assessment of longitudinal data. When combined with such methodological problems as inconsistent measurement, imprecise designation of regional units, and often shoddy data collection, our evidentiary base is far weaker than the amount of research generated on education and development would have been expected to produce. Inevitably, reading the literature leaves one with a sense of tentativeness and unsettledness. This is not because of any lack of ambition on the part of the research community. Political scientists Norman Baldwin, Stephen Borrelli, and Michael New have observed that “[t]he volume of peer-reviewed research on the impact of education on economic growth is staggering—at least eight reviews have been published since 1995” (2011, 226). They add, though, that “this sheer bulk of rigorous research fails to produce cumulative, consensually accepted findings.” Many reviews of the education and development literature are framed around an obvious paradox: if the linkages between schooling and development are so empirically shaky, why is the public (and, to some degree, scholarly) faith in this relationship so strong? This is an interesting question that has produced some valuable insight into the role of mass schooling in the contemporary world (see especially Chabbott and Ramirez 2000). I will adopt a very different framing here. I argue that the relationships between education and development vary across different units of analysis. The relationship is a nested one, calling for different sociological concepts and theories depending on whether one is trying to account for linkages at the individual, firm, regional, or national levels. Sociologists stand to make their greatest contributions at the middle (or “meso”) levels, those of the firm and the region, and may be advised to shift—at least temporarily—their focus away from the individual and national levels. In this chapter, I will accept the fact of the (usually) positive empirical relationship between education and economic development, but I problematize it theoretically and conceptually as a nested relationship. Given the limited space available here, I am going to home in on economic development, ignoring for the most part the vast and important work on how schooling might contribute to, for example, political development, civic involvement, human rights, or family structure and stability (Hannum and Buchmann 2004).


Certainly there has been some simplistic thinking about education and development, but probably no one really believes that merely having a population amass years of class time in an educational institution is sufficient to drive economic growth. Still, at least until recently, many analysts have proceeded as if years of schooling provided a reasonable proxy for whatever it is about schooling that does matter for economic development. What



might this contribution of formal schooling to the growth of the economy actually be? Why would we ever expect education to be related to economic development? As noted above, it was not until the rise of mass schooling that the belief that schooling provided the key to national economic performance became normative. The convention among sociologists for many years was based on modernization theory, which held that modern schooling “makes men modern” (Inkeles 1969). For modernization theorists, education—even more than working in industrial or post-industrial occupations and workplaces—creates the casts of mind and ways of seeing and participating in the world that are prerequisites to economic expansion. Modernization theory has justifiably come in for its share of criticism over the years, to the point where it is now generally considered to have been wrong (Hout and DiPrete 2006). But, though the theory has not held up well to empirical test, it was at least on the right track in seeking the mechanisms at work in the positive correlation between education and economic growth. Modernization theory never provided a persuasive account of the role of schooling in development, but it may be premature to dismiss more sophisticated extensions of the hypothesis that schooling generates various noncognitive orientations and perspectives in individuals, and that these orientations and perspectives in turn produce economic outcomes. Prosper Bangwayo-Skeete, Alaf Rahim, and Precious Zikhali, for instance, acknowledge that there is “no general consensus among researchers on the exact causal relationship between cultural values and economic progress” (2011, 163). Based on their careful analysis of the World Values Survey for forty-three countries, the authors reported that both formal and informal education have significant effects on the relative importance that people place on economic achievement relative to more traditional social norms. Thus, the authors provided some evidence that schooling can inculcate the kinds of cultural values that lead to economic growth. A more common explanation for the contribution of schooling to economic growth is that it provides students with the kinds of cognitive skills that employers value and on which economic expansion depends. Although human capital theory has rarely been portrayed quite this simply, certainly many of its adherents would be content with an explanation centered on cognitive skills. In a series of publications, economist Eric Hanushek (Hanushek 2013; Hanushek and Woessmann 2012) agrees that cognitive skill is the prime driver of economic growth, but he does not believe that the most important skills are easily acquired, nor are these skills adequately measured by years of schooling. Hanushek holds that societies need to invest heavily in the high-quality education that inculcates the most valuable skills. For him, the educational status quo—cheap, one-sizefits-all schooling—will do little to advance a nation economically. A crucial implication of this is that developed societies are in a strong position to extend their educational edge over developing societies. That is, closing the quantitative educational gap (i.e., years of schooling) between nations will have little impact on growth in developing nations as long as the qualitative gap in educational quality persists or expands. Thus, continuing


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to measure human capital as years of schooling is misleading and mistaken. Hanushek recommends instead that analysts adopt more finely grained measures of skills of the sort available in the Programme for International Student Assessment data.4 Modernization theory and the variant of human capital theory offered by Hanushek rest on the assumption that education influences economic development primarily by changing something about individuals and that these changes in turn aggregate up to societal-level changes. But schooling produces more than detached skills. It also produces a variety of meso-level outcomes in which both cognitive and noncognitive skills are embedded. For example, formal schooling generates social capital. It produces knowledge, processes, and products. Formal schooling produces externalities, complementarities, and spillovers (I describe all of these processes below). It produces categories of workers certified to perform specific tasks in a society’s division of labor (Meyer 1977). Perhaps the best way to understand these dynamics is by considering education and development as nested. I turn to this next.


Sociologists often conceptualize social processes and relationships as being “nested” within processes and relationships at higher levels of analysis. Research on education, for example, might see students as nested within classrooms, which are in turn nested within schools, which may be nested within states, which are nested within nations. Adam Gamoran, Walter Secada, and Cora Marrett (2000) refer to this way of understanding hierarchical relations as the “nested layers model.” In this model, relationships at one level may influence those at higher and lower levels, and may be influenced by them in turn. As sociologist Richard Child Hill notes, “In a nested hierarchy, parts and wholes are not subordinated one to the other; the relationship is one of ‘energetic tension’ and mutual adaptation” (2004, 374). The nested layers model is useful for clarifying the hierarchical nature of many social relationships, including those between education and economic development (see Simon 1973 for a foundational statement on hierarchy in social systems). Perhaps a bit arbitrarily, we can conceptualize the often reciprocal relationships between schooling and economic development as taking place on four levels. First, at the lowest level, more highly educated individuals tend to command higher incomes than do less highly educated individuals. How much of the greater earning power of the more highly educated comes about as a causal effect and how much can be attributed to such other factors as credentialism and signaling is not entirely settled (Bills 2003). Because the study of the individual-level returns to schooling is a mid-sized industry in itself and has been extensively reviewed elsewhere (e.g., Card 1999; Hout 2012), I will say little about it here, other than to point out that many of the same conceptual problems that plague research at this level recur at higher levels. Second, we can ask about the relationship of education to economic growth or development at the level of the firm or workplace. Although the study of organizational-level



processes would seem to be natural territory for sociologists, our knowledge base here is surprisingly thin. I suggest that, for sociologists to make an important contribution in this context, they need to engage more deeply with literatures that are typically unfamiliar to them, such as personnel psychology and strategic management.5 Third, education may influence economic development at various regional levels of broader scope than particular firms or workplaces. The focus here lies anywhere between neighborhoods and states or even multistate regions. Our sociological base here is similarly insecure, and sociologists might profitably turn some attention to such fields as economic geography. Finally, we have quite a lot of research at the national level. This work has been conducted primarily by economists. Again, our knowledge is often shaky. In fact, the trustworthiness of our theoretical and empirical understanding of education and development not only differs across these levels but seems to become less secure as we ascend from the micro- to macro-levels. As Wolfgang Lutz, Jesus Cauresma, and Warren Sanderson observe, “The empirical basis for assuming an important positive effect of education on economic growth is, however, surprisingly weak. Although it is well-established that, at the individual level, more years of schooling lead to higher income, at the macroeconomic level, the empirical evidence, so far, relating changes in education measures to economic growth has been ambiguous” (2008, 1047). However, sociological ambiguity and healthy skepticism do not necessarily entail cynicism and dismissal. I will argue that even the most suspicious observer is not justified in conceding the entire causal story of the effect of education on economic development, at any of the four levels. As Michael Hout has concluded, “Being educated is not only good in its own right . . . it also promotes good outcomes for individuals, their communities, and the nation as a whole” (2012, 380). We should be cautious about the degree to which education leads to prosperity and be persistent about identifying the conditions under which this is likely to take place, but there can be no doubt that much of the association between education and development is causal. Although the data are often fragile, problematic, contingent, and inconsistent, there is overwhelming evidence that schooling does produce outcomes—workers, skills, attitudes, products, processes, spillovers, and more—that at some times and under some conditions make societies richer. Specifying these conditions with some precision is the theoretical and empirical challenge to sociologists.


Individual-level wage equations are not, of course, what people typically think of when they hear “education and development,” a relationship that usually evokes analyses of economic growth at the community, regional, or national levels. Indeed, research on the individual-level socioeconomic outcomes of the attainment of educational credentials is often preoccupied with individual agency and decisionmaking (e.g., career aspirations or


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personal motivations to succeed). This focus is quite different from the question of how the socially organized production and provision of education leads to aggregate economic growth. Still, if schooling ultimately makes nations richer, it stands to reason that it does so to some degree by making individuals more productive and ultimately richer. This claim seems self-evident among many labor economists. Philip Stevens and Martin Weale, for instance, ask, somewhat rhetorically, “If people with education earn more than those without, should not the same be true of countries?” (2004, 164). They answer their own question quite directly: “Any analysis of the determination of economic growth has to have some connection with the microeconomic underpinning mentioned above. Because education delivers economic benefits to individuals, we should expect to see effects of education on groupings of individuals (nations)” (167). At the very least, individuals converting their schooling into income returns is the first link in the long causal chain that runs to the national level. Of course, making inferences at one level based on observations made at another level is risky and misguided, but the idea that societies become prosperous when their members become prosperous has considerable merit. A simple listing of empirical studies of the individual-level economic returns to education would fill a good-sized volume. Most research in this tradition is derived to some degree or another from human capital theory and the justly famous Mincer Model (Mincer 1974). Without belaboring the finer points of human capital theory, it holds that employers reward individuals for the skills that they acquire in formal schooling. In its barest form, individuals invest in the sorts of human capital that make them more productive workers, this productive capacity is costlessly acquired by employers, and higher incomes accrue to those with the skills to command them. The basic finding from this vast literature is clear: schooling pays off. Still, though the simple empirical fact of the effect of education on economic reward cannot be in doubt, the mechanisms underlying this relationship are more contested (Bills 2003). Even if we concede (as we should) that schooling imparts skills and dispositions that employers value, there are instances in which other mechanisms come into play. Schooling is to some degree a sorting device, permitting more able individuals to “signal” their exogenous productive capacity to potential employers. At other times, schooling may be a way for employers to select docile and dependable cogs for the machinery of industrial factories and postindustrial offices. Or the economic payoff to schooling may sometimes simply result from some large credentialist shell game in which employers unreflectively recruit the most highly schooled, even if there may be no productive advantage in doing so. Walter Muller and Yossi Shavit (1998), among others, have shown that the magnitude of and reasons for the individual-level relationships between schooling and incomes at the individual level vary greatly across societies and historical periods. Still, any reasonable reading of this literature has to conclude that more highly schooled workers are more likely to have the skills of interest to employers than are less highly schooled workers. The first link of the education/development chain is generally secure.




If people acquire skills in school that ultimately find their way to economic development at the national level, the location at which this is directly instantiated is that of the workplace.6 That is, in its micro-foundations, economic growth happens when a particular individual applies a particular skill to a particular task in a particular setting. One might expect that the effects of education on growth and development at this meso-level (what we might variously label organizational, firm, or workplace) would be a natural area of study for sociologists. Sociologists have, after all, long had interests in work groups, factories, offices, and other settings for the organization of production. Still, though not entirely absent from this literature, sociologists of work and organizations have yet to fully engage with the vast body of theory and research on education and economic development. One could easily argue that the best and most rigorous empirical tests of the “education produces economic development” hypothesis are at the meso-level of the work setting. To the degree that educational credentialist processes can be verified at the individual level (that is, if formal qualifications are detached from actual skill), one can imagine a highly credentialed but incompetent performer holding a job indefinitely without being exposed as an unproductive bungler.7 It is less obvious how rampant credentialism, where skills and their certification are decoupled, could persist at the workplace level, which is presumably more subject to the discipline of the market. Highly educated workers who underperform may slip by indefinitely, but poorly performing firms with highly educated labor forces seem less likely to do so (at least in markets where they are less subject to competitive forces). Nevertheless, empirical tests of the linkages between education and economic growth above the level of the workplace (that is, those levels more abstracted from the settings in which skills are used and work actually takes place) typically have to rely on less direct observations of the causal mechanisms in play. Sociologists, with their fine-grained understandings of work settings, bureaucracy, and informal relations, should have a comparative research advantage at the level of the workplace. An important concept at the workplace level is that of externality. Economists, far more than sociologists, are concerned with the externalities that emerge out of social or economic relations. Put simply, externalities are the costs or benefits incurred by one party from the actions of another party. Externalities may be negative or positive. For example, a homeowner who keeps her yard in good repair and by doing so enhances her neighbor’s aesthetic experience has produced a positive externality; a less conscientious and more slovenly homeowner would provide her neighbors with a negative externality. There is considerable evidence that more educated workers bring positive externalities to workplaces. In other words, more educated workers somehow create conditions that make their less educated coworkers more productive and more highly rewarded (Lucas 1988; Moretti 2004; Mas and Moretti 2009).8 There are, of course, a variety of


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mechanisms that could bring about this relationship. It could be that more educated workers establish processes and routines that can be usefully adopted by less educated workers, or the more highly educated might model skills and other orientations that can be learned and applied by less educated workers. Although it is probably true that more educated workers are attracted to workplaces that are more productive in the first place (thus raising a “sample selection” problem), the influence of educated workers on the productivity of the less educated is almost certainly largely causal. Not surprisingly, much more is involved in the positive relationship between education and economic growth at the firm level than simply stacking educated people on top of each other and counting the benefits. Andrea Herrmann and Alexander Peine (2011) have shown that it matters how education and skills are distributed in a firm. Firms whose employees have widely dispersed educational qualifications are able to pursue some kinds of product innovations more efficiently and effectively than they can pursue other kinds of innovations, and firms with educational qualifications concentrated in the hands of fewer employees (e.g., scientists) are better positioned to pursue others. It may be that the preoccupation with individual-level wage equations that has guided the work of many sociologists has distracted them from pursuing interesting questions about the effects of education at the organizational level. This is unfortunate, because sociologists’ understanding of organizations, workplace behavior, and bureaucracy would seem to position them well to contribute to our understanding of how schooling brings about large-scale economic change.


Things get even more complicated and empirically less secure as we ascend from the workplace to the regional level (encompassing cities, counties, metropolitan areas, states, and any number of other agglomerations). Here, too, the contributions of sociologists are less apparent than are those of the practitioners of other disciplines (such as economic geography or urban and regional planning). Again, the reluctance of sociologists to engage with the relationship between education and economic growth at this meso-level is a missed opportunity, because on its face this level is intensely sociological. My treatment of the relationship of education and development at the regional level will be very selective. I will highlight a few interesting questions where sociologists potentially could have a greater impact. If schooling leads to growth at the regional level, how might this happen? This is in many ways a more difficult question than the comparable question on the organizational level. At least in a stylized sense, organizations have boundaries in ways that regions do not. Cities blend into metropolitan areas, which in turn blend into states and then into multistate regions. Counties, school districts, or labor market areas intersect these agglomerations in often haphazard ways. Defining the proper regional unit is crucial, but this is not always fully acknowledged. As Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz note:



Because state governments are an important source of funding for US higher education institutions, much of the existing literature has attempted to examine the relationship between the production of degrees and stock of college graduates from the perspective of a state government analyzing the return on its investment. . . . From the standpoint of local economic development, however, a state may not be a meaningful unit of measure because it is often too large to capture the local labor markets in which colleges and universities are located. (2012, 668)

Two crucial lessons follow from this simple observation. First, the effects of schooling on regional economic growth may be more or less localized. The magnitude and scope of any effects depend on the broader ecology—the specific mix of industries, other educational institutions, networks, and demography—of the area. The use of the term “ecology” to describe this mix and the interactions between the various “players” in a region was once ubiquitous in the sociological literature but has, with some exceptions, fallen out of common usage. It does, however, effectively capture the sense of a shifting and dynamic milieu within which the relationships between education and economic development occur. A second lesson to keep in mind at the regional level is the fundamental importance of getting the counterfactual right. A counterfactual question is essentially a “what if?” that forces scientists to think through a causal argument as if a set of conditions were in place other than those that actually exist. For instance, assessing the effects of an educational institution on the level and speed of economic growth that takes place in a region (keeping in mind that those effects run both ways) demands thinking about what the region would be like in the absence of the educational institution. Too often, analysts proceed as if the region would have been a vacant lot. Up to this point, we have been conceptualizing the “education” side of the “education and development” relationship basically as the enhanced capacity that schooling provides to individuals, acting both singly as wage earners and collectively as parts of workplaces. We shift our understanding of education now to think of it more institutionally. We ask how education as an institution or as a corporate form might influence economic development. Building on a few simple concepts drawn largely from the economic literature on regional development—spillovers, counterfactuals, and externalities—we can ask a question that is on the minds of policymakers at all levels of government: can universities make states and regions richer? Universities certainly like to claim that they have the capacity to produce economic growth. It has become virtually mandatory for postsecondary institutions to highlight their supposedly objectively and scientifically determined contribution to local and state economies, and a robust industry of consultants, analysts, and strategic planners has arisen to help fill this need. Politicians demand and universities provide “precise” estimates of how many dollars they return for every dollar that is invested in them. Much of this “research” is little more than boosterism designed primarily to advance a fund-raising agenda, and it would fail to withstand serious scientific scrutiny. Certainly



