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convergence or divergence (or a mixture of both) in a number of important dimensions among countries grouped by geographical region.2

The descriptions summarized in this chapter are based on time series of aggregate country-level data for more than 100 selected variables, many of which have been used widely to characterize cross-country patterns.3 These variables, in turn, are grouped into seven categories that relate to indicators of:

  1. Population

  2. Economy

  3. Labor

  4. Health

  5. Education

  6. Environment

  7. Transportation and Communication

Because of the perceived importance of gender, we include explicit representations of what has happened to gender differentials in those categories in which the data permit such comparisons—namely population, labor, health, and education.

The descriptions presented here focus on the extent to which the selected indicators, in each of these seven categories of variables, have changed in the direction of convergence or divergence, or have shown a mixture of convergence and divergence. For this purpose, developing countries are grouped into six regions (with individual countries weighted by population) as defined by the World Bank.4 These regions are East Asia and the Pacific,

2  

Behrman and Sengupta (2004) also provide similar descriptions for countries grouped by per capita income in 1987.

3  

These data are from the World Bank World Development Indicators, 2003 CD-ROM, which gives the original sources of the data. These data have limitations that have been discussed extensively elsewhere (e.g., Ahmad, 1994; Behrman and Rosenzweig, 1994; Bouis, 1994; Chamie, 1994; Heston, 1994; Lloyd and Hewett, 2003; Srinivasan, 1994). The interested reader is referred to these discussions. Despite the many limitations in such data, the patterns in them shape considerably what it is thought that we know about cross-country differences and changes in those differences over time at least at a crude level. Therefore, we use these data with this blanket caveat about their limitations—but without repeated qualifications except in occasional cases in which the qualifications seem to enhance understanding of the nature of patterns in the data.

4  

The original source is given in the previous note and Behrman and Sengupta (2004, Appendix B) give the country allocations by these six regions. Some of these geographical regions, of course, include developed as well as developing countries (particularly Europe and Central Asia but also East Asia and the Pacific), but the data summarized for these regions in this chapter refer only to the developing countries in the region (with the developed countries in all regions included in the developed country group with which the developing country groups are compared). Of course, in addition to important patterns on the average for countries grouped by region, there may be important variations within these country groups. But it would be too complicated to attempt to characterize such intracountry group variations in a chapter of this length.



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