Global Prosperity

Here is my Economics Mission Statement, March 2018.

Lecture handout: Global prosperity*

The incredible data visualisation used at the beginning of my lecture is from Gapminder. I strongly encourage you to visit their website and play around with the tools. In particular, try to create a chart showing GDP per capita against infant mortality and then see how the data has changed over time.

Group activity: Stoves Handout, May 2020

Here is the more about Mansa Musa, the richest person who ever lived.

The increases in global income have been incredible. In Factfulness, Hans Rosling tells us that 100,000 years ago everyone was poor and most children didn’t survive long enough to become parents. 200 years ago, 85% of the world were still in extreme poverty. Today, most people live in middle-income countries, with living standards similar to Western Europe and North America in the 1950s. (p.38).

Some more detail can be found in “Rosling’s Charts“.

Higher incomes are important, they lead to:

  • Reduced population growth (poor communities have lots of children because many will die early, and they need a contribution to family income. As they get richer, the need for more extra children declines and parents focus on quality not quantity… based on current growth projections total global population is due to stabilise at ~11 bn people. As Rosling says, “Once parents see children survive, once the children are no longer needed for child labour, and once the women are educated and have information about and access to contraceptives, across cultures and religion both the men and the women instead start dreaming of having fewer, well-educated children” (p.91)
  • Greater concern for the environment
  • More resources for humanitarian assistance (e.g. for natural disasters or global pandemics)

In the lecture I argue that infant mortality figures are better proxies for living standards than life expectancy. As Hans Rosling argues, “this measure takes the temperature of the whole society” (p.20). This is because children are fragile, and you therefore require lots of good circumstances in order for children to routinely survive – it tells us about access to basic health care, the literacy of mothers, etc.

Some great videos to watch that explore the themes from the lecture:

In the lecture I included some data on the long term declines in violence. You can see more about this in Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, but one common rejoinder is U.S. gun crime. According to this article by Pew Research, gun murder has increased in recent years, but are still below their 1968 values.


This page ties into Chapter 12 of Economics: A Complete Guide for Business

Learning Objectives: Understand the empirical evidence around economic growth and globalisation

Focus on diversity: Esther Duflo has done highly impactful research on the role of RCTs in combating poverty. She has shown how field research is an important part of the economics toolkit. 

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