the best of this work can be effective at clarifying how the placement and operation of an educational institution in the broader ecology of a given region can add to the overall prosperity of that region. Too often, though, “impact studies” are seriously deficient in their design, conceptualization, and conclusions. John Siegfried, Allen Sanderson, and Peter McHenry (2007) offer a serious critique of research on local economic effects of colleges and conclude that the claims of many university-generated reports about their contributions to economic development lack credibility (see also Drucker and Goldstein 2007). Among other shortcomings of college impact studies are “the specification of the counterfactual, the definition of the local area, the identification of ‘new’ expenditures, the tendency to double-count economic impacts, the role of local taxes, and the omission of local spillover benefits from enhanced human capital created by higher education” (Siegfried, Sanderson, and McHenry 2007, 546).9 Bolstering this academic pseudo-science is an alliance of the popular press and industry boosters who have constructed an elaborate and widely accepted mythology surrounding the relationship between higher educational institutions and economic development. The contribution of Stanford University to the success of Silicon Valley or similar tales about Route 128 or the Research Triangle are part of the common understanding of American economic growth. The reality is more complex. In an exceptionally interesting analysis, Maryann Feldman (1994) challenged the “conventional wisdom on state and local economic development . . . that a research university is one of the necessary conditions for economic restructuring toward a technology-intensive industrial base” (1994, 67). Applying a counterfactual logic, Feldman showed that the efforts of even a great university (Johns Hopkins) were insufficient to foster economic growth. Instead, the inability of Johns Hopkins to drive the local economy was held back by persistent and chronic gaps in the regional infrastructure. In a similar vein, Heike Mayer (2006) has demonstrated that regions can prosper as high-technology areas even in the absence of major research universities. Mayer gives the examples of Portland, Oregon’s “Silicon Forest” and Washington, D.C., as illustrating that there are alternative paths to economic growth. Clearly, the relationships between education and economic development at the regional level are far from deterministic. Many of the effects of education on regional development are quite straightforward. To a significant degree, schooling simply and unambiguously increases the human capital of those who attend, and this enhanced skill aggregates up to regional growth. There is some evidence for this. Michael Paulsen and Nasrin Fatima’s (2007) careful analysis using exceptionally rigorous controls has shown that spending on higher education increased state-level workforce productivity between 1980 and 2000. Baldwin, Borrelli, and New (2011) have reported broadly consistent results for 1997–2005. Many advocates and researchers want to claim a greater role for education than simply the provision of human capital, and they have sought to demonstrate that universities have other impacts beyond the production of graduates with advanced skills. Some researchers focus on the “spillovers” generated by educational institutions—research and



development, technology, innovations, and jobs (see, e.g., Abel and Dietz 2012). The presence of these spillovers is practically an article of faith among many researchers. Steven Caspar, in a generally skeptical appraisal of the literature on spillovers, asserts that “[t]he concept of regional technology spill-overs created by university research is one of the most enduring theories within the economic geography and innovation management fields” (2013, 1313). However, though many researchers take spillovers as foundational, sociologists have paid relatively little attention to this body of research. Spillover theory may be enduring, but the empirical evidence for any unproblematic linkage between educational investment and the realization on that investment in the form of various spillovers is not always as compelling. There is credible and even abundant research demonstrating significant spillover effects, but we are a long way from establishing much cumulative understanding of how and under what conditions these effects are expressed. Christopher Hayter (2013, 19), among others, has noted the “lack of empirical and systematic, longitudinal data” on the potential of university spin-offs to generate jobs and economic growth (see also Sand 2013). Perhaps to an even greater extent than is true at the workplace level, the direction and magnitude of spillover effects depend on contextual and ecological features of particular regions. Educational investments and opportunities that have economic benefits in one region do not necessarily do so in another. There are many examples of the importance of different ecological contexts in facilitating the ability of universities to have spillover effects on growth. Hayter (2013) reports that the extent to which academic entrepreneurship can have positive spillover effects depends on a complex combination of individual, university, firm, and policy factors. He found the commercial success of university spin-offs to be significantly influenced by, among other things, “venture capital, multiple and external licenses, outside management, joint ventures with other companies, previous faculty consulting experience, and—surprisingly—a negative relationship to post-spin-off services provided by universities” (2013, 18). Similarly, Robin Cowan and Natalia Zinovyeva (2012) have discovered that opening new university schools in Italy during the period 1985–2000 increased regional innovative activity in a remarkably short period of time (five years). The authors are careful to describe an array of conditions that had to be in place for this effect to occur. A Spanish case study by Josep Capo-Vicedo, Xavier Molina-Morales, and Jordi Capo (2012) found much the same thing. The university that they studied was able to influence the information and knowledge networks that developed in an industrial district, but only because of the prior ecology of the region.10 Research by Benjamin Sand reports that “the effect of the share of college graduates in a city on wages is remarkably unstable over time” (2013, 97). In the United States, there were spillovers of this sort in the 1980s but not in the 1990s. Demonstrating this instability is an important addition to the literature, although Sand provides little interpretation of why the positive effect in the 1980s dissipated by the 1990s. (For other analyses of how ecology can influence the expression of spillover effects, see Strotebeck 2014; Giuri and Mariani 2013.)



As with the workplace level, the direction of causation at the regional level can be reciprocal and at times ambiguous. Caitlin Donaldson and Suzanne O’Keefe (2013) show that the manufacturing composition of U.S. regions (at the level of the metropolitan statistical area) predicted the level of educational attainment of the residents of that area. Specifically, regions with heavy concentrations of manufacturing industries have lower educational attainments but higher incomes. High rates of growth in manufacturing, however, decreased both educational attainment and income. Broadly the same thing seems to be true of cities as well: cities that are already highly skilled tend to become more advantaged relative to those that are less skilled (Florida et al. 2012). Steven Poelhekke (2013) found this in a sophisticated comparison of Munich and Bremen, the former having a much more skilled labor force than the latter. Poelhekke, however, identifies a number of caveats and contingencies associated with this general finding. He observes that the effects of skills on growth have typically been overestimated (because of using the “wrong” spatial area or failing to correct statistical biases). He adds that the apparent educational benefits come not necessarily from college educated workers per se but rather from the right mix of skills. At least in the case of Munich, these skills were more vocational than academic. Put simply, social and institutional context makes an enormous difference in the ability of educational institutions to contribute to regional economic development (see also Lendel 2010). Strong and supportive networks have to be in place before universities can have their optimal impact on economic growth (Berman 2012). Efforts to synthesize and make sense of these regional contextual matters would seem a promising road for sociologists to travel.


More educated people make more money. Companies with lots of educated employees adopt technology more effectively, innovate more rapidly, and facilitate workers’ learning from each other. Regions with educational institutions doing particular kinds of things tend to prosper as a result. But it does not necessarily follow that all of this aggregates up to any particular relationship between education and development at the national level. The relationship between education and economic development at the national level is surprisingly ambiguous and indeterminate (Hannum and Buchmann 2004). Many sociologists have contributed to the literature on education and economic growth at the national level, but the field is dominated by economists. The worst of this research, the kind regularly spewed out by think tanks and development advocates, is so simplistic as to be completely uninteresting and uninformative. Assuming that educational inputs can stimulate growth, without a sustained account of the attendant institutions, resources, markets, and other meso-level processes and structures, is naive. Fortunately, few serious economists produce such crude models, and theory and research on education and development is some of the most sophisticated in the economics lit-



erature (see, e.g., Lucas 1988; Barro 1991). Rather than rehashing that literature here, I ask instead what sociologists might bring to the table. Some fifteen years ago, Colette Chabbott and Francisco Ramirez (2000) reached a few generally reasonable and empirically secure conclusions about the relationships between education and development at the national level from their broad and deep survey of the literature. They reported, among other things, that primary and secondary schooling have stronger effects on economic development than does higher education, that the economic effects of expanded schooling are stronger for poorer countries than they are for richer countries, that vocational schooling often has more payoff than does academic education, and that greater enrollments in science and engineering positively influence economic development more than do investments in other sorts of schooling.11 Even these generally straightforward conclusions must be routinely qualified by the contingencies of time and space. There are many interesting examples of research that studies these complexities. Economist Robert Barro (1991), for instance, argued that educational expansion accounts for less of the causal story than does the simple stock of human capital residing in a nation. In his analysis of a sample of ninety-eight countries in the years 1960–85, Barro found that economic growth was more an outcome of the initial level of human capital in the society than it was a result of the expansion of any level of the educational system. Put simply, having lots of educated people around enhances economic growth more than does any skill augmentation of those people. Gender also complicates the schooling/growth link. Aaron Benavot, looking at the years between 1960 and 1985, found that in less developed nations, in particular those that were exceptionally poor, “educational expansion among school-age girls at the primary level has a stronger effect on long-term economic prosperity than does educational expansion among school-age boys. This effect was not mediated by women’s rates of participation in the wage labor force or by fertility rates” (1989, 14). Dirk Krueger and Krishna Kumar (2004a, 2004b) have added a further refinement by showing that, in some eras (the 1960s and 1980s), the European emphasis on providing skill-specific, vocationalized education led to growth, and, in other eras (1980s and beyond), it did not have this effect. At the very least, phenomena like “educational expansion” and “economic development,” even if the relationship is salutary and causal, are huge and complex processes that take a long time to play out. Lutz, Cauresma, and Sanderson conclude, perhaps optimistically, that “better education does not only lead to higher individual income but also is a necessary (although not always sufficient) precondition for long-term economic growth. The fruits of investment in education need a long time to ripen, to translate the education of children into better human capital of the adult labor force. Education is a long-term investment associated with near-term costs, but, in the long run, is one of the best investments societies can make in their futures” (2008, 1048). What sociologists can bring to this vast literature is a big canvas that focuses on context—that is, the ecology of education and development. Sociology can pay particular attention to the



unexpected consequences of the linkages between schooling and development, and to the mechanisms that instantiate these linkages.


The restrictively linear “effects of education on economic development” conceptualization is simply not an adequate way to think about the complex relationships between schooling and economic growth. The relationships between the vast categories of schooling and growth are reciprocal, contingent, conditional on time, space, and context, and systemic. Given the proliferation of better data, better models, and better theories that have characterized the social scientific literature over the past generation (a great deal of it from disciplines other than sociology), there is no excuse for clinging to simplistic theories with poorly defined counterfactuals and sloppy measurement and models. My basic conclusions are not much different from those of other sociologists who have reviewed the literature on education and economic development. Schooling, in its broadest possible conceptualization, bears often tentative but undeniably real causal relationships with economic growth. Schooling has a wide range of noneconomic benefits as well, which are related in complex ways to economic development. Schooling may, for example, improve the local cultural landscape or “cause” partners to rear fewer children in ways that promote economic prosperity. Analyzing these noneconomic outcomes, rather than being a separate object of study, is essential to understanding how systems of schooling contribute (or fail to contribute) to economic vitality. Sociologists need first to think more self-consciously about how the linkages between schooling and development differ across the four nested levels of analysis that I have offered here. The causal processes and social mechanisms that produce the coefficients in impact models are not self-evidently the same at each level. My sense is that the most important contributions to our understanding of the relationships between education and economic development that sociologists are likely to make will come at the firm and regional levels. Sociologists will continue to conduct important studies of individual-level wage attainment (e.g., Bol 2014) as well as nation-based analyses, but the comparative advantage of sociologists in understanding context, networks, and conflicting interests position them well to move the field forward. Sociologists would do well, too, to move away from a reliance on variables-driven studies of education and development and begin to conceptualize our object of study as systems of skill development. These four levels are only analytically distinct, and empirically there is a constant interplay between them. At the meso-levels, these systems of skill development include job seekers, students, community colleges, apprenticeships, partnerships, company training, industry certification, on-the-job training, states policies, production strategies, and party politics. Of course, some elements of these skilldevelopment systems are best measured on the national level. Baldwin, Borrelli, and



New (2011, 227), for instance, have directed our attention to GDP, national savings deposits, spending on infrastructure, population growth, and initial GDP. Sociologists, at whichever of the four levels they choose to operate, need to be more assertive about striving toward some consensus on measurement, models, and operationalization. Too often, “research findings on the relationship between education and state economic growth are unstable artifacts related to model specifications, sample sizes, and variable measurements” (Smith 2003, cited in Baldwin, Borrelli, and New 2011, 240). A large share of the blame for the lack of cumulative research on education and development can be placed on simple methodological problems. To fulfill this sort of research agenda, sociologists are going to need to read more widely and engage more inclusively with other disciplines than they have up to this point. Despite much apparently common ground and explicanda, sociologists, with notable exceptions, have yet to fully engage with regional scientists, economic geographers, and development specialists. Finally, though this chapter has focused on the relationships between education and economic growth, the distributional effects of schooling are no less important. Any development policy, including those based on the expansion of schooling, creates both winners and losers. Christopher Wheeler (2005), for instance, demonstrated that, in the period 1950–90, American cities with more educated workforces were better able to generate technological change and subsequently to benefit from the productivity gains of those changes. The effect of this was to widen the economic gap between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Sociologists might usefully build on their own expertise in examining broad patterns of inequality on a variety of different levels (Hout and DiPrete 2006).


1. As one particularly lucid example, an innovative study by Tomas Cvrek and Miroslav Zajicek (2013) showed that, in the Hapsburg Empire (ca. 1865), the provision of public schooling, while offering “practically zero return to education on the margin” (1), was supported by political elites as a means of managing nationalist conflicts within the empire. The masses who were supposedly the beneficiaries of the generation of human capital never agitated for expanded schooling and were instead resentful of the costs that they incurred. 2. I am grateful to Hal Hansen for making me think harder about the argument of this paragraph. 3. Aghion and his colleagues (2009) mention migration and patenting, among other factors, that mediate the effect of schooling on development. 4. Aghion and his colleagues (2009) have made a similar argument. They conceptualize the relevant educational distinction as “low brow” versus “high brow.” The former refers to schooling that is essentially imitative, whereas the latter is more innovative. 5. Again, I do not intend the delineation of four levels of education and economic development to be definitive or absolute. One could imagine, for instance, firms being nested within



industries, or particular enterprises being nested within larger organizational fields (Fligstein and McAdam 2012). I am using the nestedness metaphor here primarily as a practical framework for working through some complex material. 6. “Workplace” is an expansive concept, and it includes any social setting in which someone is performing productive labor. In an ever-increasing number of settings, the workplace consists of a keyboard and computer monitor. 7. There are also reasons to expect highly educated underachievers to be “found out” over time. The literature on employer learning shows that, in time, employers are likely to catch on to underperforming workers (Light and McGee 2012). 8. Like so much of the knowledge base surrounding education and development, even this seemingly simple empirical finding is somewhat up for grabs. E. Canton (2007), for instance, found no clear evidence for human capital externalities in a sample of developed countries. 9. As just one example, the consultant’s report submitted to (and accepted by) one major American university maintained that the university provided “a return of $42 for each dollar received from the state.” Such figures, by no means uncommon, lack any credibility. 10. The study by Capo-Vicedo and his colleagues is especially informative in that the industrial district was a traditional one based on textiles rather than the sort of high-tech, information-based district more commonly associated with university/business collaborations and synergies. 11. They also found that the effects are reciprocal—that is, levels of development affect educational attainments.


Abel, Jaison R., and Richard Deitz. 2012. “Do Colleges and Universities Increase Their Region’s Human Capital?” Journal of Economic Geography 12: 667–91. Aghion, Philippe, Leah Boustan, Caroline Hoxby, and Jerome Vandenbussche. 2009. “The Causal Impact of Education on Economic Growth: Evidence from the United States.” In Brookings Papers on Economics Activity, Spring 2009 Conference Draft, edited by David Romer and Justin Wolfers, 1–73. Baldwin, J. Norman, Stephen A. Borrelli, and Michael J. New. 2011. “State Educational Investments and Economic Growth in the United States: A Path Analysis.” Social Science Quarterly 92: 226–45. Bangwayo-Skeete, Prosper F., Alaf H. Rahim, and Precious Zikhali. 2011. “Does Education Engender Cultural Values that Matter for Economic Growth?” Journal of Socio-Economics 40: 163–71. Barro, Robert J. 1991. “Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 106: 407–43. Benavot, Aaron. 1989. “Education, Gender, and Economic Development: A Cross-National Study.” Sociology of Education 62: 14–32. Berman, Elizabeth Popp. 2012. Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.



Bills, David B. 2003. “Credentials, Signals, and Screens: Explaining the Relationship between Schooling and Job Assignment.” Review of Educational Research 73: 441–69. Bils, Mark, and Peter Klenow. 2000. “Does Schooling Cause Growth?” American Economic Review 90: 1160–83. Bol, Thijs. 2014. “Economic Returns to Occupational Closure in the German Skilled Trades.” Social Science Research 46: 9–22. Canton, E. 2007. “Social Returns to Education: Macro-Evidence.” De Economist 155: 449–68. Capo-Vicedo, Josep, F. Xavier Molina-Morales, and Jordi Capo. 2012. “The Role of Universities in Making Industrial Districts More Dynamic: A Case Study in Spain.” Higher Education 65: 417–35. Card, David. 1999. “The Causal Effect of Education on Earnings.” In Handbook of Labor Economics, edited by Orley Ashenfelter and David Card, Vol. 3A: 1802–63. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Caspar, Steven. 2013. “The Spill-Over Theory Reversed: The Impact of Regional Economies on the Commercialization of University Science.” Research Policy 42: 1313–24. Chabbott, Colette, and Francisco Ramirez. 2000. “Development and Education.” In Handbook of Sociology of Education, edited by M. Hallinan, 163–87. New York: Plenum. Cowan, Robin, and Natalia Zinovyeva. 2012. “University Effects on Regional Innovation.” Research Policy 42: 788–800. Cvrcek, Tomas, and Miroslav Zajicek. 2013. “School, What Is It Good For? Useful Human Capital and the History of Public Education in Central Europe.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 19690. Cambridge, Mass.: NBER. /papers/w19690. Donaldson, Caitlin Cullen, and Suzanne O’Keefe. 2013. “The Effects of Manufacturing on Educational Attainment and Real Income.” Economic Development Quarterly 27: 316–423. Drucker, Joshua, and Harvey Goldstein. 2007. “Assessing the Regional Economic Development Impacts of Universities: A Review of Current Approaches.” International Regional Science Review 30: 20–46. Elwert, Felix, and Christopher Winship. 2014. “Endogenous Selection Bias: The Problem of Conditioning on a Collider Variable.” Annual Review of Sociology 40: 31–53. Feldman, Maryann P. 1994. “The University and Economic Development: The Case of Johns Hopkins University and Baltimore.” Economic Development Quarterly 8: 67–76. Fligstein, Neil, and Doug McAdam. 2012. A Theory of Fields. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Florida, Richard, Charlotta Melander, Kevin Stolarick, and Adrienne Ross. 2012. “Cities, Skills and Wages.” Journal of Economic Geography 12: 355–77. Gamoran, Adam, Walter G. Secada, and Cora B. Marrett. 2000. “The Organizational Context of Teaching and Learning: Changing Theoretical Perspectives.” In Handbook of the Sociology of Education, edited by Maureen T. Hallinan, chap. 2. New York: Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers. Giuri, Paola, and Myriam Mariani. 2013. “When Distance Disappears: Inventors, Education, and the Locus of Knowledge Spillovers.” Review of Economics and Statistics 95: 449–63. Hannum, Emily, and Claudia Buchmann. 2004. “Global Educational Expansion and SocioEconomic Development: An Assessment of Findings from the Social Sciences.” World Development 33: 333–54.



