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Table of Contents

  1. Topic pack - Development economics - introduction
  2. 4.1 Economic development (notes)
    1. Economic development - introduction
    2. Development - pause for thought
    3. Economic growth and economic development
    4. Sustainability
    5. The sources of economic growth and economic development
    6. Natural factors
    7. Importance of agriculture
    8. Externalities
    9. Case study - farming in Kenya
    10. Human factors
    11. Population
    12. Physical capital and technological factors
    13. Institutional factors
    14. The consequences of growth for Development
    15. Common characteristics of economically less developed countries
    16. Poverty cycle
    17. Diversity among economically less developed nations
    18. International development goals
    19. Millennium Development Goals
    20. Case Study - Millennium Development Goals
  3. 4.1 Economic development (questions)
  4. 4.2 Measuring Economic Development (notes)
  5. 4.2 Measuring development (questions)
  6. 4.3 The role of domestic factors in economic development (notes)
  7. 4.3 The role of domestic factors in economic development (questions)
  8. 4.4 The role of international trade (notes)
  9. 4.4 The role of international trade (questions)
  10. 4.5 The role of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) (notes)
  11. 4.5 The role of foreign direct investment (questions)
  12. 4.6 The role of foreign aid and multilaterial development assistance (notes)
  13. 4.6 The role of foreign aid and multilateral development assistance (questions)
  14. 4.7 The role of international debt (notes)
  15. 4.7 The role of international debt (questions)
  16. 4.8 The balance between markets and intervention (notes)
  17. 4.8 The balance between markets and intervention (questions)
  18. Print View

Common characteristics of economically less developed countries

Syllabus: Explain, using examples, that economically less developed countries share certain common characteristics (noting that it is dangerous to generalize as there are
many exceptions in each case), including

  • low levels of GDP per capita,
  • high levels of poverty,
  • relatively large agricultural sectors,
  • large urban informal sectors and
  • high birth rates.

You must be careful to recognise the considerable diversity between less developed countries in terms of their economies and the economic problems they face (Contrast Asia, Africa and Latin America).

Nevertheless, there are some common features that appear to be shared by many LDCs

  1. Low GDP per capita
  2. High levels of poverty
  3. Dependence of agriculture and the export of primary products
  4. Higher rates of population growth
  5. Low levels of productivity
  6. High levels of unemployment and underemployment


Pause for thought

It is very easy to lump all less develop countries together and assume that they all exhibit the same characteristics. For example, how many times do you hear people refer to Africa as a country rather a continent made up of over 50 different countries?

Similarly it is often assumed that the way of life of inhabitants of these countries also tends to conform to certain stereotypical ideas. What preconceived ideas do we have about the way people in less developed countries live?

Ask your friends about what they think the similarities and differences might be for young people living in less developed countries. When you have put together a list of similarities and differences you might then try to find some evidence to support or reject such assertions.

Many of these common characteristics contribute to what is known as the vicious cycle of poverty or the poverty cycle. Before we look at the cycle in more depth it may be worthwhile pausing to consider what we mean by poverty.

When we talk of poverty we usually distinguish between absolute poverty and relative poverty.

Absolute poverty

Absolute poverty refers to being unable to afford basic human needs, such as clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live in absolute poverty today.

Relative poverty

Relative poverty refers to the lacking a usual or socially acceptable level of resources or income as compared with others within a society or country. What is considered 'acceptable' inevitably various from country to country and is significantly higher in developed countries than in developing countries.

The common international poverty line has in the past been roughly $1 a day. However in 2008, the World Bank revised this figure to $1.25 at 2005 purchasing-power parity (PPP).