Why Did Some Countries Advance While Others Remained in Poverty? III

The Role of Culture: Demography, Education, Gender

We’re making a differential diagnosis of why countries get stuck with their bad economic performance. We’ve looked at, how poverty traps can hold poor countries in a grasp preventing them from making the basic investments to move forward. We’ve looked at how physical geography, the presence or lack of fossil fuels. That the proximity to or distance to the coast.

431The nature of the climate system. Can shape economic development. Very often, people turn first to culture as the explanation, of why some places are ahead, and others behind. It’s often quite glib, because,rich people like to say, we’re rich because our culture is better, rather than to say, we’re rich because we have lots of energy resources, good coastal proximity, and a healthy climate. And rich people often like to blame poor people for their problems, say, well, they’re lazy, they’re not working very hard. And throughout history, places that were once poor and they became rich were known quote unquote as lazy places, during their period of poverty. And then once they became rich, their culture was used to explain their hard working ethos. So culture can be a bit of an optical illusion. A little bit to easy sometimes, as an attribution or a cause of a countries conditions. And we should remember that cultural phenomena, people’s beliefs and attitudes, their views towards appropriate roles in society. Change over time as well. SO culture isn’t a fixed monolit. I believe culture has a role, however, though not as big a role as sometimes thought. And we should focus on those atributtes of a societies values, its norms, Its attitudes. As ways that can be promotive or barriers to sustainable development. I want to focus on three. One is on demography and population. The second on education. And the third, regarding gender[1]. When we look at the population challenge, a good place to start is this world map of the fertility rate. The total fertility rate in a country, and you’ll recall Measures on average the number of children that a woman will have during her lifetime. It looks at the age-specific fertility rates for women in a society, and then says, if women age 20 to 25 on average have this many children, women age 25 to 30 have this many children, and so forth, Then on average over the course of a woman’s lifetime reproductive years, an average woman in this society would have this number of children. What the world map shows, is the tremendous variation in our world today in the total fertility rate. In many parts of the world, especially the high-income world today, fertility rates are below two.

432That means that each woman, on average, is having fewer than two children. It means, since half the children are boys and half the children are girls, On average, each woman is having less than one daughter. Or, if you say, 10 women, in total would be having fewer than 10 daughters. You can see that when fertility rates are below two. So, that, on average, each mother is not replacing herself in the next generation with a daughter. Statistically speaking that the population would tend to, be stable or declining. When the total fertility rate is above two, then the population would tend over the longer term to increase. So, if in high-income world on this map we see total fertility rates below two. We also see in some of the worlds poorest countries in notably in Africa and in parts of South Asia, total fertility rates above four and many rural areas in low income tropical Africa we have total fertility rates above six.

That is a pooe household would, on average, the woman would be having six or more children. This tremendously effects economic development because with very large populations of young children, poor families Have a very difficult time providing the basics for all of their children, maybe just the eldest son is able to go to school and the girls are married at a young age or working the fields about proper education and that means that in the next generation those young girls will grow up without the literacy and the skills that they need. To help their own lives their own children and the national economy to be productive. So countries that had made, a transition from high fertility rate to low fertility rates, have tended to have an advantage in economic development. Countries that have still today very high fertility rates tend to have much lower economic growth. To a certain extent, this is a matter of income itself. It’s not really a matter of culture. Poorer families, living on farms tend to have more kids. And have less access to family planning to contraception, the girls don’t have access to schools and don’t go to school and are married young and begin having children at a very young age, but to some extent at least fertility rates also reflect culture, lets look at one example of a society that move rapidly, From high fertility rates to much lower fertiliity rates.

433That’s China. They did that by and large through a government policy known as the One Child Policy. And while it’s been very controversial, notice the implications of this policy. What has happened, in a very short period of time. Family size has come down rapidly and parents have invested intensively in their one or sometimes two children. And so that within one generation, the levels of education, health, nutrition of Chinese young population has soared. This played an enormous role in China’s very rapid economic development. So some places by virture of culture, politics, of history, have still very high fertility rates. Other places have made a rapid transition. To lower fertility rates. And the record shows very clearly that those countries experience faster economic growth, better health for the children, and higher educational attainments. Over time this fertility rate shapes the population dynamics. Whether the population is rising or declining in overall size, and the age distribution of the population shown here by the age population pyramid so called, what these pyramids show, are the numbers of boys and girls or men and women at various ages,uh showing the age structure of the population If you look at Japan’s population, for example, in 1950 when fertility rates were still rather high, The number of children at the bottom of the pyramid was much larger than the number of their parents, and far larger than the number of the grandparents. By 2005, the shape of that pyramid had changed considerably.