Hanushek, Eric. 2013. “Economic Growth in Developing Countries: The Role of Human Capital.” Economics of Education Review 37: 204–12. Hanushek, Eric, and Ludger Woessmann. 2012. “Do Better Schools Lead to More Growth? Cognitive Skills, Economic Outcomes, and Causation.” Journal of Economic Growth 17: 267–321. Hayter, Christopher S. 2013.”Harnessing University Entrepreneurship for Economic Growth: Factors of Success among University Spin-offs.” Economic Development Quarterly 27: 18–28. Herrmann, Andrea M., and Alexander Peine. 2011. “When ‘National Innovation System’ Meet ‘Varieties of Capitalism’ Arguments on Labour Qualifications: On the Skill Types and Scientific Knowledge Needed for Radical and Incremental Product Innovations.” Research Policy 40: 687–701. Hill, Richard Child. 2004. “Cities and Nested Hierarchies.” UNESCO International Social Sciences Journal 56, no. 181: 373–84. Hout, Michael. 2012. “Social and Economic Returns to College Education in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology 38: 379–400. Hout, Michael, and Thomas A. DiPrete. 2006. “What We Have Learned: RC28’s Contributions to Knowledge about Social Stratification.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 24: 1–20. Inkeles, Alex. 1969. “Making Men Modern: On the Causes and Consequences of Individual Change in Six Developing Countries.” American Journal of Sociology 75: 208–25. Krueger, Dirk, and Krishna B. Kumar. 2004a. “Skill-Specific rather than General Education: A Reason for US-Europe Growth Differences.” Journal of Economic Growth 9: 167–207. . 2004b. “US-Europe Differences in Technology-Driven Growth: Quantifying the Role of Education.” Journal of Monetary Economics 51: 161–90. Lendel, Iryna. 2010. “The Impact of Regional Universities on Regional Economies: The Concept of University Products.” Economic Development Quarterly 24: 210–30. Light, Audrey, and Andrew McGee. 2012. “Employer Learning and the ‘Importance’ of Skills.” Discussion paper 6623. Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). Lucas, Robert E. 1988. “On the Mechanics of Economic Development.” Journal of Monetary Economics 22: 3–42. Lutz, Wolfgang, Jesus Crespo Cauresma, and Warren Sanderson. 2008. “The Demography of Educational Attainment and Economic Growth.” Science 319: 1047–48. Mas, Alexandre, and Enrico Moretti. 2009. “Peers at Work.” American Economic Review 99: 112–45. Mayer, Heike. 2006. “What Is the Role of Universities in High-tech Economic Development? The Case of Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC.” Local Economy 21: 292–315. Meyer, John W. 1977. “The Effects of Education as an Institution.” American Journal of Sociology 83: 55–77. Mincer, Jacob. 1974. Schooling, Experience, and Earnings. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research. Moretti, Enrico. 2004. “Estimating the Social Returns to Higher Education: Evidence from Longitudinal and Repeated Cross-Sectional Data.” Journal of Econometrics 121: 175–212. Muller, Walter, and Yossi Shavit. 1998. “The Institutional Embeddedness of the Stratification Process: A Comparative Study of Qualifications and Occupations in Thirteen Countries.”

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In From School to Work: A Comparative Study of Educational Qualifications and Occupational Destinations, edited by Yossi Shavit and Walter Muller, 1–48. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Paulsen, Michael B., and Nasrin Fatima. 2007. “Higher Education and Growth in State Workforce Productivity, 1980–2000: Evidence on the Public Benefits of College Education.” In Global Issues in Higher Education, edited by Pamela B. Richards, chap. 2. New York: Nova Science Publishers. Poelhekke, Steven. 2013. “Human Capital and Employment Growth in German Metropolitan Areas: New Evidence.” Regional Studies 47: 245–63. Ramirez, Francisco O., Xiaowei Luo, Evan Schofer, and John W. Meyer. 2006. “Student Achievement and National Economic Growth.” American Journal of Education 113: 1–29. Sand, Benjamin M. 2013. “A Re-examination of the Social Returns to Education: Evidence from U.S. Cities.” Labour Economics 24: 97–106. Siegfried, John J., Allen R. Sanderson, and Peter McHenry. 2007. “The Economic Impact of Colleges and Universities.” Economics of Education Review 26: 546–58. Simon, Herbert A. 1973. “The Organisation of Complex Systems.” In Hierarchy Theory, edited by Howard Hunt Patee, 1–23. New York: George Braziller. Smith, Kevin B. 2003. The Ideology of Education: The Commonwealth, the Market, and America’s Schools. Albany: SUNY Press. Stevens, Philip, and Martin Weale. 2004. “Education and Economic Growth.” In Economics of Education, edited by Geraint Johnes and Jill Johnes, chap. 4. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar. Strotebeck, Falk. 2014. “Running with the Pack? The Role of Universities of Applied Science in a German Research Network.” Review of Regional Research 34: 139–56. Tilly, Charles. 1989. Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications. Vogel, Richard, and W. Hubert Keen. 2010. “Public Higher Education and New York State’s Economy.” Economic Development Quarterly 24: 384–93. Wheeler, Christopher H. 2005. “Cities, Skills, and Inequality.” Growth and Change 36: 329–53.




DEVELOPMENT DYNAMICS Spatial and Temporal Accounts

11 THE SOCIOLOGY OF SUBNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT Conceptual and Empirical Foundations

Linda Lobao

Spatial scale is an implicit but often unacknowledged organizing framework for sociological inquiry on development. The study of social change—including the causes and consequences of development—can be addressed at a variety of territorial resolutions. However, as is the case with sociological subfields, certain scales become privileged for theoretical and historical reasons. For the study of development, customary attention has always been given to the nation-state and beyond, a vast cross-national literature charting the position of nations in the global system. This renders other spatial scales of analysis nearly invisible to the point where development sociology is often viewed as synonymous with cross-national research or research on the nation-state, particularly in the Global South (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). The purpose of this chapter is to explain the contours of the sociological study of development at the subnational scale. I draw together conceptual and empirical commonalities across studies, explain the theoretical history behind contemporary work, and denote research contributions and gaps. By the subnational scale, I mean regional territory below the nation-state level and beyond the limits of individual cities or communities. Research at this scale is significant for sociology because it addresses serious questions about development that span theoretical, substantive, political, and policy issues across territorial units within nation-states. Despite the eventual geographic leveling implied in the classical theories of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Émile Durkheim and left unquestioned in much theorizing about modernity, uneven development persists within nations and is evident in geographic


disparities in economic growth, socioeconomic conditions, health, and other forms of well-being. These disparities are reflected in regions that historically lag behind others (such as rural areas), in more recent spatial polarization from swings in global capitalism, and in incremental gaps in poverty and prosperity across places under national paths of development. Structural disadvantages because of class, gender, race, ethnicity, and other statuses also tend to be spatially distributed—and this renders national stratification systems more complex than assumed by conventional macro-level theory (McCall 2001). Processes and patterns of stratification vary geographically, and populations’ life chances along numerous well-being indicators are further moderated by the regional settings in which they reside. Therefore, geographic variations within nations raise profound substantive questions about development and inequality as well as challenges for conventional nation-state-oriented theory. Moreover, since national paths of development themselves are an aggregation of those occurring at lower geographic levels, subnational research offers an important testing-ground for and potential corrective to macro-sociological theory (Snyder 2001). More immediately today, the subnational scale has risen in importance for understanding the politics and policies of development. Social scientists have begun to see this scale as central to interpreting one of the most profound social changes over the past half-century: neoliberal development and particularly the rollout of the neoliberal state and its policies (Almeida 2012; Peck 2001). Under neoliberal development, nation-states tend to become rescaled internally with growing decentralization and greater responsibilities for economic growth and redistribution allocated to subnational governments (Brenner 2004). This tends to cut the power of central states, rolls back former equityoriented policies, and contributes to new rounds of uneven development more regionally and locally specific than in the past. In turn, the subnational scale becomes important for charting political responses to neoliberal development. Marked geographic variations in political partisanship highlight the need to understand development and social conditions across urban and rural regions in less developed nations (Almeida 2012; Hiskey 2005) as well as in the United States (Frank 2004). Subnational research has challenged the degree to which conclusions drawn from macro-level theory about the neoliberal state hold up universally within a nation (Lobao, Adua, and Hooks 2014). Researchers have further demonstrated that subnational political economic processes have had upward effects on national politics, contributing to the rise of the neoliberal state itself (Fortner 2010; Hooks and McQueen 2010). In sum, these studies suggest that, by not attending to subnational relationships, macro-level theory about development is inherently limited if not flawed. Although the subnational scale should be central to the study of development, it has been characterized as sociology’s “missing middle” because it represents a far less colonized territorial arena for theory and research as compared to the nation-state and the city (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007, 4). Rich conceptual traditions going back to sociology’s founding give attention to the nation-state and, conversely, to the city—in

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effect carving up sociological theory, research, and substantive foci into opposite ends of the territorial spectrum. As noted, research on nation-states remains the core of development sociology. Research on urban development is claimed by urban sociology, which has produced large literatures addressing growth and inequality within cities (O’Connor, Tilly, and Bobo 2003) and the evolution of large cities and, more recently, world-cities (Orum and Chen 2003; Sassen 2000). Related work on community development, captured by both urban and rural sociology, focuses on smaller-scale locales usually as unique, individual places rather than treating subnational development comparatively across places. Thus, the study of development is marked by a territorial gap. Illustrating this gap is that sociology has no customary term for the middle geographic scale between the nation-state and the city/community. Sociology’s treatment of the subnational scale varies from that of geography, regional science, and economics, which are less likely to reify and segment geographic territory and to theorize development processes as if they were unique to either the nation-state or the city.1 Although sociology is characterized by its neglect of explicitly theorizing subnational development (the discipline lacking coherent theoretical traditions such as found in cross-national sociology or even urban sociology), many empirical studies are situated at the subnational scale. These studies focus on shared attributes of localities, states, provinces, and other territorial units, with the purpose of examining how development and stratification unfold differentially within a nation. Subnational studies question why general, national patterns may not work out evenly within a nation; however, their scale of interest involves generalizing beyond single, individual localities and local-level actors and processes.2 In this chapter, I seek to impose order on the diverse studies addressing subnational development with the goals of making this line of inquiry more visible and advancing its progress. I highlight commonalities across wide-ranging studies, the theoretical history that gave rise to present work, and the state of the literature today with regard to its contributions, gaps, and similarities/differences with sociology’s cross-national tradition. This discussion proceeds in four sections. First, I provide an overview of shared features of contemporary research. Second, I trace theoretical development, including the contribution subnational research makes to building macro-level, cross-national theory. Third, I identify thematic lines of inquiry and their significance for answering key questions about development; here I also consider how the subnational tradition compares with sociology’s established cross-national development tradition. Fourth and finally, I outline the steps necessary to move future work forward. In tracing the manner by which sociologists study development at the subnational scale, I consider the classical sociologists and research conducted globally. When turning to categorizing specific substantive lines of inquiry, I draw from empirical examples mainly from the contemporary United States. As explained earlier, the subnational literature is diverse and fragmented in contrast to the more established contours of



cross-national/national development sociology (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). It can be characterized as a wide-ranging body of empirical work that needs greater conceptual synthesis and theoretical development to make its contributions broadly appreciated as a field of scholarship. A vast number of studies examine development-related issues subnationally in the case of the United States, and, by far, most research produced by U.S. sociologists is centered here. Attending to this nation foremost allows some order to be imposed on fragmented studies while providing illustrative coverage of key lines of substantive inquiry.

S U B N AT I O N A L R E S E A R C H : C O M M O N A L I T I E S A C R O S S S T U D I E S

The subnational scale can be broadly conceptualized as regional territory that goes beyond a single city or community, thereby potentially encompassing both urban and rural areas (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). Studies at this scale range from giving complete coverage to all areas within a nation to covering only select areas. Although scholars often use local-place units of analysis such as cities and counties, their interests lie beyond the local to processes systemic to broader territory. They are concerned with a higher-order level of explanation about regional territory formed as a combination of local, state, or other subunits.3 Much like research conducted on nation-states’ development, the subnational literature tends to focus on two distinct questions. One set of literature is concerned with questions about why and how indicators of development and well-being vary across territorial units such as localities and states. This literature has generated the largest volume of work, and it shares similarities with quantitative cross-national research that has long examined the distribution of development and well-being indicators using nation-states as the unit of analysis (Babones 2013). The second literature questions the manner by which regions themselves are created from uneven development processes. It is often aimed at distinct historical regions such as the Amazon, Appalachia, and the U.S. South. In questioning how regions are produced under capitalism, it overlaps with classic questions posed in theories about nation-states’ development such as dependency theory and world-systems theory as well as more recent theories about development paths under neoliberalism (Evans 1995; Prasad 2006). In this volume, the chapter by Ann Tickamyer and Anouk Patel-Campillo is aimed at probing this second question in a more in-depth manner. Subnational studies share kindred interest in the types of development indicators commonly examined in cross-national research. Economic growth and distribution are given the most attention. Researchers examine why economic growth (income and employment) and distribution (as measured by well-recognized stratification indicators, such as poverty, income inequality, and education) vary across territory (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). Other forms of inequality, such as health disparities, environmental degradation, public service availability, social safety-net generosity, and political conditions, are also addressed. Well-being is typically studied across general populations, but

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some studies drill down to more complex variations by race/ethnicity and gender (McCall 2001). Scholars have overlapping objectives for situating their work at the subnational scale (discussed further below). They may have intrinsic conceptual interest in this scale—for example, to understand the development of specific regions, such as the Amazon and Appalachia and to assess shifts in the distribution of poverty and prosperity within a nation. They may draw on the subnational scale to extend theory that is abstract or framed at the macro-level, such as theories about economic development, welfare states, and industrial restructuring. They may have policy and public sociology interests. Across the globe, governments and nongovernmental agencies track poverty and other wellbeing indicators at this scale, and they distribute funds accordingly. In terms of causal determinants, subnational studies reflect a genuinely sociological approach in that researchers build from common disciplinary principles about development and stratification. This approach varies from that of the other social sciences, which do not give as much attention to inequality and power, yet geography, regional science, and even, to some degree, economics devote more sustained effort to theorizing subnational development. Macro-sociologists have long outlined the manner by which inequality varies historically. Most fundamentally, the organization of the economy sets nations’ level of economic growth, and class actors struggle over its distribution (Lenski 1966). In modern stratification systems, the state is seen as an important institution that influences growth and mediates this struggle (O’Connor 1973). Distributional struggle among diverse social actors beyond class, including gender and racial/ethnic groups, is also emphasized (Tilly 1998). These insights, which are staples of stratification theories, political sociology, and economic sociology, are applicable for understanding the determinants of subnational development. But, though sociologists studying subnational development may recognize that causal determinants span economic structure, social actors, and the state, these determinants are fully articulated only in select qualitative studies (see, e.g., Bunker 1985 and Duncan 1999). Quantitative studies that constitute most of the contemporary literature take a more truncated view. Focus is largely on economic structure, particularly private employment sectors, and demographic attributes of race/ethnicity, gender, education, and age, with these attributes often considered as representing the varying power of social actors (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). Geographic location is also addressed. Even though extant research focuses on a limited range of causal determinants, scholars aim to scrutinize fundamental sociological questions pertaining to who benefits from development, who loses, and where this occurs. They examine how where one lives affects one’s life chances and opportunities. Research designs are similar to those used in cross-national research. Researchers employ quantitative studies across many territorial units as well as qualitative comparative studies. A key difference from cross-national research, however, is that researchers need to consider intra-national regional dynamics (Almeida 2012; Hiskey 2005). Included here are three elements: the general conceptualization of regional processes;



the geographic embeddedness of places in higher-order territories such as states and provinces; and measurement issues pertaining to spatial autocorrelation or spatial dependence due to diffusion processes (Irwin 2007; Matthews and Parker 2013; Voss 2007). Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is increasingly employed to understand geographic patterns and diffusion processes, but its overall use remains slow and spotty in sociology. In the study of subnational development, GIS is employed more to address spatial inequalities and demographic questions; it has had less influence over other substantive areas denoted below. Subnational research contributes to building the sociology of development, as noted previously. This research addresses significant development issues requiring sociological attention and illuminates theory and findings from macro-level, nation-state research. Policy and political responses to development are defined and undertaken at the subnational level. In fact, in terms of public policy and outreach, sociologists have perhaps had their greatest impact on development through their subnational work with government agencies that benchmark regional development through social indicators and formulate policy and programs accordingly (see Wimberley 2008). Nevertheless, as discussed below and elsewhere (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007), the insertion of geographic space—especially at subnational levels—into sociological thinking about development was met with indifference if not hostility until quite recently. Although this view has waned as Marxist-oriented political economy theories were widely applied to both cross-national development and urban development from the 1980s onward, it tends to remain whenever researchers attempt to address different, less familiar geographic scales. The city and the nation-state have become hegemonic scales of study in sociology. The subnational scale is sociology’s spatial “other”—neither city nor nationstate—neglected by theorists and underestimated in its significance for the discipline.


The evolution of theorizing at the subnational scale is marked by several characteristics. First, general neglect of this scale was built into sociology by the classical founders, so that subsequent research was left without explicit theoretical grounding. Second, contemporary work has sought to link back to classical theory, to extend theory from extant sociological subfields, and to introduce new literature from geography. Yet the theoretical lacuna remains. Finally, subnational research has important implications for development theory framed at the national/cross-national scale.


