Development geography

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Development geography is a branch of geography which refers to the standard of living and its quality of life of its human inhabitants. In this context, development is a process of change that affects people's lives. It may involve an improvement in the quality of life as perceived by the people undergoing change. [1] However, development is not always a positive process. Gunder Frank commented on the global economic forces that lead to the development of underdevelopment. This is covered in his dependency theory.

Geography The science that studies the terrestrial surface, the societies that inhabit it and the territories, landscapes, places or regions that form it

Geography is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes. Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods, and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class in a certain geographic area, usually a country. The standard of living includes factors such as income, quality and availability of employment, class disparity, poverty rate, quality and affordability of housing, hours of work required to purchase necessities, gross domestic product, inflation rate, amount of leisure time every year, affordable access to quality healthcare, quality and availability of education, life expectancy, incidence of disease, cost of goods and services, infrastructure, national economic growth, economic and political stability,freedom, environmental quality, climate and safety. The standard of living is closely related to quality of life.

Quality of life (QOL) is an overarching term for the quality of the various domains in life. It is a standard level that consists of the expectations of an individual or society for a good life. These expectations are guided by the values, goals and socio-cultural context in which an individual lives. It is a subjective, multidimensional concept that defines a standard level for emotional, physical, material and social well-being. It serves as a reference against which an individual or society can measure the different domains of one’s own life. The extent to which one's own life coincides with this desired standard level, put differently, the degree to which these domains give satisfaction and as such contribute to one's subjective well-being, is called life satisfaction.


In development geography, geographers study spatial patterns in development. They try to find by what characteristics they can measure development by looking at economic, political and social factors. They seek to understand both the geographical causes and consequences of varying development. Studies compare More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) with Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs). Additionally variations within countries are looked at such as the differences between northern and southern Italy, the Mezzogiorno.

Social characteristic of living organisms

Living organisms including humans are social when they live collectively in interacting populations, whether they are aware of it, and whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.Social is a subject studied in school.Its 3 main branches are geography,civics and history

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

Southern Italy Economic macroregion of Italy

Southern Italy or Mezzogiorno is a macroregion of Italy traditionally encompassing the territories of the former Kingdom of the two Sicilies, with the frequent addition of the island of Sardinia and, historically, some parts of Lazio as well.

Quantitative indicators

Quantitative indicators are numerical indications of development.

Unemployment when people are without work and actively seeking work

Unemployment or joblessness is a situation in which the able bodied people who are looking for a jobcannot find a job.

Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a way of measuring economic variables in different countries so that irrelevant exchange rate variations do not distort comparisons. Purchasing power exchange rates are such that it would cost exactly the same number of, for example, US dollars to buy euros and then buy a basket of goods in the market as it would cost to purchase the same goods directly with dollars. The purchasing power exchange rate used in this conversion equals the ratio of the currencies' respective purchasing powers.

Composite indicators

The Human Poverty Index (HPI) was an indication of the standard of living in a country, developed by the United Nations (UN) to complement the Human Development Index (HDI) and was first reported as part of the Human Development Report in 1997. It was considered to better reflect the extent of deprivation in developed countries compared to the HDI. In 2010 it was supplanted by the UN's Multidimensional Poverty Index.

Functional illiteracy reading and writing skills that are inadequate "to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level."

Functional illiteracy is reading and writing skills that are inadequate "to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level". Functional illiteracy is contrasted with illiteracy in the strict sense, meaning the inability to read or write simple sentences in any language.

HDI rankCountryGDP per capita


2008 [3] 
Human development index

(HDI) value

2006 [4] 

Qualitative indicators

Qualitative indicators include descriptions of living conditions and people's quality of life. They are useful in analyzing features that are not easily calculated or measured in numbers such as freedom, corruption, or security, which are largely non-material benefits.

Geographic variations in development

The updated view of the north-south divide. Blue includes G8 nations, developed / first world nations, and Europe North South divide.svg
The updated view of the north-south divide. Blue includes G8 nations, developed / first world nations, and Europe

There is a considerable spatial variation in development rates.

Global wealth also increased in material terms, and during the period 1947 to 2000, average per capita incomes tripled as global GDP increased almost tenfold (from $US3 trillion to $US30 trillion)... Over 25% of the 4.5 billion people in LEDCs still have life expectancies below 40 years. More than 80 countries have a lower annual per capita income in 2000 than they did in 1990. The average income in the world's five richest countries is 74 times the level in the world's poorest five, the widest it has ever been. Nearly 1.3 billion people have no access to clean water. About 840 million people are malnourished.

