Modernity has undeniably promoted economic and political development across the globe. However, while some countries have successfully developed within a short span of time, others have remained disadvantaged. Development economists have identified several development traps to shed light to this phenomenon. Still, the relationship and interaction among these traps remain unexplored.
Using a mathematical approach, researchers at Uppsala University have developed a new method for exploring multiple development traps, as well as for predicting which countries can expect faster development. They subsequently used this method in analyzing open datasets from several nonprofit organizations including the World Bank, United Nations, Freedom House, Human Rights Projects, and World Values Survey among others.
The applied methodology resulted in the identification of two types of development trap. The first trap is a democracy trap. Accordingly, countries with low levels of economic growth and low levels of education are predisposed to fail at promoting democracy and thereby, political development.
The second trap relates to values and norms of citizens. Countries with low levels of democracy and life expectancy are predisposed to fail at developing emancipative values.
These results pin down the relationship between poor economic development as evident from low economic growth, poor education, and poor healthcare with poor political development. But this relationship is not an absolute causality.
“Although we identified relationships between democratic, economic and health related indexes, we should not forget that there remain uncertainties,” said Stamatios C. Nicolis, one of the authors of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Uppsala University. “Events like political changes, conflicts, etc. can lead to sudden changes.”
A key takeaway from the study centers on the successful demonstration of data analytics using free-to-access datasets from respected organizations. Note that apart from identifying the relationships among development traps, the methodology has successfully assessed the economic and political profiles of several countries.
“We show that many developing countries like India, Egypt, Jordan or Ukraine lie near the border of a development trap,” said Shyam Ranganathan, first author and PhD student at Uppsala University. “We also predict how long it will take for these countries to make a transition toward higher democracy and socio-economic wellbeing.”
Using the obtained datasets, the methodology also revealed that for some countries, investing a small amount in the right sector at the right moment could free themselves from the trap. However, for countries in a much dire situation, they need to make a significant investment over a long period in order to leave the trap.
“Traps might appear frustrating from a present perspective, but our models show that we have good reasons to expect that in the future most countries will manage to leave the traps and prosper economically and politically,” said Viktoria Spaiser, coauthor and a postdoctoral scholar at Uppsala University. “Moreover, investing in core sectors of these countries, like education, is likely to help to shorten the period for these countries to leave development traps.”
Further details of the study are in the article “Understanding Democracy and Development Traps Using a Data-Driven Approach” published in the journal Big Data. David J. T. Stumper is also a coauthor of the study.