Economic Growth and Human Development

Date: Oct, 1998
ODID Working Paper No. 18
Author(s): Alejandro Ramirez (UNDP), Gustav Ranis (Yale University), Frances Stewart (ODID)

This paper explores the links between economic growth and human development, identifying two chains, one from economic growth to human development, and the other, conversely, from human development to economic growth. The various links in each chain are explored, together with a review of some existing empirical material on their importance.

The paper examines the significance of the relationships, for the chains as a whole and for particular links in them, with the help of cross-country statistics for the period 1970-92. It finds that there exists a strong positive relationship in both directions and that public expenditure on social services and female education are especially important links determining the strength of the relationship between economic growth and human development, while the investment rate and income distribution are significant links in determining the strength of the relationship between human development and economic growth. The existence of these chains gives rise to the potential for virtuous or vicious cycles of development, with good or bad performance on HD and economic growth reinforcing each other over time.

The paper concludes by classifying the actual performance of developing countries into these virtuous and vicious cycles, as well as identifying lop- sided performers, with good performance in one dimension but not the other, and explores how country classification can change over time. We find that lop-sided development almost never persists: countries which are initially lop-sided favoring economic growth always lapse into the vicious category; but countries where HD is favored can move into the virtuous category. This has strong sequencing implications, implying that, while ideally both HD and economic growth should be jointly promoted, HD should be given priority where a choice is necessary.

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