The foundations of sociological theory reflect the elevation of time and history over space and geography (Soja 1989; Urry 1989). Marx, Weber, and Durkheim were concerned with



the shift from feudalism and the subsumption of pre-capitalist societies to modern capitalist market relations. This concern focused on the temporal rather than the spatial dimensions of social change. It also implied eventual leveling of geographic differences within nations, diminishing the need to study them. Although the classical sociologists had other priorities, some attention to subnational development can be seen in their work. For Marx, interest was in the dynamic spread and leveling effect of capitalism across populations. This process resulted in the urbanization of the countryside, the growth of large cities (which rescues populations “from the idiocy of rural life” [Urry 1989, 298]), and the creation and mobilization of the proletariat. Edward Soja (1989, 85) notes that Marx’s views on subnational development were “submerged” in part because the first two volumes of Capital were widely disseminated prior to the Grundrisse where Marx began to suggest geographic variations. Marx planned subsequent volumes of Capital that would analyze the geographical expansion of capitalism and its potential unevenness. Early-twentieth-century theorists, such as Vladimir Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, examined geographic issues in developing a Marxian theory of imperialism. But even here, Soja (1989) argues that their interest was not in subnational development processes but rather in how capitalism encountered national barriers that needed to be overcome via international expansion. Turning to Weber, John Urry (1989, 300) concludes that he gave little attention to space or geography. The City is probably Weber’s closest expression of geographic sensitivity; there he analyzed the manner by which medieval cities brought together shared market and political interests that challenged the persistence of the feudal system. Cities became central to market and political development owing to trade and transportation networks (Irwin 2007). Finally, in the case of Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society ([1933] 1964) focused on the intensification of societies’ division of labor due to increased population density and interactions as development proceeded. Societies shifted from a base of mechanical solidarity (exemplified by undifferentiated places such as small rural communities) to organic solidarity (complex, dense places of interaction with high occupational specialization such as exemplified by cities). Although Durkheim’s legacy was to yield a bimodal understanding of subnational development, it provided theoretical justification for studying urban-rural differences and strongly influenced rural sociology and human ecology. For much of the past century, the human ecology school (Hawley 1950; Odum and Moore 1938) framed sociologists’ understanding of subnational development. This line of research sought to catalog the distinct characteristics of regions’ social organization and culture—the U.S. South and rural areas forming the conceptual exemplars. Attention to subnational development conflicted with the worldviews of modern theorists for much of the post–World War II period (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007; Soja 1989). Rural-urban and other internal regional variations remained viewed as anachronistic legacies destined to erode in the course of development. For Marxists, regional variations and identities were particularly problematic because these inhibited


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the development of a united proletariat. Functionalists defended Western modernization, assuming its benefits would eventually extend to all populations across nations. Finally, the priorities of twentieth-century sociology centered on grand theory and generalization. The intrinsic specificity of regional contexts conflicted with deductive research agendas in which aspatial covering laws were assumed to work out everywhere across a nation.4


From the 1980s onward, sociology took more of a spatial turn. Geographic variations were given increased attention, including those pertaining to subnational development (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). There was movement away from deductive theory and a focus on context, spatial as well as historical. Stratification theories expanded their reach beyond production and class relations to more fully consider reproduction and community (hence geographic space) as found in the work of Anthony Giddens (e.g., 1981) and Pierre Bourdieu (e.g., 1989). Marxian theory also evolved as the result of efforts of human geographers moving to neo-Marxist approaches (Harvey 1989). These approaches demonstrated the centrality of geography to capitalist development not only at the cross-national scale but also at the subnational scale. New methodologies from geography and spatially oriented fields also diffused into sociology. These influenced theory because they allowed regional processes such as spatial diffusion and contextual and network effects to be opened up to greater conceptual scrutiny. Other social sciences also turned their attention to geographic processes, expanding research on subnational development. In economics, Paul Krugman’s (1991) influential work extended the neoclassical model to account for path-dependent regional development. Political scientists have also given greater attention to subnational development (Sellers 2005; Snyder 2001). In sociology today, theorizing subnational development processes can be seen to proceed from three general directions. It is important to recognize, however, that no widely used theory (or theories) characterize the contemporary literature. First, there have been some attempts to develop or invoke theory to understand subnational development holistically in its own right. These revolve mainly around the use of human ecology and critical Marxist political economy. Human ecology is a functionalist perspective that generally neglects the agency of actors and deploys black-box-like concepts such as “adaptation” to explain social transformation. It attends to variations in the spatial organization of societies that stem from factors such as agglomeration and size of place, social organization and complexity (such as functional differentiation where higher-order services are located in large cities), and centrality of networks in transportation and communication (Irwin 2007; Irwin and Kasarda 1991). This yields a portrayal of subnational development as a web of places whose evolution is dominated by the growth and expansion of large cities. The human ecology view of subnational development is similar to that of general regional science (see Partridge and Rickman 2006).



The human ecology approach also has been combined in a hybrid manner with Marxian political economy. This provides understanding of the spatial organization of a society and the manner by which capitalists work through this spatial organization to control labor and product markets and compete in the global division of labor (Goe 1994). The role of the state in uneven development has been similarly theorized in this hybrid manner (Hooks 1994). Charles Hirschman (1972) long ago noted other lines along which human and ecology and Marxism can be compatible. Sociologists also draw from the general insights about capital, labor, and the state provided in interdisciplinary Marxian political economy theory. These (neo-Marxist) political economy approaches are wide-ranging. They have evolved beyond older work on internal colonialism from the dependency school (e.g., Frank 1969) that simplistically analyzed regional development as unequal surplus exchange (such as viewing rural areas as underdeveloped due to exploitation by urban elites and urban-headquartered companies). Critiques and revisions of this older manner of political economic theorizing emerged first from researchers studying the Global South and include Fernando Cardoso and Enzo Faletto (1979), David Booth (1985), and Stephen Bunker (1985, 1992), discussed further below. In the case of developed nations, internal colonial theory gained little traction, even to explain cases such as Appalachia. Development processes were recognized to be fluid and complex across regions, with local rather than external elites often more culpable (Billings and Blee 2000). Today, analysts use a mix of recent political economy approaches. Most analysts draw from the general political economic framework, which calls attention to the relative power of capital and labor and the role of the state institutions. For example, Jonathan Hiskey (2005) builds on such general political economic insights to explain subnational economic well-being across Mexico. My work with Gregory Hooks (2003) draws from this general framework to explain income inequality across the United States. Other approaches extend specific political economy schools spatially. For example, Michael Wallace and David Brady (2010) extend Marxist social structures of accumulation theory to provide a view of regional development that is premised on capitalists’ use of “spatialization.” Here, real or perceived threats of firm relocation serve to discipline labor and communities so that they are forced increasingly to accept poorer conditions. A second strategy for theorizing—and probably the most common one—is to use the subnational scale in a narrower manner as a testing ground for theory derived from a particular substantive literature. This strategy is especially taken in studies that analyze market and state forces discussed later in this chapter. Here, theory pertaining to substantive concerns such as civic society, the state, and economic sectors (e.g., extractive industry and manufacturing) is extended spatially to explain variations in subnational development. For example, Charles Tolbert, Thomas Lyson, and Michael Irwin (1998) and Troy Blanchard, Charles Tolbert, and Carson Mencken (2012) build from the civic society literature that emphasizes the role of small business or independent middle-class producers in economic development. Small (relative to large) business tends to promote


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greater collective efficacy and democratic decisionmaking so that places with more locally owned small businesses have better socioeconomic conditions. The authors identify an important new determinant of subnational development while contributing to civic society frameworks. Finally, a third strategy seeks to extend cross-national theory downward to evaluate its explanatory power for subnational scale relationships. For example, Astra Bonini (2012) applies world-systems theory in a downward manner to challenge the conventional view that dependence on the extractive sector inherently reduces development and well-being. Paul Almeida (2012) extends cross-national theory to explain intra-national social movement opposition within El Salvador and Costa Rica and more recently across other Central American nations (Almeida 2014). J. Craig Jenkins, Kevin Leicht, and Heather Wendt (2006) build from cross-national welfare-state theory to analyze class and institutional determinants of state governments’ economic development polices. Stephanie Moller, Arthur Alderson, and Francois Nielsen (2009) employ institutional and political determinants drawn from cross-national research to assess whether similar determinants explain county-level income inequality. Although relatively few studies are aimed at extending cross-national frameworks downward, they suggest that these frameworks can yield insights applicable to subnational development.


Subnational research contributes to the advancement of broader cross-national development theory in a number of ways. First, a marker of strong theories is that they offer insights across contexts. This provides a reason for scrutinizing whether sociological theories work out across different spatial scales. Second, the subnational scale provides distinct empirical advantages for testing hypotheses derived from national-level theory. Relationships can usually be studied across large numbers of cases or place-aggregates. National averages themselves are fundamentally the summary across places. Further, data quality (at least for the subnational United States) tends to surpass that of cross-national data. The latter is prone to greater inaccuracy stemming from global variations among governments and timeperiod reporting processes (Snyder 2001). Third, the subnational scale provides a conceptual bridge between national/global and distinctly localized processes. Development processes flow upward and downward across spatial scales as well as spillover across nations. Such processes are particularly illustrated in the case of cross-border regions that provide a new window for development studies (Chen 2005; Orum and Chen 2003). Cross-border regions shed light on patterns of trade and migration and are often the site of serious environmental and political problems. Finally, macro-level theories about nation-states often implicitly depend on subnational relationships but are seldom directly analyzed (Fortner 2010). Theorizing about



inequality in developing nations as well as in modern nation-states cannot be complete unless one takes into account the regional processes that drive it, such as urban-rural or other geographic differences in income-generating opportunities and wealth accumulation (Chakravorty 2006). Gregory Hooks and Brian McQueen (2010) demonstrate that regional-scale relationships are essential for understanding the American welfare state. Military spending in the 1940s in the U.S. North and West contributed to the defeat of Democrats, allowing Republicans to dominate at a historical juncture of policy establishment. The stinginess of America’s welfare state became institutionalized from these regional trends.


Although research aimed at the subnational scale is fragmented and under-theorized, sociologists recognize that serious issues pertaining to development and well-being are manifest at this scale. Uneven development persists, which is evident in geographic disparities in economic growth, socioeconomic conditions, health, and other well-being along with disadvantages due to gender, race, and ethnicity. In this section, I denote four lines of inquiry inherent to development at the subnational scale. These areas vary in their coverage by sociologists, and I point out the gaps requiring attention. Since scholars have multiple research objectives, the areas of inquiry below should not be seen as mutually exclusive. As noted, the subnational United States is used as a touchstone for illustration of these thematic areas, the scope of sociology’s subnational literature being widest ranging and longstanding here.5 Finally, it should be recognized that there are other ways of organizing research areas and detailed subtopics with respective literatures under each of the four areas below. My goal, however, is to highlight commonalities among a vast array of studies and to draw comparisons with the macro-level, cross-national literature to demonstrate similarities and differences in the manner by which subnational researchers address key development issues.


Research at the subnational scale raises the general question of region-making: how and why do distinct territorial formations such as persistently disadvantaged regions arise in the course of a nation’s development? What paths of development do regions take over time?6 Scholars studying developing nations have explicitly theorized and made visible the problem of uneven development from the dependency school onward (Frank 1969; Cardoso and Faletto 1979). Persistently disadvantaged areas are generally conceptualized as generated by capitalist development; scholars emphasize different mechanisms by which this occurs. For example, the dependency school saw developing nations as characterized by a regionalized dual economy consisting of a modern, urbanized sector and a more


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impoverished extractive-sector based hinterland; this regional pattern was created through unequal surplus exchange processes benefiting urban and global elites. Nowclassic critiques of this conceptualization of regional dualism emerged over the extent to which class dynamics were missing and whether peripheral regions could catch up (Booth 1985; Brenner 1977). Nevertheless, the problem of uneven development was firmly recognized in the case of less developed nations. Rural, natural-resource-dependent regions, such as the Brazilian and Ecuadorean Amazon, have long served to illustrate conceptually the manner by which uneven development unfolds in the Global South (Bunker 1985, 1992; Rudel 2002; Rudel, Katan, and Horowitz 2013). In the case of the United States, sociologists have long studied uneven development but in a less theoretically coherent manner. Interest in regional development was explicit in the early work of the Southern regionalists and human ecologists (Hawley 1950; Odum and Moore 1938). They descriptively cataloged regional attributes using human ecology as a guide to explaining why regions varied from one another in terms of population, organization, environment, and technology. This approach was also taken by sociologists studying rural areas more generally for much of the twentieth century. In the contemporary period, attention to power and politics has replaced the older descriptive, human ecology approach. In contemporary work, the focus has been on select, historically lagging regions with high poverty rates, such as Appalachia and the rural South (Duncan 1999; Falk, Schulman, and Tickamyer 2003; Lyson and Falk 1993; Wimberley 2008), Native American reservations (Hooks and Smith 2004), and areas of Latino settlement (Saenz 1997). The historical legacy of poor economic opportunities, racial/ethnic inequality, power of elites, state institutions supporting elite interests, and remote rural location are often implicated in these studies. Almost all studies, however, seek to understand processes unique to these historically disadvantaged regions rather than to theorize uneven development across the United States. Another manifestation of region-making concerns new development patterns arising from economic polarization or other shifts. Over the past few decades, economic growth has been combined with income inequality, as occurs in the U.S. bicoastal West and Northeast (Lenz 2004). Economic polarization also has deepened in parts of the former northern manufacturing belt, with cities and counties unable to afford investments in their own people or in the basic infrastructure that will allow their region to catch up (Partridge and Rickman 2006). The impacts of the Great Recession, still largely studied in select urban areas, appear to have had an uneven regional impact (Grusky, Western, and Wimer 2010). Traditionally slow-growth regions such as the rural North Central states were less affected. But, though research on historical regions itself is limited in sociology, the development of new regional spaces has been given even less attention (for an exception, see Saxenian 1994). This contrasts with the broader social sciences, where new regional spaces are widely addressed globally, as seen in periodicals such as International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, International Regional Science Review, Regional Studies, and Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy, and Society.




In terms of the volume of literature, the most commonly posed questions about subnational development center on spatial inequality: the degree to which and why forms of well-being vary across places and populations. Numerous studies address the distribution of employment, income, and population growth, socioeconomic disparities (particularly poverty and income inequality), quality of life conditions such as those pertaining to health status, crime, and environmental justice, and racial/ethnic and gender disparities. Much of this work employs methodological protocols grounded in sociology’s longstanding demographic tradition of ecological studies (Duncan, Cuzzort, and Duncan 1961). Research tends to be quantitative and aimed at generalizing across a nation. Counties, cities, and states/provinces are customary place-units of observation. Commonalities among these studies often go unrecognized because researchers scrutinize dependent variables compartmentalized by subfield (e.g., demography, stratification/inequality, economic sociology, rural sociology, and environmental sociology). Yet these studies remain connected in their fundamental focus on subnational well-being, using similar research designs and independent, determinant variables. Within this body of work, most research is concerned with economic-related disparities in the United States. It ties into an extensive social science literature on subnational “poverty and place” whose contours are reviewed in many studies. (For reviews from geography, see Chakravorty 2006 and Glasmeier 2002; from economics, see Partridge and Rickman 2006; from regional science, see Weber et al. 2005; and from sociology, see Brown and Schafft 2011 and Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007.) Thematically, this literature identifies determinants of subnational economic disparities, typically using large-N studies with dependent variables such as poverty rates, income levels and inequality, and job growth. The stock of independent variables is similar with three sets commonly utilized: economic structure, such as the quantity and quality of local employment; demographic attributes, such as age, education, ethnicity, and family structure that reflect residents’ vulnerability to poverty or other disparities; and population geography, such as urban-rural location. Methodological approaches involve modeling relationships with county, city, or other aggregate-level, ecological unit data from secondary sources. Commonly hypothesized relationships are that economic well-being is greater in places with a greater share of higher quality employment (such as manufacturing), lower unemployment, a smaller share of vulnerable populations (higher working age population, higher educational attainments, and smaller minority population), and closer location to metropolitan centers. Another example of the spatial inequality tradition centers on population processes behind geographic disparities—processes that affect the growth, decline, and character of regions along with broader population well-being. Studies of migration (Brown 2002), population sorting/segregation by race, ethnicity, and class (Crowder, Pais, and South


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2012; Massey and Denton 1993), and, more recently, political sorting (Teixeira 2008) provide U.S. examples. Research on migration underpins the study of development globally (Bunker 1985; Chen 2005; Rudel 2002). Migration influences both aggregate population size (as seen in net migration trends) as well as population composition. China’s case of historically disadvantaged rural regions and restricted population mobility, and newer efforts to manage rural-to-urban migration, demonstrate how population flows and regional development are connected (Logan 2008; Seeborg, Jin, and Zhu 2000). Andres Rodriguez-Pose and Viola von Berlepsch (2014) show that nineteenth-century migration had positive, legacy effects on economic development visible across U.S. counties today. Population flows have been conceptualized in ways that jointly apply to developed and developing nations. For example, research on regional differentiation in paths of development discussed above has drawn from the conceptualization of poverty traps that restrict mobility both in the United States (Duncan 1999) and in less developed nations (Rudel, Katan, and Horowitz 2013). Subnational population flows have been conceptualized as part of a general “mobilities” framework (Urry 2000) that spans social as well as spatial stratification, and these flows have also been cast within broader frameworks theorizing globalization (see Favell 2001). Research on subnational inequality yields a body of work with generalizable findings and customarily expected relationships, especially in the case of economic disparities within the United States. But this work shares common limitations. Research tends to focus on a narrow range of causal determinants. These are often under-theorized or treated simply as demographic relationships rather than conceptualized through the lens of stratification theories. In the case of quantitative work, researchers still may neglect to consider spatial effects that can lead to misspecification in relationships. (For discussions, see Irwin 2007 and Matthews and Parker 2013.) Issues of endogeneity or causeand-effect are not often explicitly considered; that is, since present well-being is a function of past conditions, research must account for processes producing past conditions. Regional economists and geographers have moved forward by developing instrumental variable procedures to model causal processes at work (see, e.g., Rodriguez-Pose and von Berlepsch 2014). Still, endogeneity remains a concern in this line of inquiry owing to the many independent-variable-related causal processes that can produce it.


The subnational scale is important for scrutinizing market and state processes—how these unfold across nation-states and their effects on places and populations. The impacts of industries, firms, and jobs within nations often can only be rigorously assessed through comparative subnational research. Shifts in the central state under neoliberal development make the subnational scale a key site for analyzing governmental changes across developed (Brenner 2004) as well as less developed nations (Hiskey 2005). Research on post-



socialist nations has also looked subnationally (Brown, Greskovits, and Kulcsar 2007). Economic and political sociologists have long examined development issues at the subnational scale. Researchers are interested in the business sector and/or the state and their relationship to economic growth and other well-being. Theory tends to be more clearly articulated in this thematic area as researchers seek to answer questions drawn from economic and political sociology. Research designs follow the spatial inequality tradition above, often using similar dependent well-being indicators. I distinguish the studies here, however, by their foremost concern with the independent variable of state and market forces. Of these two forces, private sector business receives far more empirical attention. The epochal deindustrialization experienced by developed nations in the 1970s, highlighted by Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison (1982), formed the inspiration for extensive sociological concern with the impact of manufacturing on subnational development and population well-being. Studies now span an array of economic sectors and development outcomes. Examples from the United States include attention to foreignowned firms and their effects on earnings inequality (Grant and Hutchinson 1996; Wallace, Gauchat, and Fullerton 2012), small, locally owned businesses and their impacts on general socioeconomic conditions and health status (Tolbert, Lyson, and Irwin 1998; Blanchard, Tolbert, and Mencken 2012), industries’ effects on regional environmental conditions (Hooks and Smith 2004), and the impacts of industrialized farming on socioeconomic, health, and environmental conditions (Lobao and Stofferhan 2008). Attention is also given to specific industries touted by public officials to increase economic development, such as high-technology industries (Jenkins, Leicht, and Wendt 2006), producer services (Goe 1994), and, for rural U.S. regions, prisons, which appear to be a de-development strategy (Hooks et al. 2004). The energy industry, particularly shale gasoil extraction, is also creating new regional disparities now being studied. In conceptualizing economic structure, researchers often draw from economic sociology’s industrial segmentation literature, which defines sectors by quality and quantity of employment. Higher wage industries, such as durable manufacturing and producer services, are usually contrasted with lower wage industries. Causal impacts of these sectors are assumed: studies rarely trace causal paths out. Economic sector or industry of employment influences growth and distribution in direct and indirect ways. Primary impacts are through earnings and occupational structures. Secondary impacts occur through economic multiplier effects. Higher-wage employment creates regional wage spreads as it drives up labor costs when employers compete in the labor market. Insofar as some sectors depend on local skilled or stable labor, employers may further support state interventions that enhance well-being. Research tends to find that places with greater manufacturing and other higher wage employment fare better: incomes are higher and more evenly distributed, and poverty is lower (Cotter 2002; Moller, Alderson, and Nielsen 2009). As the economy shifts, researchers modify sectoral classifications, but the principles above remain: higher quality employment casts a shadow effect where total regional populations benefit.