Stephen Codrington [5]

The most famous pattern in development is the North-South divide. The North-South divide separates the rich North or the developed world, from the poor South. This line of division is not as straightforward as it sounds and splits the globe into two main parts. It is also known as the Brandt Line.

The "North" in this divide is regarded as being North America, Europe, Russia, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the like. The countries within this area are generally the more economically developed. The "South" therefore encompasses the remainder of the Southern Hemisphere, mostly consisting of KFCs. Another possible dividing line is the Tropic of Cancer with the exceptions of Australia and New Zealand. It is critical to understand that the status of countries is far from static and the pattern is likely to become distorted with the fast development of certain southern countries, many of them NICs (Newly Industrialised Countries) including India, Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico and others. These countries are experiencing sustained fast development on the back of growing manufacturing industries and exports.

Most countries are experiencing significant increases in wealth and standard of living. However, there are unfortunate exceptions to this rule. Noticeably some of the former Soviet Union countries has experienced major disruption of industry in the transition to a market economy. Many African nations have recently experienced reduced GNPs due to wars and the AIDS epidemic, including Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone and others. Arab oil producers rely very heavily on oil exports to support their GDPs so any reduction in oil's market price can lead to rapid decreases in GNP. Countries which rely on only a few exports for much of their income are very vulnerable to changes in the market value of those commodities and are often derogatively called banana republics. Many developing countries do rely on exports of a few primary goods for a large amount of their income (coffee and timber for example), and this can create havoc when the value of these commodities drops, leaving these countries with no way to pay off their debts.

Within countries the pattern is that wealth is more concentrated around urban areas than rural areas. Wealth also tends towards areas with natural resources or in areas that are involved in tertiary (service) industries and trade. This leads to a gathering of wealth around mines and monetary centres such as New York, London and Tokyo.

Barriers to international development

Geographers along with other social scientists have recognized that certain factors present in a given society may impede the social and economic development of that society. Factors, which have been identified as obstructing the economic and social welfare of developing societies, include:

Effective governments may address many barriers to economic and social development, however in many instances this is challenging due to the path dependency societies develop regarding many of these issues. Some barriers to development may be impossible to address, such as climatic barriers to development. In these cases societies must evaluate whether such climatic barriers to development dictate that society must relocate a given settlement in order to enjoy greater economic development.

Many scholars agree that foreign aid provided to developing nations is ineffective and in many instances counter productive. [14] This is due to the manner in which foreign aid changes the incentives for productivity in a given developing society, and the manner in which foreign aid has the tendency to corrupt the governments responsible for its allocation and distribution.

Cultural barriers to development such as discrimination based on gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation are challenging to address in certain oppressive societies, though recent progress has been significant in some societies.

While the aforementioned barriers to economic growth and development are most prevalent in the less developed economies of the world, even the most developed economies are plagued by select barriers to development such as drug prohibition and income inequality.


MEDCs (More Economically Developed Countries) can give aid to LEDCs (Less Economically Developed Countries). There are several types of aid:

Aid can be given in several ways. Through money, materials, or skilled and learned people (e.g. teachers).

Aid has advantages. Mostly short-term or emergency aid help people in LEDCs to survive a natural (earthquake, tsunami, volcano eruption etc.) or human (civil war etc.) disaster. Aid helps make the recipient country (the country that receives aid) get more developed.

However, aid also has disadvantages. Often aid does not even reach the poorest people. Often money gained from aid is used up to make infrastructures (bridges, roads etc.), which only the rich can use. Also, the recipient country becomes more dependent on aid from a donor country (the country giving aid).

Whilst the above conception of aid has been the most pervasive within development geography work, it is important to remember that the aid landscape is far more complex than one directional flows from 'developed' to 'developing' countries. Development geographers have been at the forefront of research that aims to understand both the material exchanges and discourse surrounding 'South-South' development cooperation. 'Non-traditional' foreign aid from Southern, Middle Eastern and post-Socialist states (those outside the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD) provide alternative development discourses and approaches to that of the mainstream Western model. Development geographers seek to examine the geopolitical drivers behind the aid donor programmes of "LEDCs", as well as the discursive symbolic repertoires of non-DAC donor states. [15] Two illustrative examples of the complex aid landscape are that of China, which has been active as an aid donor throughout the latter half of the twentieth century but published its first report on foreign aid policy as recently as 2011 [16] and India, an often cited aid recipient, but which has had donor programmes to Nepal and Bhutan since the 1950s. [17]

Related Research Articles

Gross domestic product market value of goods and services produced within a country

Gross domestic product (GDP) is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a period of time, often annually. GDP (nominal) per capita does not, however, reflect differences in the cost of living and the inflation rates of the countries; therefore using a basis of GDP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) is arguably more useful when comparing differences in living standards between nations.

