“...It is a very illustrative example of how geography is being reincorporated into other fields of investigation, and geographers should be aware of the ways in which this is being accomplished.”—Progress in Human Geography
“Latin America presents us with two fascinating natural experiments on how geography influences economic development. The ‘outer experiment’ compares different countries, while the ‘inner experiment’ compares different zones within the same country. This book’s account of all these comparisons will appeal to anyone interested in economic development in general, and in Latin America in particular.” —Jared Diamond,author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
It has long been a conundrum: Why, with so rich a natural resource base, did Latin America slip so far behind Europe and North America in terms of economic development? And why, even among developing countries, are inequalities greater in Latin America than in other regions? Over the last decade, recycled culturalist arguments, stripped of their original racist and anti-Catholic language, have held sway. The influence of geography on Latin American development is not a new topic either — after all, the philosophes posed this question in the eighteenth century. This valuable study's novel approach is to look at the intersection between physical characteristics, such as climate, topography, and soil quality, and economic and social development indicators. Latin America includes an enormous variety of climates and ecozones, and the authors address a remarkable range of factors, from tropical soils and land productivity to disease, urbanization, and access to world markets, that vary widely both within individual countries and across the region, reminding readers that geographic factors must be taken into account when making policy.
John Luke Gallup is an economic consultant and former Research Fellow at the Center for International Development at Harvard University. Alejandro Gaviria is the Deputy Director of the National Planning Department of Colombia. Eduardo Lora is the Principal Advisor of the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Geographic interpretations of development recently have become the subject of much renewed interest and debate within scholarly and public policy circles. Focusing on Latin America, this book examines how physical and human geography has influenced the region’s potential for economic and social development.
The book assesses how geography affects differences in development between countries and more specifically between Latin America and other regions of the world. The effects of geography on regional development are examined through four channels: the productivity of land, health conditions, frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and access to markets. The book then explores how geography has influenced development within countries through case studies of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru—countries significant for their geographical diversity as well as their wide socioeconomic disparities. These case studies illustrate numerous exceptions to international patterns and prove that while geography matters, it need not determine a country's destiny.
Using the knowledge gained from these two perspectives, the book concludes with recommendations for policies that can help countries overcome the limitations imposed by geography and thereby enhance their potential for economic and social development.