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Turning to the analysis of the state, a growing interdisciplinary literature sees the state as being “rescaled” in the neoliberal era owing to decentralization processes occurring across nations in the Global South, Europe, and the United States (Brenner 2004; Hiskey 2005; Kazepov 2010). Responsibility for growth and redistribution functions tends to shift downward, but, in any given nation, subnational governments vary in institutional capacity to fulfill these functions. Insofar as subnational governments lack capacity and resources, new rounds of uneven development, more regionally specific than in the past, are likely. For the United States and much of Europe, this shift under neoliberal development contrasts with the Keynesian period when central states were more concerned with equity or implementing policies to reduce regional inequality within their borders. In the present neoliberal era, efficiency or letting the market run its course has gained greater currency. Despite these changes, sociologists still focus overwhelmingly on the central or federal state, thereby missing the transformed roles of the local state in many nations. Research on select cities does exist, but sociological studies rarely analyze the local state in a generalizable manner within nations to address local governments’ changing roles, structure, institutional capacity, and impacts on development. Although studies examining the state across the subnational scale are limited, those that do so tend to focus on governments’ aggregate size as an employer, interpreted sometimes as the degree of state intervention in an area. Public sector employment tends to have a positive impact on distribution, reducing income inequality across the United States; however, it has mixed effects on income levels and growth relative to the private sector (Lobao and Hooks 2003; Moller, Alderson, and Nielsen 2009). Spending on income transfers also appears to be related to lower income inequality and poverty. One of the challenges in analyzing the public sector is that public employment tends to be higher in poorer places at the outset, which adds complexity in assessing the state’s causal role in future development outcomes. Some researchers have also looked subnationally to examine the development-related outcomes of specific policies. Research on federal-level policy decisions—such as the location of the defense industry (Hooks 1994; Hooks and McQueen 2010) and flood control programs (O’Neill 2006)—demonstrates that federal policy is not spatially neutral, and its implementation by actors and agencies operating at different territorial scales contributes further to regional uneven development. Sociologists also have scrutinized the impacts of welfare reform programs (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which are highly geographically varied due to a mix of federal, state, and county standards and norms for program operation (Fording, Soss and Schram 2011; Tickamyer et al. 2007). Here, too, government programs appear more to reproduce than to alleviate past spatial inequality. In regard to the distinct policies of state and local governments, sociological attention has been given mainly to policy choices (discussed below) rather than to policy impacts on development. Some sociological research has addressed the long-standing question of the effectiveness of local economic development programs: for example, Gary Green, Arnold Fleischmann, and Tsz Man Kwong (1996) and my work with Wilner



Jeanty, Mark Partridge, and David Kraybill (2012) find mixed effects of these programs on growth and other well-being across the United States. Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom (2001) explain that local policies with regard to land use, infrastructure, taxation, and education indeed have subnational effects evidenced in regional patterns of segregation. Overall, however, generalizable research on policy impacts—though significant to assessing the effectiveness of the state—faces difficultly in accounting sufficiently for causal processes. Studies of specific programs and small areas can be more rigorous, but, when generalizing across regions, robust research to evaluate policy outcomes is limited not just in sociology but also across the social sciences (Bartik 2001). A shortcoming with subnational literature is that broader institutional capacity of the state overall to promote development and reduce poverty across the nation is rarely examined. This contrasts with cross-national work, given its comparative welfare states tradition (Huber and Stephens 2001, 2012; Prasad 2006), and sociology’s Weberian, statecentered tradition. From the cross-national literature, where government is larger and institutionally stronger (i.e., with greater bureaucratic and fiscal capacity), it should operate more effectively. The rise of leftist governments in Latin America has been found to reduce poverty rates, for instance (Huber and Stephens 2012). Questions about stateinstitutional capacity could be applied to all levels of the state (i.e., federal, state, and local governments) and how they affect subnational development. There is some evidence that local governments with stronger institutional capacity can enhance economic growth and reduce poverty across the U.S. (Lobao et al. 2012). In summary, the private sector’s impact on subnational development has long been studied. Although cross-national sociology and foundational neo-Marxian and Weberianoriented theories see the state as an important institution in development, its systematic study at the subnational scale is limited in sociology.


A final thematic area concerns political processes at the subnational scale—that is, the behavior of both subnational governments and their populations as political actors. Research here, too, is wide-ranging and fragmented, but distinct literatures have emerged around policy formulation by the subnational state and collective political behavior such as social movement activity. In both cases, researchers address the determinants of political processes conventionally studied aspatially or for nation-states as a whole (Almeida 2012, 2014; Hooks and Lobao 2010). Subnational research is seen to offer finergrained analyses that allow questions about the roots of these processes to be explored in greater depth within a nation, including questions about new causal determinants and regional variations (Almeida 2012, 2014). There is now increasing focus on the policies produced by subnational governments as critical changes in the state occur globally. European nations historically have had


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more centralized governance systems, and an emerging literature investigates the policies of regional and local European governments gaining new or greater autonomy (Kazepov 2010). In historically centralized nations, researchers have pointed to the potential for beneficial policy choices, such as the tailoring of policies to better fit local or regional needs. By contrast, the United States historically is highly decentralized, and this trend has further accelerated since the Reagan era. Here, subnational states’ policies are viewed as potentially more negative (Peck 2001). Localities and states take on functions that the federal government should provide, but their resources and political will to support policies benefiting the public over capitalists’ interests vary. This creates inequalities in the quality and quantity of government intervention across the nation. In cross-national research, economic development and social policies are usually analyzed separately (Prasad 2006). This gap also holds true for research on subnational states’ policies (Jenkins, Leicht, and Wendt 2006). Studies aim to understand policy determinants that drive governments to select business-friendly or, alternatively, procitizen, pro-poor policies. Subnational researchers generally hypothesize relationships similar to those expected from cross-national work that stresses jointly class-centered forces, such as political economic variables including business and labor power, and state-centered forces, such as administrative and other institutional capacity (Jenkins, Leicht, and Wendt 2006; Lobao, Adua, and Hooks 2014). Economic development policy is given the most attention. U.S. state and local governments have rapidly increased their development roles since the 1970s. They essentially set national economic development policy because of federal inaction in devoting resources to job creation (Bartik 2001). Economic development policies are typically conceptualized as ranging from high- to low-road strategies: the former emphasizes small business and human capital development; the latter stresses competitive business attraction thought largely to benefit big business. This work gained early prominence in John Logan and Harvey Molotch’s (1987) growth machine research. Local policy studies are usually based on samples of cities or counties (owing to the need to collect primary data) whereas studies of states provide national coverage. A weak working class, strong business power, and Republican orientation are generally hypothesized to produce less progressive policy. This relationship has been found for right-to-work policies (Dixon 2010) but only partly supported for business-attraction policies that the industrial working class may support (Jenkins, Leicht, and Wendt 2006). By contrast, institutional capacity tends to produce greater development policy activity of all types. Redistribution policies of subnational governments are given less attention because social policy remains classically studied at the federal level. Sociologists have examined the degree to which states and localities implement pro-poor policies using measures of policy selection and spending (Amenta and Halfman 2000; Fording, Soss, and Schram 2011; Fox 2010; Oakley and Logan 2007; Tickamyer et al. 2007; Zylan and Soule 2000). Determinants hypothesized here also tend to be class-centered, political economic forces and state-centered institutional factors. Since studies are few, consistent support for



these determinants is limited. Political economic factors such as poverty (Tickamyer et al. 2007), fiscal problems and Republican partisanship (Zylan and Soule 2000), and weak leftist political parties and unions (Amenta and Halfman 2000) are found in some studies to be related to less progressive policy. Racial/ethnic variables tend to have more complex relationships than would be anticipated from racial-politics perspectives that assume that high minority areas have weaker public service provision (Fox 2010; Oakley and Logan 2007). Institutional determinants such as bureaucratic capacity and pathdependency or use of similar past policies appear especially important (Oakley and Logan 2007; Tickamyer et al. 2007; Zylan and Soule 2000). Finally, other policies reflective of neoliberal development, such as recent austerity policies and privatization, are still given little sociological attention. (For research that does exist, see Kazepov 2010; Lobao and Adua 2011; Warner 2006.) A subnational literature on collective behavior has also emerged as social movement researchers drill down to this scale to examine new causal determinants and how these play out in different contexts. This literature draws from the understanding of subnational regional processes to inform the study of social movements in a number of innovative ways. First, the subnational scale offers a general political context for exploring collective action. Political mediation explanations particularly stress regional or place-based contingencies for social movement development (Amenta 2014). For movements to take off, strategies and framing need to fit with specific political contexts such as the party in power, state bureaucrats’ interests, and levels of democracy and patronage. Regional differences in the push for old-age assistance programs during the New Deal, for example, show that a lack of democratization in the U.S. South and patronage-based policies in parts of the Northeast and Midwest depressed support for these programs (Amenta 2006). Second, researchers have emphasized the role of subnational infrastructure and the built environment. Such factors function as strategic local/regional resources that can be mobilized for collective action. Almeida (2012) finds that subnational collective action against privatization in El Salvador and Costa Rica was heightened in places with greater state and community infrastructure as indicated by public administrative offices, transportation, and local chapters of oppositional parties. Vincent Roscigno and William Danaher (2004) similarly stress the role of infrastructure in mobilizing Southern textile workers during the Depression. They show how the location of radio stations facilitated mobilization through protest music. With attention to infrastructure, subnational researchers broaden the conceptualization of political opportunity structures usually analyzed temporally by social movement scholars toward a spatial understanding of political opportunity. Third, subnational social movement research has pointed to the importance of spatial diffusion effects that are often analyzed using quantitative, geographic methods. Researchers usually hypothesize positive spatial diffusion. For example, Rory McVeigh, Daniel Meyers, and David Sikkink (2004) found that, during the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan


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had greater recruiting success in counties that were spatially proximate to the movement’s strongholds. Alternatively, negative, checker-board-like spatial diffusion effects may be expected in some instances. Stewart Tolnay, Glenn Deane, and E. M. Beck (1996) examined Southern lynchings, finding such checker-board effects: counties adjacent to those with a lynching were less likely to have them, since white dominance was previously demarked. Finally, subnational research has called attention to the importance of structural conditions within nations to explain social movements and political behavior more generally. Nella Van Dyke and Sarah Soule (2002) found that reactive social movements, indicated by patriot and militia organizing, were greater in states and counties that had experienced economic restructuring or loss of manufacturing and farms along with a higher white population. Studies of voting behavior for regressive policies have given similar attention to structural factors. Rory McVeigh and Maria-Elan Diaz (2009) found that voting to ban same-sex marriage was greater in counties with a more traditional family structure and gender roles and weak community cohesion. Urban-rural and red-blue state and county variations have also been explained by structural factors such as occupational sex segregation (McVeigh and Sobolewski 2007).


Sociology’s body of subnational research addresses significant questions about development. The causal pathways by which development disparities and processes emerge are central to the body of work. Among this wide-ranging literature, researchers speak to core questions about such issues as the spread of development within a nation (including long-term and new forms of regional advantage and disadvantage), disparities across a vast array of development indicators, shifts in state and market processes, and political processes involving subnational state and social movement actors who seek to promote change. Yet these questions remain unevenly studied, and, in some respects, sociology lags behind other social sciences in recognizing their importance. Theory building at the subnational scale remains limited in sociology, and this gap is particularly notable when compared to cross-national research with strong theoretical traditions that speak to many of the same substantive questions. Subnational research is central to building development sociology. An overriding contribution comes from situating the field’s big questions about development within the heart of its spatial knowledge gap. The body of research responds to serious issues that will continue to increase in importance as states and economies shift under neoliberal development (Brenner 2004) and as spatial disparities within nations globally are made more visible for public scrutiny (see, e.g., Lora-Wainright 2013). Subnational studies illuminate theory and findings from nation-state/cross-national research. In some instances, its finer-gained analysis has allowed scholars to challenge prevailing views of development put forth by macro-level research.



In terms of development policy and public sociology outreach, U.S. sociologists may have their most concerted influence at the subnational scale. Research on the distribution of subnational well-being indicators informs federal, regional, and state agencies as well as nongovernmental organizations that tract well-being, often allocating funds accordingly. For example, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) uses a countydistress index composed of per capita income, poverty, and unemployment in order to allocate funds. Sociologists often collaborate and consult with organizations such as the ARC. Some have actively worked with Congress and nongovernmental groups on regional poverty issues and had some success in moving the federal government toward more progressive action, such as in garnering support for a new federal agency on the impoverished Southern “black belt” region (Wimberley 2008). Sociological research on state and market sector impacts has been used by government and nongovernmental organizations to push for greater oversight and regulation of public and private sectors (Hooks et al. 2004; Lobao and Stofferhan 2008). To advance research on subnational development, I briefly outline some directions. First, efforts to build a more coherent body of research are needed. Research directed to the subnational scale from political sociology, economic sociology, and spatial inequality—along with insights from cross-national development theory—offer linked conceptual approaches. These traditions highlight the need for giving multifaceted attention to economic, political, and social institutions affecting growth and redistribution, to actors such as capital, labor, the state, civic society, and social groups by class, race/ethnicity, and gender, and to regional/global processes. Advancing research will require modifications in the manner by which theory is currently deployed. Most studies center on theorizing how a single or a few social forces, usually economic structure, affect development disparities. This limits and fragments research. Synthetic approaches, competitive tests among different theories, and subnational extensions of cross-national theory and interdisciplinary political economy approaches have the potential for broader headway. Second, most research centers on the manner by which development disparities are distributed across regions rather than the creation of poor or prosperous regions through uneven development processes. The latter issue entails focusing on distinct global, national, and local social forces and actors creating uneven development, how they shape a gestalt of regional attributes, and how they affect path-dependency in subsequent development. More work is needed on uneven development beyond regions customarily studied, such as the Amazon, Appalachia, and the U.S. South. Third, conceptual-methodological gaps need to be sorted out. Limited attention has been given to the delineating pathways by which economic and state institutions affect development and how regional processes intervene in relationships. Quantitative studies face problems such as spatial autocorrelation and endogeneity in regional processes. Researchers are still in the formative stages of understanding how to appropriately address these issues. GIS holds particular promise for subnational development research,


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but thus far its use in sociology has been limited, seen mainly in select demographic studies. Finally, we should work toward a larger project, building a more comprehensive sociological approach to the study of development. Here the importance of framing questions about development and inequality across a variety of spatial scales would be widely recognized. Sociology is uniquely positioned to contribute to carving out the study of development at all scales, especially in defining the policy and political responses that poverty and prosperity across regions entail. To do so, however, sociologists need to give concerted attention to subnational regions, because they provide new knowledge and challenges for the broader field of development sociology.


1. In geography, economics, and regional science, the term “region” is often used to refer to the subnational scale. However, in sociology, “region” is usually understood as a region of the country, such as north or south. Geographers, economists, and regional scientists also use region to refer to any territorial setting, from global to local. The term “subnational” conveys more explicitly the generic intermediate scale beyond the locale but below the nation state. For studies explaining the subnational scale in sociology, see Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007; in political science, see Sellers 2005 and Snyder 2001. 2. I focus on the manner by which sociologists have studied subnational places as regional territories and intrinsic units of interest to highlight this tradition—just as studies of the city and of the nation-state as distinct places of interest have engaged sociology’s urban and crossnational traditions, respectively. 3. Spatial scales are fluid, of course, and processes at global levels influence local levels and vice versa. For the purposes of succinctly capturing and consolidating the wide-ranging work addressing subnational-scale development, I treat the subnational scale as a distinct analytical level of sociological inquiry. For an early discussion of the conceptualization and measurement of this scale in sociology, see Duncan, Cuzzort, and Duncan 1961. 4. It should be noted that Georg Simmel was an early exception in that he viewed space as fundamental for a sociological understanding of society. See Simmel (1908) 2009. 5. Because sociology gives primacy to the nation-state, subnational variations are understudied across the globe. Some scholars suggest that this problem is greater in the case of developing nations, where key political and economic questions about development are studied in a highly aggregated manner (Almeida 2012; Hiskey 2005). In part, this may be due to data availability. By contrast, in the U.S. case, scholars have a long history of using the extensive data available for cities, counties, and states from federal and other sources to study subnational scale relationships. 6. Regions within a nation can be delineated in various ways. Commonly, social scientists define them as historical (such as the U.S. north/south), functionally linked (such as labor markets), homogeneous (sharing elements in common such as urban areas, manufacturing belts, and farm belts), and general subnational territory. As previously noted, in sociology the term “region” tends to be equated with historical regions.




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Ann R. Tickamyer and Anouk Patel-Campillo

How and why uneven development occurs has been the subject of inquiry across disciplines, including sociology, geography, planning, economics, and development studies. Less frequently addressed, especially in sociology, is how processes of uneven development create regions or territorially bounded spaces themselves. In this chapter, we examine processes of uneven development with a primary focus on subnational regions but with attention to how these relate to issues, concepts, and theories about regional development at a variety of spatial scales. Thus, we will attempt to conceptualize regional development at the subnational level by indicating how it links to more macro-level approaches and micro/macro links across national and international boundaries. We illustrate with a lengthier case study of Appalachia. In the developing world, political boundaries were drawn by European empires as a means to delineate national territories and as a way of “ordering” territorial space and society. Often drawn haphazardly, these boundaries provided imperial powers with a recognizable and familiar way of defining political relations, understanding and claiming territorial space. Whether the inhabitants of those territorial spaces agreed to such delineations was inconsequential. The goal was to stake territorial claims for purposes of extraction. Territorial boundaries in former colonies, therefore, were created for economic and administrative purposes, consolidating differences in power, unnaturally and illegitimately, and with a legacy that persists. Currently, boundaries are still drawn by external authorities, including policymakers and scholars, the latter to delineate territories as a means to understand spatial organization


and social relations, including why and how uneven development occurs. This is the case with regions. When seeking to analyze uneven development, sociologists have predominantly focused on world regions, classified as core and periphery, and their economic and social interactions from a macro-historical perspective. A largely separate tradition focuses on urban inequalities, growth, and development. Regions exist—or, more accurately, are constructed—at a variety of spatial scales from the global to the local with very little consistency in how the term is conceptualized and operationalized. Increasingly, however, sociologists are examining subnational areas, including units termed regions, as a key form of uneven development (see Linda Lobao’s chapter in this volume and Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). In this chapter, we will examine different meanings and uses of “regions,” how they apply at the subnational level, and theoretical perspectives on uneven development, structure, and process along with the iconic example found in Appalachian development and underdevelopment. Finally, we will identify areas for future research. We emphasize the elusive and shifting nature of regional definition, with both the challenges and benefits this poses for a robust sociology of regional formation, uneven development, and related inequalities.