A tax is a mandatory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed upon a taxpayer by a governmental organization in order to fund various public expenditures. A failure to pay, along with evasion of or resistance to taxation, is punishable by law. Taxes consist of direct or indirect taxes and may be paid in money or as its labour equivalent.

The Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) is an attempt to measure the quality of life or well-being of a country. The value is the average of three statistics: basic literacy rate, infant mortality, and life expectancy at age one, all equally weighted on a 0 to 100 scale.

Developed country country with a developed industry and infrastructure

A developed country, industrialized country, more developed country, or more economically developed country (MEDC), is a sovereign state that has a developed economy and advanced technological infrastructure relative to other less industrialized nations. Most commonly, the criteria for evaluating the degree of economic development are gross domestic product (GDP), gross national product (GNP), the per capita income, level of industrialization, amount of widespread infrastructure and general standard of living. Which criteria are to be used and which countries can be classified as being developed are subjects of debate.

Developing country nation with a low living standard relative to other countries

A developing country is a country with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is also no clear agreement on which countries fit this category. A nation's GDP per capita compared with other nations can also be a reference point.

Economic development is the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. The term has been used frequently by economists, politicians, and others in the 20th and 21st centuries. The concept, however, has been in existence in the West for centuries. "Modernization, "westernization", and especially "industrialization" are other terms often used while discussing economic development. Economic development has a direct relationship with the environment and environmental issues. Economic development is very often confused with industrial development, even in some academic sources.

Poverty threshold Minimum income deemed adequate to live in a specific country or place

The poverty threshold, poverty limit or poverty line is the minimum level of income deemed adequate in a particular country. In practice, like the definition of poverty, the official or common understanding of the poverty line is significantly higher in developed countries than in developing countries. In 2008, the World Bank came out with a figure of $1.25 a day at 2005 purchasing-power parity (PPP). In October 2015, the World Bank updated the international poverty line to $1.90 a day. The new figure of $1.90 is based on ICP purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations and represents the international equivalent of what $1.90 could buy in the US in 2011. The new IPL replaces the $1.25 per day figure, which used 2005 data. Most scholars agree that it better reflects today's reality, particularly new price levels in developing countries. The common international poverty line has in the past been roughly $1 a day. At present the percentage of the global population living under extreme poverty is likely to fall below 10% according to the World Bank projections released in 2015, although this figure is claimed by scholars to be artificially low due to the effective reduction of the IPL in 2015

Newly industrialized country

The category of newly-industrialized country (NIC) is a socioeconomic classification applied to several countries around the world by political scientists and economists.

Least Developed Countries list of countries that exhibits the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is a list of developing countries that, according to the United Nations, exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with the lowest Human Development Index ratings of all countries in the world. The concept of LDCs originated in the late 1960s and the first group of LDCs was listed by the UN in its resolution 2768 (XXVI) of 18 November 1971.

The green gross domestic product is an index of economic growth with the environmental consequences of that growth factored into a country's conventional GDP. Green GDP monetizes the loss of biodiversity, and accounts for costs caused by climate change. Some environmental experts prefer physical indicators, which may be aggregated to indices such as the "Sustainable Development Index".

The gross national income (GNI), previously known as gross national product (GNP), is the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country, consisting of gross domestic product (GDP), plus factor incomes earned by foreign residents, minus income earned in the domestic economy by nonresidents. Comparing GNI to GDP shows the degree to which a nation's GDP represents domestic or international activity. GNI has gradually replaced GNP in international statistics. While being conceptually identical, it is calculated differently. GNI is the basis of calculation of the largest part of contributions to the budget of the European Union. In February 2017, Ireland's GDP became so distorted from the base erosion and profit shifting ("BEPS") tax planning tools of U.S. multinationals, that the Central Bank of Ireland replaced Irish GDP with a new metric, Irish Modified GNI*. In 2017, Irish GDP was 162% of Irish Modified GNI*.

