Poverty and Wealth

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The Geography of Poverty and Wealth

Scientific American, March 2001
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Andrew D. Mellinger, John L. Gallup

Pre-reading question (in a group):
1. Why do you think that some countries are poorer than others? -Population
-Access to sea
-Relationships with other nations
-Level of education
-The climate of the region
Reading questions (individual):
1. What is the central question of this article?
What are the reasons for a country to be rich or poor?
2. What were Adam Smith’s two main hypotheses?
His first hypothesis was that a country with a free market economy would be more successful which the case is today. His second hypothesis deals with geography and states that countries that have a coastline will tend to do better due to the ability to trade internationally. 3. What is the authors’ hypothesis?

The author’s hypothesis is related to geography but it narrows it by stating that countries in the temperate zones with a coastline will be better off. 4. Why do they feel that this hypothesis is significant?

If we look at a map displaying the GNP of the countries we notice that the majority of the world’s wealth is concentrated within the temperate zones and even more specifically is found to be near a coastline. The geographical divide:

1. What is the relationship between geography and GNP?
Countries in temperate zones will have a higher GNP than those who are for example in the tropics. Countries close to the ocean will generally have access to international trade therefore lending itself to a higher GNP. 2. What two aspects of geography do the authors address in relationship to GNP? In relation to GNP two geographical aspects play an important role in a country’s GNP, the accessibility to the sea (100km distance) and its climate. 3. How do the authors argue their point about each of these two aspects? Countries that are near (100km) the sea almost always consistently does better than their counterparts that are landlocked. Furthermore the climate in which the country is in can positively affect the country’s GNP, countries in the temperate zones have a higher GNP than those in the tropics.

Interpreting the Patterns

1. Summarize the authors’ discussion of the three major ways that geography affects economic development. 1. Access to the sea enables the economy to reach an international scale 2. Geography can affect the types and prevalence of a disease within a region. These diseases can then affect the structure of age within a country. 3. Geography affects the level of agricultural productivity, for example in the tropics it is difficult to farm in tropical soil because it is weak.

2. How do the authors say that geographic advantages and disadvantages can be amplified? Depending on the climate of the country it can be more susceptible to diseases, particularly if it is in a warmer climate therefore the countries in the tropics face greater risk for widespread diseases. Geography can also amplify the effectiveness of the land when it comes to producing agriculture which is vital to a country’s economy and well being. Applications and conclusions (starting second paragraph p. 75) 1. What additional factor do the authors give for differences in poverty and wealth? Social and economic institutions are also crucial to a country’s economy, for example North and South Korea are in the tropics and both have a geographical advantage. However, their great different in economic performance comes from the fact that the South Korea adopted a capitalistic model that proved to be highly beneficial for the economy while North Korea chose a more communistic model that was detrimental. This shows that event how they share the same geographical advantages the difference in wealth comes from the differing economic ideals. 2. What reasons do the authors give for the success of some Southeast Asian economies as compared to those of Sub-Saharan Africa? Reasons for success from...
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