W H AT I S A R E G I O N ?

Region is primarily a natural language concept that has received little theoretical development in sociology. Dictionary definitions use terms like area, surface, space, and territory, typically specifying that they are contiguous, sometimes extending the definition to note that they have administrative though not necessarily fixed boundaries. A glance at standard sociology references such as the Annual Review of Sociology and various encyclopedias of sociology finds only vague entries for the term. It is much more likely to be specified and used analytically with more precision in geography, but here, too, its meanings vary greatly, as does the scale on which it is approached (Agnew 2000). As illustrated in this volume, the construct of regions is applied to various world regions with historical boundaries established in colonial times and reified over time (e.g., Southeast Asia, the Middle East), continental divisions with different development trajectories (e.g., Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America), subnational identities that have captured popular imagination (e.g., Appalachia, Amazonia), emerging and economically powerful units denoting urban agglomerations (world cities, such as New York and Miami), and declining rural hinterlands (Ozarks, Great Plains), among others. These may have multiple and shifting designations, boundaries, and identities. Regions are multi-scalar and may be part of larger administrative units and have a unique global reach (Agnew 2000; Hudson 2007) or cross political boundaries and stand in relative isolation. At whatever scale, they are historically and geographically contingent and typically nested in other socio-spatial units including other regions. For example, the Mississippi Delta of the United States is embedded in the “black belt” plantation economy of the American South—all of which are potential regional designations (Falk,

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Talley, and Rankin 1993; Wimberly and Morris 2002). Amazonia is a vast region located within and across South American national boundaries (Bunker 1984, 1989, 2003). Viewed from the opposite perspective on spatial hierarchy, the European Union incorporates multiple states, territories, and regions at every possible scale, and it continues to evolve over time and space from its inception in the Maastricht Treaty of 1993. Thus, regions are socially constructed and relational, and they can be made and unmade through policy, shifting flows of labor, capital, goods, technology, information, biophysical transformations, and, of course, people, with more or less fluid territorial markers and administrative jurisdictions (Agnew 2013; Jones and Paasi 2013). Historically, sociology has emphasized macro-level comparative studies of so-called world regions (Gereffi and Fonda 1992) or local-level case studies designed to investigate some particular social process or formation (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). However, just as geographers have increasingly focused on subnational regions and urban agglomerations (Hudson 2007; Scott and Storper 2003), sociologists, too, are paying more attention to subnational units (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007) and global cities (Castells 1996; Sassen 2000) to explain variation and processes of development within and across bounded areas. Empirical studies will vary in their units of analysis depending on availability of data and the perspective of the researcher. Within the sociological literature, region may assume a variety of different meanings and scales of analysis. Similarly, theories of uneven development as focused on regions are uneven in their application. Region remains under-specified and theorized, whether at the global, local, or subnational scale. A common approach within sociology, at any scale, is to examine regions on the basis of an a priori historical identity that then must be explained after the fact, using the empirical tools at hand. The “place in society” perspective starts with a historical and geographic region and specifies the characteristics and relationships that distinguish it (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). Alternatively, patterns that define or construct regions may emerge and change from cross-unit analysis of distance and clustering, seeking less to explain an identifiable place than to determine the scope and form of social and economic processes as they are distributed across spatial locations over time (Logan 2012). The “society in place” approach to understanding regional development dispenses with immutable boundaries and enduring identities in exchange for a dynamic understanding of place, including region (Lobao, Hooks, and Tickamyer 2007). Each approach is well-represented in the literature. The a priori historical/place in society perspective and the more fluid society-in-place approach are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are complementary but vary in emphasis. Both also call on long histories in sociology of seeking to explain social inequalities, whether individual, societal, or spatial. The place-in-society approach is characteristic of some of the earliest systematic sociological exploration of region at the subnational level, such as is found in the work of pioneering Southern “regionalists” Howard Odum (1936) and Rupert Vance (1932). They applied a human ecology perspective to explain development patterns in the



American South that assumed that identifiable and historically unique regions are the product of the intersection of sociocultural and biophysical environments. Appalachia and its poverty is another subnational region that has been analyzed from virtually every possible disciplinary and theoretical stance but typically as a sui generis place, albeit with surprisingly little agreement or consistency in its boundaries. Thus, sociologists have joined geographers, anthropologists, historians, planners, social workers, journalists, fiction writers, and policymakers as they try to explain what constitutes Appalachia and why it lags other regions. It may be a social and political construct, but it is one with enduring interest that is rooted in both popular and scholarly imaginations over time (Billings and Tickamyer 1993). Nevertheless, there is great heterogeneity across the region both historically and currently (Fisher and Smith 2012; Pudup, Billings, and Waller 1995). Analysis of county-level census and economic data suggests that the central Appalachian coalfields of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia are perhaps the only “true” Appalachia remaining (Thorne, Tickamyer, and Thorne 2004). Pursuing a society-in-place perspective, patterns of out-migration from the concentrated areas of Mexican American settlement in the U.S. Southwest (“Aztlan”) demonstrate regional formation and change over time and space (Saenz, Cready, and Morales 2007) as do many theoretical and empirical studies that point to the role of migration in community and regional formation (Brown 2002). The rise (and sometimes fall) of (subnational) industrial regions such as the maquiladoras of the Mexican border (Sklair 2011) or the high-tech corridors of Route 128 in Massachusetts and Silicon Valley in California (Kenney 2000; Saxenian 1996) are a reminder of the dynamism of regional development. In both approaches and across the literature on regional uneven development, there is a tension between focusing on cross-sectional snapshots in time that emphasize boundaries, structures, and historical identities versus more process-oriented perspectives that highlight the changing and fluid nature of these territories. Similarly, there is a tension between naturalizing versus constructivist approaches to defining region that permeates much of the literature whether explicitly or implicit in the analysis. These tensions apply regardless of whether the region in question is cross-national or subnational and in fact may be more prevalent (or at least more obvious) under the close scrutiny of subnational analysis.


The indeterminacy in defining regions complicates explaining their formation and development trajectories. Although there is general recognition that uneven development occurs across regions as they gain or lag in economic growth and income, poverty, inequality, and numerous other indicators of social welfare and well-being, explanations follow both theoretical perspectives and territorial focus. Macro-level theories, which have been the dominant sociological lens, have also been applied at different spatial scales and

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levels of analysis, with relatively little scrutiny of the degree to which they can successfully make the transition. Thus, sociological theories that traditionally have an equilibrium focus such as human ecology, modernization, and structure functionalism, on the one hand, and more conflict- and change-oriented perspectives found in Marxist and neoMarxist critical theories and political economic approaches, on the other, have all somewhat indiscriminately been applied to regional development at cross-national, subnational, and urban/community scales. In the following discussion, we select some of the most prominent explanations from both traditions to explore further their appropriateness for analyzing regional development as well as some newer approaches such as political ecology that have the potential to transcend old polarizing conceptualizations. In the post–World War II growth of social science, efforts to explain inequalities in wealth and power across nations initially were captured by naive modernization theories influenced by neoclassical economics. Uneven development was viewed from the miasma of imperialism as either a historical accident or the outcome of stagnation and wrong turns taken by socially and culturally “backward” nations. National and transnational regional inequalities were seen as the unfortunate by-product of cultural dead ends that could be ameliorated by diffusion or active transmission of modern institutions, practices, and technologies leading to “economic takeoff ” (Rostow 1960) that would ultimately bring all nations into the fold of free market prosperity and mass consumption. Modernization theory was sometimes directly applied to analysis of subnational regional development. For example, Appalachia (in part or whole) has frequently been characterized as the land and people left behind—physical and cultural isolation whose remedy was to create “ ‘corridors’ of development” (Billings, Pudup, and Waller 1995, 6). As alluded to previously, human ecology also saw service as an explanation for regional development. Although early Southern regionalists such as Odum and Vance influentially used a human ecology perspective to analyze the American South, and it was a widely promulgated stance in both sociology and demography (Hawley 1950), it was most commonly applied to patterns of urban and community growth and decline. It fell out of favor among a new generation of sociologists because of its focus on gradual change and “adaptation,” lack of attention to human agency, historical connections with rejected functionalist and modernization perspectives, and failure to adequately specify all components of the standard POET (population, organization, environment, and technology) model—the systems approach that emphasizes the interrelationships of these four factors to define development (Brown 2002). The dominance of equilibrium models in social science approaches to development increasingly was rejected and replaced with critical and political economic analyses. The rise of Marxist and critical theories, fueled by anticolonial movements and the evidence of huge and enduring levels of poverty and social inequalities throughout the Global South, provided a necessary corrective to the ascendancy of Cold War ideology that infused development theory and practice of the time. The concern then was primarily with world regions, and the rise of world systems and dependency approaches



provided alternative theoretical perspectives based on Marxian theories about the growth of capitalism and relations of power and domination across nations. Although lacking spatial theorization, these same theories were later shoehorned into explaining subnational regional underdevelopment and uneven development. Thus, poor and lagging regions such as Appalachia and the American South were explained by an internal colonialism model that posited relations of domination and exploitation imposed by external powers for the purpose of resource extraction, capital accumulation, and cheap labor. Other accounts elaborated the forms of exploitation to recognize the roles of local elites, often integrated into both local and global class hierarchies, again based on various strands of Marxist political economy and world-systems theories. Specific models of uneven development vary by time and space. The decline of the U.S. “rust belt” (primarily the industrial upper Midwest) in the mid- to late twentieth century receives different treatment than the enduring poverty found in the Southern “black belt.” All models, however, focus on class relations, industrial structure, and access to capital and markets (Lyson and Falk 1993), whereas spatial units such as region remain insufficiently theorized and have an ad hoc character that may not be consistent across analyses. Numerous variations can be found in the literature and, more recently, have been augmented or superseded by both new theoretical perspectives and current events. These include the rise of post-structural theories, a fascination with globalization, numerous historical, political, and economic developments ranging from the fall of the Soviet Union (the “second world”) to the ascendancy of the neoliberal agenda in both national and international politics, and the growing concern with climate change, environmental catastrophe, and their impacts on different territories and ecosystems. Each of these perspectives can be seen as having an impact on the way regional development and formation is conceptualized. For example, some globalization theories have emphasized the “flattening” effect of rapidly expanding international commerce and markets as well as new communications and information technology with the resulting homogenization of distinct national and regional practices and identities (Friedman 2005). Similarly, a global cities approach emphasizes the centrality of urban hubs that connect across national and international boundaries as opposed to forming or maintaining identifiable local characteristics and relationships (Sassen 2000; Scott and Storper 2003). Although widely debated and disputed as to how flat is flat and what the implications are for the ultimate contours of local and regional identities, especially in the face of ever-growing numbers of regional conflicts, there can be little doubt that accelerating globalization, urbanization, and the growth of world cities influence regional development and formation, albeit with inadequate test of their effects. Furthermore, these strands of theory help shift emphasis from region as container to region as sets of networks and relationships—in other words, a society-in-place approach. (See the editors’ introduction and other chapters in this volume.) In addition to the dominant perspectives previously mentioned, post-structural perspectives reject the rigid and over-determined models of both human ecology and many

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political economy theories, recognizing the multilayered, multilevel, and intertwined nature of governance practices, jurisdictions, and territories (Elden 2013). Other analyses focus on the spread of the neoliberal agenda, otherwise known as the Washington Consensus, promulgated by a combination of transnational capital, Western geopolitical power, and the international agencies that legitimate and finance the world order. Although initially and primarily applied to the international arena, they find their counterpart in national states’ efforts to decentralize, devolve, and dismantle centrally managed state policy instruments to local jurisdictions and regional levels, with consequent subnational regional effects (Lobao 1996; Tickamyer et al. 2007). The rise of political ecology theories brings many newer strands of theory together, and to some extent it takes the study of regions full circle with earlier versions of human ecology by once again emphasizing the interface of the biophysical environment along with the social and political, differing from earlier human ecology in its critical perspective, focus on relations of power and inequalities, and emphasis on dynamic, sometimes catastrophic processes of change. The numerous strands of development theory spread across multiple disciplines and interdisciplinary perspectives defy easy classification or summary, especially since sociology has often been a lagging partner in their conceptualization and application. The next section describes how uneven development across regions is explained from the still dominant critical political economy and structuralist viewpoints favored by sociology and geography as well as some of the newer strands of theory, such as political ecology, where sociology is less well represented. We will then examine the ways in which sociology and related fields have approached the relationship between the constructs of region and uneven development. Finally, we will bring these perspectives together through the empirical lens of the Appalachian region.


Macro-level perspectives that followed modernization theories focused on the organization, growth, and relations of power, domination, and subordination within and across nations in an expanding capitalist economic system. Examples of this approach can be found particularly in the works of Marxist sociologists and economists in the structuralist and neo-structuralist vein. Within this strand of the literature, the link between uneven development and macro-regions is associated with the experience of colonialism and the class relations, intra-regional economic trade, and post-colonial power relations that emerged in countries in Latin America as a result. To analytically capture these relations, Fernando Cardoso and Enzo Faletto (1979) employed the constructs of “core” and “periphery” and the division of labor and, in doing so, placed the social relations engendered by the (post)colonial experience, class, and power at the epicenter of the sociological analyses of uneven development.



This analytical shift made the concepts of core and periphery “portable” and the division of labor observable across scale and time, whereas the territorial aspects of empirebuilding, though still present, are subsumed under the social relations of power and domination. At the subnational scale, the constructs of core and periphery are frequently used to explain regional variation, often corresponding to dichotomized categories such as rural-urban or elite-peasant. Thus, though not exclusively conceptualized as a social relation between empires and their former colonies, the constructs of core and periphery and the division of labor shed light on the social relations at the root of uneven regional development. From a spatial perspective, it is important to note that uneven development and the constructs of core and periphery tend to favor explanations based on social relations over ones linked to particular spatial constructs, such as region. By adopting the constructs of core and periphery and adding one of their own(the semi-periphery), world-systems scholars reemphasized the analysis of (uneven) development from a perspective that prioritized economic hierarchies over material territorial domination. Because development from this viewpoint is that of the capitalist world system itself, national development is considered a zero-sum game where some states strive to “catch up” and others must decline (Wallerstein 1988). Paralleling the social relations of the core/periphery construct in macro-scale analyses, subnational analyses of economic development have deployed these concepts to the examination of uneven development and regional competition, among others. Within the context of processes of decentralization, local government economic policy, and global economic integration, subnational analyses of uneven development focused on the economic performance of regions often point to the primacy of metropoles and urban areas as nodes of accumulation pivotal to the location decisions of industries, the formation of industrial clusters, corridors, and other spatio-economic formations. Similarly, the analyses of regional competition echo the zero-sum game and race to the bottom—dynamics present in macroscale analyses of core/periphery relations of accumulation and competition.


To examine the relationship between the diffusion of capitalist modes of production and uneven development across time, space, and scale, world-systems analysts Terence Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein (1986) traced processes of capital accumulation and the division of labor associated with the production and circulation of specific commodities. Through what they termed the “global commodity chain” (GCC) approach, and without delving into conceptual specifications of “region,” these scholars made analytically visible the macro-micro links involved in the process of capitalist expansion via the lengthening of production networks and differential surplus accumulation rates across political boundaries. Because this perspective privileges the examination of the diffusion of social relations associated with capitalist modes of production as a means of organizing socio-



economic and political relations into core/semiperiphery/periphery, a spatial conceptualization of geographic markers or units including region is largely missing. The theorization of space through a GCC approach is further complicated by the perceived ease with which transnational firms coordinate strategies of accumulation across space. Conceptualizing firm-led competitive strategies as relatively free of friction limits more nuanced analytical interpretations that account for why and how socio-spatial relations shape transnational economic activity, and vice versa (Patel-Campillo 2011). This presents two limitations for the analysis of socio-spatial relations. First, by privileging intra-chain relations characterized by cooperation (a prerequisite for the successful coordination of economic activity across space), what remains analytically elusive are instances where economic actors engage in contentious, cut-throat, and deviant behavior. This is analytically problematic because it obscures reasons (other than labor costs) that may explain shifts in the accumulation strategies of economic actors across space. A second and equally important analytical aspect marginalized by the focus on lead firms and intra-chain coordination is the role of regulation and its influence on economic activity. Although the GCC—and, later, the global value chain, or GVC (Gereffi, Humphrey, and Sturgeon 2005)—consider the importance of trade agreements for the location strategies of firms and their supplier networks, other forms of regulatory intervention remain less visible. Thus, because the focus remains on firms, the analytical focus of the GCC/ GVC approaches is on how transnational firms achieve capital accumulation and “flatten” spatial difference by engaging in the strategic coordination of their production and supplier networks. From a social-spatial perspective, the construct of region in the examination of transnational firm-supplier networks lacks analytical elaboration. Rather than being central to the analysis, region as a unit of analysis is important insofar as it defines how places are bound together through trade and the ways trade agreements encourage the specialization of production and wage differentials while creating market access, factors that allow transnational business networks to add value. Here, the construct of region matters as a function of the flow of economic activity across space rather than as a stand-alone analytical category with particular territorial demarcations. Regions, therefore, are analytically relegated to sets of networked production nodes (mostly located in developing countries), obscuring the colonial legacies and relations underlying international economic flows that the world-systems formulation sought to emphasize. Notably missing in this approach is application to territories whose economies are based on extractive industries, even though regional uneven development often is explicitly associated with the exploitation of areas dependent on natural resource extraction and even though prospects for growth and development “work differently in extraction and agriculture than they do in industrial production” (Bunker 1989, 590). In the extractive sector, Gavin Bridge’s (2008) work takes a spatial approach to regional development by examining the “resource curse thesis” that posits the exploitive nature of resource extraction for regional development. Based on a variety of factors, including



poor governance and national state capacity, he highlights the relational role of the state and multiple actors to illustrate how extractive activities can lead to dependency and poverty rather than to more positive regional developmental outcomes (Bridge 2008, 411). Ironically, such examples are relatively rare, despite resource-based economies being the focus of underdevelopment studies. Other critics of structuralist approaches note the absence of key levels of analysis such as the household and its gendered inhabitants (women) and the inequalities perpetrated in household-level labor practices and relations (Dunaway 2001). As Wilma Dunaway notes, world-systems theory has been shockingly negligent in incorporating women’s productive and reproductive labor into its analyses despite its centrality to propping up the relations of production that constitute the world system and that perpetuate its inequalities. Women’s formal and informal labor, productive and reproductive work, exploitation and self-exploitation are the mainstays of the semi-proletarian household that permits the extraction of surplus value. Dunaway and others have sought to rectify these omissions. Concerned with increasing disparities and marginalization, sociologists, geographers, and others have used the GCC/GVC approaches to understand why and how processes of global economic integration work to marginalize particular actors, including women workers. As such, drawing from the world-systems preoccupation with the global division of labor (i.e., core/periphery) has opened the way to research linking the transnational accumulation strategies of firms to the feminization of labor. These findings, however, loop back to the core/periphery dichotomous division. The rise of political ecology and its relation to the concept of region also needs to be acknowledged. With some exceptions, sociologists who eschew spatial analyses tend to favor adaptations of either more macro- (dependency, internal colonialism) or micro-level (urban growth and decline) theories, demonstrating again the relative lack of uniquely sociological input into regional theory and research. An exception, Stephen Bunker’s (1989, 2003) political ecology analysis of regional development in Amazonia, which is based on extractive industry, demonstrates the interplay of place, geography, and political economy in development opportunities and trajectories. Often explicitly inter- and multidisciplinary and associated with other social science disciplines, particularly geography, regional science, and anthropology, political ecology is also relatively plastic in the way it is theorized and applied. In the words of one of its primary outlets, it features “research into the linkages between political economy and human environmental impacts across different locations and academic disciplines” (University of Arizona Libraries n.d.). It is particularly relevant to development studies, often as an elaboration of a political economy theoretical perspective, perhaps because of the central role exploitation of natural resources has played in the “development of underdevelopment.” There are numerous versions and varieties, many of which are little more than an assertion of the importance of nature and the environment as cause and consequence of other social arrangements. In most forms, it attempts to undermine false binaries between society and the environment, social and ecosystems, and built and



natural environments. Thus, ecosystems take their place alongside other societal systems as mutually influential and formative factors. Emphasis varies as to whether the focus is on the political, social, or cultural impacts on the environment or vice versa, but all share an interest in analyzing the ways they are intertwined. As with other approaches, it is more often applied to scales other than the regional (see, e.g., Swyngedouw and Heynen 2003 for urban applications), though the emphasis on the biophysical environment makes it highly compatible with a focus on regional development.

