Development and The Poverty Trap

“Why Nation’s Fail” discusses mechanisms of “inclusive economic institutions” that allow developed countries to continue to be wealthy. Acemoglu and Robinson state these wealthy, western world countries create incentives for citizens to be innovative, provide secure education and strong infrastructure, and create laws that benefit the entirety of the population. These facets parallel the ideas within Sen’s, “Development of Freedom,” chapters of discussing democracy, famine, and women and social change. In contrast, all authors talk about undeveloped countries and the ways in which they struggle to achieve development and westernized ideals. Although I agree that many underdeveloped countries want democracy, less political upheaval, and famine, it is paramount to understand the ways in which these countries have fallen into the vicious cycle of exclusion.

Sen’s chapter on famine and other crises strongly reminds me of the nutritional poverty trap that many under developing countries face in the wake of development. Sen explains that famine and malnourishment is due to the working of the state’s economy and society as a whole, and thus the ability to acquire food has to be earned. The nutritional poverty trap states that because the poor are too malnourished, they are unable to work productively, which results in scarcity in income and production. In turn, this lack of production works to continue the malnourishment within these populations. Ordinarily, calories are too cheap within nations for causal of poverty. But famines, natural disasters and lack of proper waste management can yield to nutritional poverty. This has long-standing impacts on one’s health, causing for an overall economy to weaken, making it even more difficult to fight famines.

Acemoglu and Robinson explain that issues of politics and economics influence a countries development. Continuing with various poverty trap theories, the geographical poverty trap explains the ways in which the environment can hinder a country’s ability to develop. Geographic characteristics are unchangeable and thus heavily influence available resources for production, technology, income and overall poverty. Even with proper investments, geographic can hinder households ability to increase wages and growth. Furthermore, geographical locations can hinder strong infrastructure. Environments that are prone to drought, floods, and natural disasters are unable to provide a continuous strong infrastructure that will enable societies to be innovative. One could argue mass migration from these high-risk areas, however, within underdeveloped countries the movement to urbanized, developed cities lead to the creation of the periphery in areas. Informal settlements, slums, and improper housing forms, ultimately sustain and create poverty in new areas.

Although underdeveloped countries desire development and innovation within their states, they face several setbacks that perpetuate their poverty and underdevelopment. I believe that poverty trap theories give valuable insight into the ways in which these countries fall into vicious cycles.

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