Japan had reduced its fertility rates. Partly as a result of culture, partly as a result of economic development, partly as a result of public policy. And so now the number of children were actually fewer than the number of parents because the fertility rate had come down below two. And the whole age structure, therefore, wasn’t a broad pyramid with a big, big base of young children. But was now much more similar in numbers of population at all ages. By the middle of this century, because of the continuing low fertility rate, the population age structure will be an inverted pyramid. Few children, many more older people. And that’s how the transition occurs when fertility rates come down. Most of today’s very poor countries have that big base pyramid. Huge numbers of very young children to be supported. How are they going to be educated? How are they going to get the healthcare and the nutrition that they need? Only if today’s high fertility countries are able, through matters of public policy, cultural attitudes, and so forth to help reduce those fertility rates. And the best way is through the voluntary choices of, households who decide to reduce the number of children so that they can invest more per child and help raise healthy and better educated children, unless that happens, then the problems of the large numbers of children outnumbering their parents will continue to make very difficult the economic development of the poor countries. Another cultural phenomenon involved attitudes towards education. Some poor societies even in a state of great poverty, by tradition, by culture, focused a huge amount of effort and attention on literacy. Korea is one such country. Korea even when it was impoverished in the middle of the last century had a very high literacy rate, and there was always great attention in Korea’s modern history to broad based literacy. Well that’s a cultural attitude as well as a government policy. And it’s done very well for Korea since the middle of the century and the terrible Korean war that took place and devastated so much of Korea. In South Korea, we’ve seen some of the most successful economic development every attained, some of the fastest economic growth And with a rather widespread prosperity. A huge part of that has been facilitated by this continuing commitment to broad based, high quality education. And indeed this shows up in international test scores. What you’re looking at here are the rankings on International testing, in science and math. Where is Korea? Right at the top. It’s not the richest country in the world, but it is right at the top ranks number one or number two, definitely in almost every, test and cateogry, within the top few countries in educational performance. This reflects not only public investments in education, but it reflects parental support for their children, urging their children to excellence. It reflects a culture that has long strongly valued education, and thereby made it possible for Korea to become a world leader in technology. And one of the fastest growing countries in the world. A third cultural attitude, that deeply influences patterns of economic development, are attitudes towards women. Do women have rights? Are women participating in the labor force? Do women face massive discrimination? So, gender equality or inequality also has, political aspects, but culture plays a significant role. Once again, as with fertility and as with education, there are big differences around the world. In attitudes towards gender equality in attitudes towards women, even in the physical safety of women from violence. One can see the many, many ways that this influences economic development. There’s probably not a society in the world where women still do not face at least some discrimination. It took Tremendous political effort, social mobilization, and a lot of courage of women to break through this discrimination even in places today that we  view as close to gender equality if not fully there. But there are many parts of the world of course where women still face profound, profound barriers. To their economic participation, to their political particiiaption to hteir role in society. What are the consequences of that? A society that tries to run on half its brain power on half its human capabilities, block the role of women. In problem solving, in economic leadership, in a political role. A country that’s running on only half its human resources is bound to fall behind countries that are empowering all of their citizens, women and girls as well as men and boys. Countries where young girls may have one of two years of schooling, but then because lack of interest, lack of budget, lack of family attention and effort, are forced to drop out of school, marry young, start having children young, do not have the productivity to participate in a modern economy.

Face a tremendous amount of poverty and suffering themselves. And by dint of that are likely to be raising children in poverty as well. Now, this is an area where there have been huge changes, fortunately, in the right direction. Over the last 30 years but by no means uniformed. Look at this wonderful picture of the rowandan parliament, it may surprise you to know that rowanda’s parliament is not only more than half  omen, but has the highest porportion of women in it’s parliament in comparison with the rest of the world. And women’s participation in politics has soared in Rwanda and it is rising in other parts of the world, though still with the huge inequalities and still a tendency towards men dominating. Political power. In Rwanda you can see the wonderful benefits of this turn towards women’s empowerment.  and Rwanda has made astounding progress in reducing child mortality. It’s making big progress in improving education. Social conditions have improved dramatically. And while there are many factors that are contributing to Rwanda escaping the poverty trap, the role of women in the parliament in my opinion has played a significant role, Not only are, these women powerful role models for young girls in Rwanda, and I think Rwanda’s success. In light of this experience is a very powerful nessage for countries that are still lagging behind. Don’t try to develop with only half of your citizenry. Take the lesson that a country that is mobilizing all of its citizens, its girls, women, as well as its. Boys and men, is a country that’s going to have more success in the 21st century


Pedro Pereira Leite

Researcher and professor. He had his PhD. on museology in 2011, with the title “Muss-amb-ike Homeland: The commitment on musicological process”, that was published in 2011. In 2012 he finishes a Post-PhD Research on "Biographical Glances: The intersubjectivity poetry on museology, at Lusófona University (Lisbon). Presently he is working in his Post PhD. Research about: “Global Heritages" with the aims to build a network on local cognizance and memory manager has a tool to build the will of action in 3 different communities, linked by past communed heritages.” He works at CES. He participates on different Research network, presented papers in national and international conferences, and had published books on research subjects.

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