A S U B N AT I O N A L P E R S P E C T I V E : T H E N I T T Y- G R I T T Y O F R E G I O N S

In the field of geography, there are three discernible strands in the literature on regions and uneven development: regional competition, global-city regions, and historicizing or path-dependent regions (Agnew 2000). In the regional competition strand of the literature, uneven development is often associated with the capacity of regions to attract capital investment vis-à-vis other regions. Attracting foreign investment is often predicated on the creation of an investment-friendly environment through favorable regulation and economic incentives to influence the location choices of firms. Regional competition produces uneven development by attracting mobile transnational capital, encouraging the emergence and expansion of firms, clusters, and other spatio-economic configurations in specific locations in and within regions (Agnew 2000). Renewed policy and scholarly interest on the role of subnational units of governance emerged largely as a result of national government–led neoliberal policies of the 1980s and the devastating socioeconomic impacts those had across scales of governance. From a policymaking perspective, regional approaches to economic development served to create differentiated forms of governance based not on political boundaries but on regional attributes to improve the competitive positioning of places within the broader national and international context, often requiring cross-scalar coordination. Interest in region as a unit of analysis has focused on rescaling and the role of socioeconomic assets and institutional thickness within broader processes of global market integration and competition (Brenner 2003). The literature on global city-regions (a strand of the literature on the political economy of scale), according to John Agnew (2000, 2013), emphasizes the role of regions as global economic nodes surrounded by peripheral areas from which they draw resources to grow industries, create clusters of related firms, and foster regional specialization. Based on the core/peripheral relationship that cities have with their adjoining regions, Neil Brenner (1998) suggests that the importance of cities in the world economy is influenced by the services they provide to the rest of the world. In the field of geography, regions have emerged as key territorial units of analysis, with much emphasis placed on the nexus between region and economic growth, competition, and governance within the broader context of global economic integration and processes of devolution (Hudson 2007). The proliferation of scholarly work focused on



one particular scale—in this case, the region—has led scholars to question whether privileging one dimension presents an analytical trap by masking the relational nature of social phenomena across space. One alternative to de-centering the analytical primacy of any particular scale proposed by Brenner is to examine socio-spatial dynamics as processes rather than material and territorial units (Brenner 2001, 2004). To this end, Brenner and his colleagues suggest that, rather than taking a unidimensional approach favoring a particular socio-spatial configuration over another, vectors such as territories (material), places (social), scales (political), and networks (economic) be integrative and constitutive of social inquiry pertaining to contemporary capitalism (Jessop, Brenner, and Jones 2008). The third feature of the emerging political economy of regions is focused on historical trajectories and path dependencies. This literature is massive, but what is important to note here is that, from this perspective, regions have distinct attributes, structures, and institutions that coexist and yet differentiate them from one another. The economic history of particular regions thus shapes the ways in which they carve out economic spaces in a globally integrated world economy.


Appalachia, the subnational territory loosely associated with the Appalachian mountain range in the Eastern United States, provides the quintessential example of virtually every aspect of what makes the term region so problematic. Although widely recognized as a region, most observers would be hard put to definitively explain what defines it, what its boundaries are, and how it is has changed over time. Portions of the region were named and described by the mid-nineteenth century, but its defining characteristics have been variously attributed to geography, topography, economy, history, demography, culture, and morality, often with surprisingly little overlap. Spatially, it varies dramatically, even after (and because) it had been given an official administrative definition in 1965 with the creation of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) by an act of Congress. ARC designation has steadily expanded from its original 360 counties in 11 states to the current (and still expanding) 420 counties in 13 states. Both original and current versions include areas never previously defined as Appalachian but whose inclusion was the result of political brokering and compromise. In modern times, its most enduring identity has been with the persistent poverty exposed by the War on Poverty that resulted in the ARC, but, as numerous analyses have demonstrated, there is little historical, social, or spatial unity to what is labeled Appalachia (Billings and Tickamyer 1993). Because the Appalachian region was associated historically with large areas of persistent poverty and underdevelopment, it is also the site of numerous debates about causes and consequences that chart the changing fashions in scholarship on the topic. Thus, it has variously been seen as the archetypal culture of poverty inhabited by an ignorant, isolated, and violence-prone population; as a backwater ruled by grasping and corrupt



local officials that requires the infusion of modern infrastructure and administration; as an internal colony exploited by external elites and multinational corporations for its natural resources; as a peripheral region whose incorporation into the world economy has experienced numerous boom-and-bust cycles associated with the ascendency of different commodities, production regimes, and markets; and as an imaginary whose defining characteristics are primarily fiction and media hype. In fact, Appalachia’s history is complex and incorporates elements of all of the above. As Dwight Billings and Kathleen Blee (2000) demonstrate in their carefully researched and nuanced account, The Road to Poverty, Appalachia as a region is heterogeneous and has witnessed numerous cycles of wealth and poverty and economic and demographic expansion and decline accompanying the rise and fall of demand for its products and access to markets. Equally important have been the actions of local elites and governance structures that provide the administrative and institutional framework for changing fortunes. Many of the myths associated with popular stereotypes of lawless and violent feuding are largely myths, rooted in reality, but distorted from actual historical events. Their analysis emphasizes that the combination of capitalist markets, state coercion, and cultural strategies were all instrumental in ultimately producing Appalachian poverty. The implication of path-dependent development processes that have resisted alternative futures is undermined by the diversity and complexity of the region. Even the coal industry—which has most typically provided the material foundation for its regional identity, history of poverty, and development path (Markusen 1987)— does not uniquely define Appalachia as a region. Some of the most persistently poor areas do not have any coal production. Conversely, coal-producing areas have a mixed history of boom and bust that has also produced local wealth and resources in addition to what has been exploited for external benefit. It is more accurate to see the region as a loosely linked territory with a history of successive extractive industries, including agriculture, salt, timber, coal, and now shale gas, whose industrial structures, labor relations, and political economy combined to create conditions for exploitation and underdevelopment. The multiplicity of meanings and identities for the Appalachian region has meant that, to date, there have been inconsistent efforts to apply the various analytic models to explain Appalachian uneven development. Its poverty and areas of underdevelopment have lent themselves to wholesale applications of dependency and internal colonialism models, and these remain a persuasive approach (Billings 1974; Lewis and Billings 1997; Walls 1976). Because of the historical dominance of coal extraction and associated forms of environmental degradation in some areas, it has been seen as an example of the resource curse, albeit with mixed results from empirical test (Partridge, Betz, and Lobao 2012). Other empirical analyses of the impacts of business characteristics on growth and development, such as firm size, distribution, and clustering for regions that explicitly or implicitly focus on Appalachia, use a variety of regional definitions (e.g., Feser, Renski, and Goldstein 2008; Komarek and Loveridge 2014). They have mixed results but



demonstrate that regions matter and indirectly reinforce the case for better subnational regional conceptual development and analysis. Yet another approach is found in efforts to apply a political ecology perspective linking “historical struggles around environmental resource access, ownership and use” with its economic development (Nesbitt and Weiner 2001, 333). Finally, and most notably, there have been numerous attempts to address gender, race, and ethnic relations as they put their stamp on the region (Fisher and Smith 2012; Dunaway 2001; Hayden 2004; Miewald and McCann 2004; Oberhauser 1995; Tickamyer and Tickamyer 1988). Although these analyses tend to be less about regionmaking than about identifying how regional inequalities relate to other forms of social inequalities, they point to and begin to fill major gaps in accounts of regional formation, development, and underdevelopment. In particular, they demonstrate how both development practices and policies are gendered and raced, typically to the disadvantage of women and racial and ethnic minorities. Gender relations and divisions of labor underlie regional differences and social relations. The research on regional social movements also tends to view the region as a preexisting territory whose history and social relations frame and provoke protest and collective action. These may, in turn, reinforce regional identity and affiliation but as part of the “historical trajectories and path dependency” cited above. Thus, both historical developments and theoretical frameworks make and remake the region in their image, but underlying most of these accounts is an enduring image (or, in the language of geography, an imaginary) of the region. This creates an approach that views region as the context for social processes—whether defined by production networks, labor relations, or environmental struggles—rather than their outcome. The Appalachian exemplar, both as place and as a construct, provides fertile ground for application of different models, theories, and interpretations of region, development, and their intersection, depending on the perspective of the analyst and the analytic fashion of the day. What remains somewhat constant is the poverty and inequality that characterize substantial portions of the region.

W H AT I S M I S S I N G , W H AT N E E D S TO B E D O N E ?

In this chapter, we sought to understand various perspectives related to the ways scholarly analyses address how and why uneven development occurs across regions and, in turn, how these are instrumental in constructing regions. We traced sociological approaches to these questions from equilibrium and systems models to more recent structuralist and political economy strands of the sociological literature, and we found that, from this perspective, uneven development is explained by the experience of colonialism and empire-building and the social and power relations that it engenders. Here, development mostly refers to the development of the capitalist system that, by its own nature, produces uneven development. The constructs of core, periphery, and semi-periphery tend to be decoupled from territorial demarcations and instead favor social relations of power and



domination that characterize uneven development. In this approach, regions are either ignored or considered to be historical legacies. With the turn to political ecology, there has been renewed interest and emphasis on the biophysical environment and the interplay between ecosystems and social systems. Here too, however, there is little systematic conceptualization of regions, especially subnationally, and this perspective is more commonly found in social science disciplines and multidisciplinary approaches other than sociology. Overall, the analysis of subnational regions tends to be ad hoc, with regions defined according to convention or convenience and little consistency or formal criteria. Thus, there is substantial room for both theoretical and empirical development of the concept of subnational region and how it relates to uneven development. Among the many topics raised in this review and in pressing need of further study and analysis are issues of definition and conceptualization, including the significance of regions as units of analysis for the study of development, the selection of boundaries and the delineation of regions at different spatial scales, the fluidity of boundaries over time and whether and how these can be fixed for analysis, and the relationship to biophysically defined territories such as ecological regions and watersheds. Similarly, theoretical issues and explanations that require much greater attention include the appropriateness of macro-, national-, and global-level models to subnational regions, the means and mechanisms of micro-macro links, the existence and salience of networks other than economic organizations to regional formation and uneven development, the intersectionality of sources of inequalities in development at the regional level, the impact of governance, political mechanisms, representation, and coordination, and criteria for “successful development” at different scales. Undoubtedly, many other avenues of investigation can be formulated and pursued. The important point is that this task be given priority. In conclusion, the literature on regional uneven development is itself highly uneven, reflecting different and sometimes incomplete paths of theoretical development for the concepts of region and uneven development—whether these concepts are viewed separately or joined in models of regional development and change. This is especially the case for sociological treatments of these issues. Sociology has not provided rigorous treatment of its own contributions to this topic and has somewhat haphazardly borrowed or collaborated with related social science disciplines. To understand the making of regions, it will be necessary to overcome disciplinary barriers and staked academic territory to create an integrated social science perspective in which sociology is an honored partner.


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13 MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT Virtuous and Vicious Cycles

Sara R. Curran

The migration and development relationship is frequently articulated in terms of reciprocal, relatively simple theoretical standpoints. These formulations have variously informed policy debates about how the linkages between the two phenomena yield positive or negative outcomes. In contemporary times, the migration and development relationship has garnered renewed debate among scholars and policymakers (as summarized in de Haas 2012; Glick Schiller 2012; Portes 2007; Ratha, Mohapatra, and Silwal 2010). On the one hand, some scholars and policymakers see migration as a short-term response to relative underdevelopment and limited, local opportunities in origin communities, followed by return migration or remittances that increase human capital and financial investments in communities of origin for productive returns—in other words, a virtuous cycle of reciprocally positive impacts in sending and receiving places. On the other hand, others observe a vicious cycle of reciprocally negative impacts in sending and receiving places. In these scenarios, migration undermines endogenous economic growth possibilities and perpetuates structural inequalities in origin communities. And, structural inequalities in destinations, coincident with growing globalization of trade, finance, and capital movement, fuel migration of both low-skilled and high-skilled labor, segmenting labor markets and limiting economic mobility among low-skilled workers in destinations. For the most part, the policy debates, theoretical formulations, and empirical evidence assume an articulation between migration and development—that is, a set of mechanisms that link the two processes together. Less often questioned is the possibility of a disarticulation or independence of migration from the development process. Some


recent scholarship and policy briefs propose that the migration and development relationship is increasingly disarticulated under some circumstances and that concerted development efforts in origin communities will never stop the flow of migrants where there are well-established migrant networks (de Haas 2007). Within the literature focusing on migration and development are two strands: one focuses on the consequences for sending (origin) countries (communities) (Castles 2010); the other focuses solely on immigration and the implications for receiving (destination) countries. In this latter strand, only a few scholars explicitly note how migration can either promote or undermine economic development in destinations, depending on the policies or practices shaping the context of reception (Portes 2007). The distinction between origin and destination communities is increasingly fuzzy because the networks linking places make distinguishing effects and causality increasingly difficult. However, the distinction still organizes much of the scholarship in the field, partially because social science has not fully embraced methods that explain complex systems. Given that much of the migration scholarship continues to organize itself around these conceptual distinctions and for heuristic purposes, this chapter reifies the distinction and then, in the conclusion, offers reasons for breaking down the conceptual boundaries. Whether the focus is on origin communities or destinations, debates abound about the pros and cons of migration impacts on economic outcomes. To overcome these debates, social science scholarship requires development of theories and evidence that reveal migration systems dynamics (across space and time) and the increasingly multilevel and systemic nature of economic development and how it is embedded within global political, social, and cultural transformations. There are important conceptual and empirical efforts required by scholars in both fields to elucidate and explain the varying interdependencies of both systems across space, time, and social organization. Substantiating an argument for future scholarship, I first provide a contemporary assessment of mobility and economic growth. Second, I provide a brief history of how the debate about migration and development has evolved since World War II. Empirical and theoretical investigations have mirrored ideological debates about how human welfare is best progressed (de Haas 2010). This historical context provides a theoretical review for scholars of the sociology of development and situates migration theory within that work. For the most part, most migration theorizing and research has followed, rather than led, theoretical insights in the development field. Third, I review explanations and evidence for how migration and development are understood as virtuous cycles or vicious cycles. I discuss the migration and development relationship as it relates to both remittance flows and human capital flows (brain drain or gain). Proponents on either side of the virtuous or vicious cycle debate identify similar, key factors operating to affect outcomes and differ only in the relative importance they place on the preeminent role of economic forces and the countervailing political, cultural, and structural forces. Fourth, the chapter concludes with two discussions. One is about how migration and development are variously articulated (or even disarticulated). In other words, I argue that the

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premise of an articulated relationship between migration and development, assumed by both virtuous and vicious cycle arguments, needs to be re-examined. The second discussion focuses on how developments in migration scholarship, especially those developments that have uncovered transnational migrant systems, might lead, rather than follow, development theorizing and policies. Transnational migration and transnationalism scholarship have made apparent how individual identities are not fixed in places within nations and how those identities cohere and fuel emergent institutions that challenge national prerogatives and priorities. Several methodological challenges always arise when studying migration, and these challenges create opportunities for theoretical and conceptual insights about social behavior and societal welfare. It is important to point them out before proceeding further. First, migration is dynamic. Although there are some predictable patterns and it is a highly selective process (at least initially), the very act of migration is substantially disruptive to migrants and nonmigrants and to communities of origin and destination. This social and physical disruption necessitates a reorganization of social life at all levels and places and, in turn, changes the conditions for migration. The fluidity of migration is at once extraordinarily challenging and revealing. Second, deciding to migrate is a notably selective process that is often highly correlated with outcomes or factors also associated with greater welfare, making it very difficult to disentangle cause and effect. The challenge of endogeneity bias requires careful study designs and frequently confounds the possibilities for conclusive findings. Third, the systematic observation and recognition of migration is plagued by methodological nationalism and somewhat contrived distinctions between types of migration, such as international versus internal or regular versus irregular. This third point obscures the possibilities of fully addressing the first methodological point. In other words, how data are collected and aggregated limits our understanding of the systemic and fluid nature of migration. Migration scholars have become increasingly adept at overcoming these limitations through innovative study designs and iterations between theory, quantitative studies, and qualitative evidence (Curran et al. 2006).


