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How 28 Poor Countries Escaped the Poverty Trap

This is a joint post with Charles Kenny

Zambia and Ghana are the 27th and 28th countries the World Bank has reclassified as middle-income since the year 2000

Doctors perform cataract surgery at the Lusaka Eye Hospital in Zambia. It's inexpensive and it changes people's lives instantly, so it's a good example of how just a little bit more money can make a huge difference to the world's poorest people. Photograph: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Remember the poverty trap? Countries stuck in destitution because of weak institutions put in place by colonial overlords, or because of climates that foster disease, or geographies that limit access to global markets, or simply by the fact that poverty is overwhelmingly self-perpetuating. Apparently the trap can be escaped.

Good News: History Does Not Equal Destiny

Five years ago, probably the most positive you could be about global development was to argue that, despite a sluggish performance in reducing global income poverty connected to slow-changing institutions, broader quality of life in areas like education and  health had improved everywhere.  That’s pretty much the story I told in Getting Better.  But since then, what we have learned about development progress suggests su