HKS Authors

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Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries appeared to be generally on a converging path with income levels in the wealthiest countries. The good news on economic performance seemed to extend beyond the East Asian growth miracles and the phenomenal Chinese poverty reduction experience. Many nations in South Asia, Latin America, and, notably, sub-Saharan Africa witnessed growth spurts in the 1990s or early 2000s. For the first time since the end of World War II, developing nations as a group were growing more rapidly than the advanced nations (Figure 1). The evidence pointed to the presence of a robust, if slow, process of what economists call “unconditional convergence,” meaning that there was a systematic tendency for lower-income countries to grow more rapidly than richer economies regardless of their policies, institutions, or geographic circumstances (i.e., unconditionally). With the pandemic, all of this has been thrown into doubt. Not only are poverty rates on the increase again, but the expectation is that developing countries will remain scarred for some time, with lingering effects on health, education, public debt, and investment and significant setbacks for medium-term economic performance. The World Bank now expects developing country-growth rates to fall behind advanced economy growth rates in the years ahead (that is, convergence to turn into divergence), with the lowest income countries suffering the most severe blows.


Rodrik, Dani. "Prospects for global economic convergence under new technologies." An Inclusive Future? Technology, New Dynamics, And Policy Challenges. Ed. Zia Qureshi. Brookings Institute, May 2022, 65-82.