Current debates about migration occur within a context of several decades of growing mobility, though not at unusual levels relative to the scope of human history (de Haas 2007; Skeldon 2008). About 3.2 percent of the world’s population is international migrants (UNDESA Population Division 2014); that number is relatively small, on a global scale, but it masks the highly concentrated and large impact of migration on particular sending and receiving places. What is unusual about the more recent patterns of migration, since World War II, is the shift from a predominately north-to-north flow to a south-to-north flow by the beginning of the twenty-first century. Among international migrants, South Asians (16 percent of international migrants) and Latin Americans



(11 percent) are the largest diaspora groups, and nearly two-thirds of migrants live in Europe and Asia, but the fastest growing migrant destination is North America. These patterns are not fixed, and the pattern that marked the second half of the twentieth century has changed again in the first few decades of the twenty-first century. The most striking change in patterns of international migration over the past decade has been the shift from a predominately south-to-north migration flow to one that equally favors a south-to-south migration flow (UNDESA Population Division 2014). It has been speculated that the growth in the south-to-south migration flow partially reflects the emergence, and growing number, of regional economic growth poles or global assemblages (Sassen 2006; UNDESA Population Division 2014). These patterns of global development also link internal migration with international migration flows. Importantly, internal migration stocks and flows are rising faster than international migration (Skeldon 2006). Among adults, internal migrants are estimated to be about 8 percent of the world’s population (and the total figure, including children, would more than double that proportion), according to a recent Gallup poll (Esipova, Pugliese, and Ray 2013). As with international migration, some places are more internally mobile than others, especially those that are most industrialized. These migration flows are composed of young people with secondary or tertiary education, and the socioeconomic mobility of this spatially mobile group is mixed. Most are employed but are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed relative to their nonmigrant counterparts. Even though these migrants are underemployed, they are more likely to send financial support to than receive it from their origin communities (Esipova, Pugliese, and Ray 2013). Substantial internal migration in developing economies is involuntary and associated with war, violence, “development” projects, and natural disasters. These patterns partially explain the persistent underemployment or unemployment conditions of migrants in many destinations. International migrant remittances have driven much of the resurgent scholarly and policy interest in assessing the relationship between migration and development. World Bank estimates show that migrants from developing countries sent over $315 billion to their origin countries in 2009 (Ratha, Mohapatra, and Silwal 2010; World Bank 2013), although this figure is understood to be a significant underestimate because many migrants send remittances through informal channels (de Haas and Plug 2005; de Haas 2012). The size of estimated remittances sent back to developing countries is larger than overseas development assistance and private investment (Grabel 2010; UNCTAD 2012; World Bank 2013), and remittances are often larger than foreign exchange reserves (World Bank 2013). A significant collection of studies also suggests that remittances reduce poverty in sending countries (Adams and Page 2005; Ajayi et al. 2009; Anyanwu and Erghijakpor 2010; Fajnzylber and Lopez 2007; Gupta, Pattillo, and Wagh 2007; Martin 1991) and that these remittance flows are fairly resilient, quickly rebounding after the 2008 financial crisis (Ratha, Mohapatra, and Silwal 2010), and even counter-cyclical (Grabel 2010). Thus, remittances may have an income-stabilizing effect at both the

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macro- and micro- (household) levels (Ratha, Mohapatra, and Silwal 2010; Taylor and Dyer 2009). However, evidence has also shown that remittances are positively associated with income inequality, at least in the short term, and they have mixed results for improving rural economies (Taylor and Dyer 2009; World Bank 2013). There are very high transaction costs associated with migration and remittances, including labor recruiter fees, subsidization of initial migrant living costs, and transmission fees charged for remittances sent via wire or bank transfer systems. Finally, some of the highest remittance flows are those along south-to-south migrant corridors in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (including flows between South and Southeast Asia) and not along north-to-south migrant corridors. This finding invites questions about the extent to which remittances can significantly rebalance regional inequalities. Theory and evidence are mixed on whether these flows reflect emergent and endogenously driven economic development or drains on productive growth (World Bank 2013). Human and immigrant rights advocates, as well as both migration and development scholars, offer cautionary evidence and reasons for not placing too much weight or responsibility on the shoulders of migrants as vehicles for effective development aid in their origin communities (Castles 2011; Glick Schiller 2012). These authors point to the significant, structured inequalities that segment a majority of migrant laborers into workplaces that are underpaid, insecure, and unsafe as well as limiting their rights to establish legal residency in destinations that offer far more opportunities for personal and intergenerational mobility than their origin communities (Castles 2011; Delgado Wise and Covarrubias 2009; Glick Schiller and Faist 2009; Newland 2007). As with remittance flows, high-skilled labor mobility has grown dramatically, with annual growth rates of almost 5 percent since 2000 (UNCTAD 2012). However, unlike remittances, the evidence for vicious cycle outcomes is far more preponderant than for virtuous cycle outcomes, despite efforts to suggest otherwise (Pellerin and Mullings 2013). As opposed to patterns of remittance flows, the predominant flow of high-skilled labor is through south-to-north migrant corridors. The distribution of this flow is most concentrated and most impactful for least developed countries. Highly skilled emigration rates in these countries are upward of 18 percent and represent those countries that are poorest in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (UNCTAD 2012). The negative externalities associated with this form of emigration cuts across all dimensions of a nation, including loss of knowledge and human capital, lowered productivity and slower economic growth, reduced trade advantages through changes in relative resource endowments, and lower supply and demand for high functioning institutions in home countries (Easterly and Nyarko 2009; Pellerin and Mullings 2013; UNCTAD 2012). Finally, it is important to acknowledge irregular migration and its relationship to the migration and development processes. The latter part of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first century gave rise to a growing number of irregular migrants. There are several factors that have contributed to the rise of irregular migration and



political concerns about it. By the turn of the century, irregular migration represented about one-third of U.S. total migration and about half of European migration (Hollifield, Martin, and Orrenius 2014). Estimates of the cost of illicit human trafficking are about $7 billion (Doomernik 2013; Ghosh 2000). One explanation for the rise in irregular migration is that the primary destination countries have become far more restrictive. Among 190 countries that serve as regional or global destinations, 6 percent had policy barriers in place to lower and slow immigration in 1976, and by 1995 that rate had jumped to 35 percent (Ghosh 2000). Furthermore, managing migration has become increasingly difficult because of unpredictable and high intensity flows resulting from wars and disasters. In addition, there are an ever-growing number of source countries, which are no longer more likely to be contiguous, former colonies, or share cultural affinities. Transportation costs have shrunk, information has grown, migrant networks have expanded, and legal and illegal institutions facilitating migration are increasingly multi-country operations (Ghosh 2000).1 To fully appreciate the debates about migration and development, it is important to provide a historical context within which these debates have emerged and continue to resonate. In the next section, I provide a brief history of how the debate about migration and development has waxed and waned since World War II.


Following World War II and the post-colonial period, considerable optimism reigned among policymakers, neoclassical economists, and functional sociologists about how migration from developing countries to developed countries might speed the development “takeoff.” Capital and knowledge transfers by migrants back home would yield important returns for countries of origin. Furthermore, the opening of trade and markets through the free movement of labor and capital was predicted to lead to labor flowing to places where labor is scarce and capital flowing to where labor is plentiful (Todaro 1969). The idea of a balancing equation between places because of unconstrained factor mobility informed most migration theory (Zelinsky 1971). Development theorists, in contrast, though subscribing to the notion of a balancing equation, took the migration process one step further and argued that migrants would convey ideas, money, and technology and would accelerate the spatial diffusion of development (Morris and Adelman 1988; Thomas 1973). Both narratives fall well within modernization, functionalist, and neoclassical explanations for social change that predominated during this period (see, e.g., Skeldon 1997). In fact, many developing countries did become sources of migrants and actively sought to encourage migration (Beijer 1970; Bertram 1986; Kindleberger 1965; Papademetriou 1985), and some nations still pursue these policies (Bertram 1999). By the mid-1960s, the optimism about migration and development that characterized the early postwar period had diminished. Gunnar Myrdal’s (1957) prescient assessment

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about how capitalist development can exacerbate inequality and create vicious or downward cycles of poverty heralded a new critique of development theories rooted in modernization paradigms. Building on Myrdal’s work, and seeking to explain what led to such vicious cycles, several new schools of thought emerged, including underdevelopment theory (Amin 1976; Frank 1966), dependency theory (Frank 1969; Cardoso and Falletto 1979), and world-systems theory (Frank 1978a, 1978b; Wallerstein 1980). These theories fall within the realm of political economy or neo-Marxist schools of thought and sought not to frame the development condition as an equilibrium-seeking system, as was true of functionalism. In all of these cases, migration is implicated as the vicious cycle grows, causing brain drain and exacerbating spatial economic disparities (Baldwin 1970; Cohen 2006; Piore 1980; Skeldon 2008; Straubhaar 2008). The resulting asymmetric growth overturns models of balanced factor distribution and instead generates growing dependency of underdeveloped peripheral regions on core, developed regions. Studies of migration impacts in sending regions appeared to confirm these predictions (Cohen 2006; Lipton 1980; Portes and Walton 1981; Reichert 1981), such as shortages of labor supply and diminished agricultural productivity as well as the loss of people with the most potential for human capital investment (Taylor 1986). To the extent that migrant remittances flow back to origin communities, the evidence within this body of literature suggested that migrant family consumption inflates local land prices, shifts consumption desires away from traditional and locally produced goods, and disrupts traditional systems of caregiving and community well-being (King and Vullnetari 2006; Rubenstein 1992; Russell 1992). One of the challenges in the 1980s facing both scholars and policymakers in resolving these debates was that the empirical evidence had not caught up with grand or middle-range theories. The evidence to support either a virtuous or a vicious cycle explanation was mixed or inconsistent. For the most part, larger policy agendas or extensive research projects left the migration and development linkage unremarked (de Haas 2010). Migration scholars were focused on either immigrant impacts or immigrant assimilation in receiving countries, not origin or sending countries. Meanwhile, development scholars were focusing on rural community development and collecting evidence under the aegis of a variety of bilateral and multilateral agencies (Willis 2011). Part of the reason for these endeavors were the very mixed results of development projects that had focused purely on technical solutions and failed to account for political, social, and cultural contexts of their implementation. The consequence of this singular focus was many dramatic development failures. In response to the growing number of failed development projects, social scientists were increasingly incorporated into large-scale micro-development projects sponsored through bilateral and multilateral agencies (Collinson and Platais 1994; Goldman 2006; Kapur, Lewis, and Webb 1997; Kassam 2007; Cernea and Kassam 2007). The picture that emerged from the evidence gathered by these social scientists indicated far more heterogeneity in development outcomes than would have been predicted by structural development theorists or modernization theorists (Warwick 1993; Willis 2011).



The seeds for a resurgent articulation about migration and development were sowed in these efforts. Among development scholars, what was revealed from the micro-survey projects of the 1980s was the role of households and communities for mediating individual behavior; these contexts were also highly contingent. Rural development agencies, development economists, and rural sociologists pointed to a combination of structural constraints, individual human capital resources and desires, and, most importantly, family and household financial and social capital. A key component factor in these accounts was the role of migration for household livelihoods (Stark 1991). This turn in evidence also coincided with a turn in the social sciences toward a more contingent, contextualized account of social change that accounted for both agency and structure (Giddens 1984). Among anthropologists, sociologists, and economists of developing societies and rural development, a focus on household strategies gave way to livelihood strategies for understanding how individuals and families navigate within risky and constrained settings (Ellis 2000). With the emerging evidence about households and livelihoods came the observation that migration of at least one member was an important option within a household’s livelihoods choice set. The new economics of labor migration paradigm emerged coincidently with the livelihood strategy literature and follows roughly similar lines of reasoning. Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggested that the choice of migration (as a substitute or in addition to other strategies) depended on access to assets, perceptions of opportunities, and aspirations of individuals. These differ from household to household and individual to individual, resulting in heterogeneous development outcomes (Bebbington 1999; Ellis 2000; Stark 1991). Such theorizing about multi-level explanations for migration and development also coincided with new statistical, multilevel modeling approaches that supported more complex theorizing about individual and contextual patterns of outcomes (Bryk and Raudenbush 1992; Goldstein 1995). As better and more evidence about migration grew, so did migration rates. By the early 1990s, many writers heralded the phenomena as the second age of migration (see, e.g., Castles and Miller 2009; Massey et al. 1998). The rapid increase in migration levels led increased efforts to theorize and better understand the role of migration in the world and in advancing national interests and human welfare. Several large-scale studies documented the phenomena of rising migration in the face of globalization (Castles and Miller 1993; Kritz, Lim, and Zlotnik 1992; Massey et al. 1998). Globalization intensified connections between places through trade, integration of financial institutions and financial transfers, media, and communication, and travel reorganized production processes allowing for global commodity chains to reach ever farther into hinterlands around the world and mobilizing labor for wage labor in manual, manufacturing, and service sector jobs (Harvey 1989; Held et al. 1999). Circuits of exchange tightly integrated cities around the globe, fueled an acceleration of globalization, and transformed development processes (Castells 1996; Sassen 2011). Alongside these theories of globalization, Douglas Massey’s (1990) articulation of how migration fits within micro-level economic contexts and larger economic forces provided a particularly compelling narrative that attempted

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to resolve heterogeneity of migration and development outcomes; he built on the scholarly and policy recognition that global networks of connections between places around the globe fueled migration systems. Massey’s theory of migrant cumulative causation argued that, with each migrant from origin to destination, a web of relationships grew that made subsequent migrant trips less costly and more fruitful. The migrant social capital residing in this web of relationships was enhanced through travel, communication, remittances, and enclaves in destinations. This web of connections linking origin and destination also yielded migrant institutions that facilitated migration, including labor brokers (both legal and illegal) and numerous other third-party agents that could make labor mobility and migrant remittances easier (Massey et al. 1998). Massey predicted and demonstrated that growth in the number of ties fueled an exponential growth in migration, net of other possible explanations (Massey and Espinosa 1997) and inexorably tied migration systems to the intensification of international linkages associated with globalization. Soon, critical development theorists adopted parts of Massey’s account (Cohen 2001; Fry 2011; Guilmoto 1998). It was also a narrative that could explain the flow of remittances back to origin countries and communities and lent support for an emerging, neoliberal agenda that focused on remittances and immigrants as key resources for development agendas. A theory of migrant cumulative causation helps to integrate multiple levels of contexts, bring coherence to understanding migration, and refocus the debate about the pros and cons of the relationship between migration and development. Another consequence of this paradigmatic shift in understanding migration also brings forward several other questions that had fallen by the wayside previously. First, the recent evidence about the role of networks, while making sense of how migration works across time and space and relates to contingent economic conditions, also reveals how migration may now be disarticulated from development (de Haas 2012) but highly articulated with larger transformations resulting from globalization. More legal barriers to migration are unlikely to make much difference in migration flows, and economic development in sending areas may become less likely to change migrant motives. These observations require questioning the premise of any linkage between migration and development, not just the nature of that linkage. Second, at the same time that a focus on migrant networks and the diaspora communities linking sending and receiving nations animates a growing number of studies and large-scale comparative projects, migration becomes a site for revealing hidden hierarchies of power, social status, and rights and provides a new lens for understanding structure and agency in a context of globalization (Castles 2011; Puentes et al. 2010). The coincidence of scholarship that followed migrant lives through networks and across space and time with scholarship on globalization revealed an entirely new conceptual field structure: transnationality (see, e.g., Castells 1996; Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004; Sassen 2011; Smith 2005). Transnationality and transnational migrants invite new questions about who participates in and benefits from national progressive agendas, especially when transnational individuals are simultaneously located



in multiple nations (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004; Levitt and Jaworsky 2007; Sassen 2011). Before turning to these more recent arguments for a new synthesis that explains the conditions under which there might be articulation and disarticulation between migration and development, it is important to review the classic heuristic devices that have divided migration and development scholarship: virtuous versus vicious cycle arguments. The purpose of the next two sections is to describe the arguments and evidence associated with each as well as to link these conceptualizations to the coincidental and contentious policy debates between state-led, structural development approaches versus neoliberal “free market” approaches. How scholars and policymakers think about and study the relationship between migration and development is inevitably tethered to larger ideas about the role of the state and markets for influencing social and economic progress. These sections will map that theoretical and evidentiary terrain.


Development economists and functionalist theorists in the 1950s and 1960s viewed labor migration as a necessary component of modernization. Their argument proposed that, as societies start to develop, individuals rationally choose to migrate based on a costbenefit assessment of wages to be earned by moving or staying put (Harris and Todaro 1970). Economic disparities between places tip the balance and lead to labor flowing from surplus locations to deficit labor places. The pull of destination opportunities and the push of poverty in origin are frequently encapsulated as the push-pull theories of migration. Although these theories have been extended beyond economic mechanisms to include cultural, political, and environmental mechanisms and contexts, they are at their core neoclassical, individualized theories of migration (Massey et al. 1998). The assumptions of the model are that individuals are fairly knowledgeable about employment or wage earning opportunities in both origin and destination places, individuals are free to move, and there are no structural constraints to movement. The virtuous cycle starts with the beginnings of development in poor countries, which leads to migration toward countries with more economic opportunities, earnings remitted home improve productivity back in the home country (origin countries), growing labor surpluses in destination countries lower wage inequalities between sending and receiving regions, migration out of sending areas slows with decreasing labor surpluses combined with increasing capital flows back to sending areas, and then returns to human capital equalize in both sending and receiving places. The empirical evidence supporting such virtuous cycles is disappointing. In the cases of sending countries (e.g., Morocco, Turkey, and the Philippines) and receiving countries (e.g., France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States), the evidence is hardly favorable. The long-term results of labor recruitment schemes shows little economic benefit to the country of origin. By the 1980s, the general conclusion was that migration



tends to undermine prospects for local economic development and can yield a state of stagnation and dependency (Abadan-Unat 1988; Massey et al. 1998). Thus, for much of the 1980s and early 1990s, the conclusion among most policymakers and many scholars was that there was no positive relationship, or virtuous cycle, between migration and development (Castles 2008; Martin 1991; Massey et al. 1998). These scholarly conclusions coincided with a shift in global economic production from industrialized to less industrialized countries and the resulting export-driven, trade regimes that characterized growth in the 1990s (Held et al. 1999). As capital became more mobile, manufacturing technologies became less place-dependent and transport technologies lowered the costs of moving goods; rather than drawing surplus labor from less industrialized places to industrialized places, firms moved production to cheaper, wage labor markets (Held et al. 1999; Sassen 2006). Global cities in less industrialized countries were increasingly important hubs, facilitating capital flows around the globe and accumulation of wealth in the transformed global economy (Sassen 2006). Global cities became crucial for leveraging labor from rural hinterlands (Held et al. 1999; Skeldon 1997). The global transformations under way throughout the world during the 1980s and onward led to the coincident observations about the importance of rural-to-urban migration. And, these observations fueled a resurgence of ideas about the virtuous possibilities of migration and development. By the end of the 1980s, this noted phenomenon was encapsulated in a new theory: the new economics of labor migration. Most prominently promulgated by Oded Stark (1991), the theory argues that individuals, residing within households, decide to migrate as part of a household risk minimization and income diversification strategy. The