The South Catches Up

Gregg Easterbrook touts the UN Human Development Report, which he calls "one of the world's most significant documents." Good news:

“Overall, poor countries are catching up with rich countries” on nearly all central measures, the report finds.

Since 1970, income in the developing world has risen 184 percent (all money figures in this column are adjusted to 2010), versus a 126 percent income rise in the OECD nations in the same period. Literacy in the developing world has risen 61 percent since 1970. School enrollment and life expectancy have risen sharply in most developing nations. An overall Human Development Index, which weighs the leading indicators of life, is up 57 percent in the developing world since 1970, and 23 percent since 1990. (See page 28 of the report.)

Many other measures are encouraging. In 1970, just a third of nations had true democracy; today, the fraction is 60 percent. World literacy was 73 percent in 1990, is 84 percent now and continuing to climb. Half a century ago, the typical developing world person attended two years of school. Now it’s six years, and still rising. Most gaps between rich and poor nations are shrinking. For example, compared to 1970, Norwegians now live seven years longer – and Gambians live 16 years longer.