Tax revenue income gained by governments through taxation

Tax revenue is the income that is gained by governments through taxation. Taxation is the primary source of income for a state. Revenue may be extracted from sources such as individuals, public enterprises, trade, royalties on natural resources and/or foreign aid. An inefficient collection of taxes is greater in countries characterized by poverty, a large agricultural sector and large amounts of foreign aid.

Poverty in Australia deals with the incidence of relative poverty in Australia and its measurement. The issue of relative poverty and its measurement are contentious political issues, with many on the left wing of Australian politics arguing that relative poverty ought to be the appropriate measure. Relative income poverty, for example, looks at the percentage of the population that earns less in comparison to average earnings. Many on the right of Australian politics argue that this relative measure is a mistake because it hides the existence of absolute poverty in Australia by looking only at those who, for whatever reason, earn relatively little.

Japan emerged as one of the largest foreign aid donors in the world during the 1980s.

Measuring poverty

Poverty can be and is measured in different ways by governments, international organisations, policy makers and practitioners. Increasingly, poverty is understood as multidimensional comprising social, natural and economic factors situated within wider socio-political processes. The capabilities approach also argues that capturing the perceptions of poor people is fundamental in understanding and measuring poverty.

The Gender Related Development Index (GDI) is an index designed to measure gender equality.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s where-to-be-born index attempts to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead. It is based on a method that links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys to the objective determinants of quality of life across countries along with a forward-looking element.

Social inequality

Social inequality occurs when resources in a given society are distributed unevenly, typically through norms of allocation, that engender specific patterns along lines of socially defined categories of persons. It is the differentiation preference of access of social goods in the society brought about by power, religion, kinship, prestige, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and class. The social rights include labor market, the source of income, health care, and freedom of speech, education, political representation, and participation. Social inequality linked to economic inequality, usually described on the basis of the unequal distribution of income or wealth, is a frequently studied type of social inequality. Though the disciplines of economics and sociology generally use different theoretical approaches to examine and explain economic inequality, both fields are actively involved in researching this inequality. However, social and natural resources other than purely economic resources are also unevenly distributed in most societies and may contribute to social status. Norms of allocation can also affect the distribution of rights and privileges, social power, access to public goods such as education or the judicial system, adequate housing, transportation, credit and financial services such as banking and other social goods and services.


  1. Geography of global interactions Archived 2008-05-28 at the Wayback Machine
  2. BBC bitesize
  3. PPP GDP 2008
  4. UN Human Development Report (HDR)
  5. Codrington, Stephen Planet Geography 3rd Edition (2005) Page 97
  6. Gyimah-Brempong, K (2011). "Education and Economic Development in Africa". African Development Review . 23 (2): 219–236. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8268.2011.00282.x.
  7. Bowman, Brett; Matzopoulos, Richard; Lerer, Leonard (2008). "Spearheading human and economic development in the Arab world through evidence‐based and world‐class healthcare". Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues. 1: 12. doi:10.1108/17537980810861475.
  8. Singer, Merrill (2008). "Drugs and development: The global impact of drug use and trafficking on social and economic development". International Journal of Drug Policy. 19 (6): 467–478. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2006.12.007.
  9. Hernando de Soto, Dead Capital and the Poor, The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2001[ page needed ]
  10. Mosznski, Peter (2011). "Environmental degradation risks undermining development progress, warns report". BMJ. 343: d7043. doi:10.1136/bmj.d7043. PMID   22049525.
  11. Merideth Kolsky Lewis "The EU's Protectionist Problem" Georgetown journal of International affairs. 01/01/2009
  12. Africa: the poorest continent is rising. Really. Dambisa Moyo. Foreign Policy. .172 (May–June 2009) p90
  13. Sachs, Jeffrey D.; Warner, Andrew M. (2001). "The curse of natural resources". European Economic Review. 45 (4–6): 827. doi:10.1016/S0014-2921(01)00125-8.
  14. Africa: the poorest continent is rising. Really.Dambisa Moyo. Foreign Policy. .172 (May–June 2009) p90.
  15. Mawdsley, E. (2012) 'The Changing Geographies of Foreign Aid and Development Cooperation: Contributions from Gift Theory' Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37(2): 256-72
  16. China publishes first report on foreign aid policy, The Guardian report:
  17. India's foreign aid programmes: