An Indian Development Mystery


Tonight I'm flying to Doha and then Hyderabad, India, where I'll be staying (and blogging!) for the next two weeks -- with a short train trip to the state of Kerala, on India's southwestern coast, thrown in for good measure. I am especially excited about seeing Kerala for the first time, in part because it's supposed to be jawdroppingly lush and in part because it's a bit of an economic mystery. I was looking for some good data on the state and found this old chart from Amartya Sen's great book Development As Freedom:

600 kerala life expectancy.png

The data is a little old, but the obvious point of interest here is that Kerala has the lowest per capita GNP and the highest life expectancy of any other place on the chart. It does well on other Human Development Index measures as well. There are lots of competing and overlapping explanations for why this is the case, including (1) early Christian missionaries raising educational standards and literacy to an unusal degree; (2) The unusually high number of residents who work elsewhere and make remittance payments; (3) The unusual level of political involvement in the state; (4) Statewide healthcare and food guarantees. An explanation not on the table is rapid industrialization. Kerala has little of that, which is part of what makes the place odd.

But more updates after 25 hours of flying.   
 

Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Politics

Just In