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World human development: 1870­‐2007

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How has wellbeing evolved over time? How does the West compare to the Rest? What determines their differences? These questions are addressed using an historical index of human development. A substantial improvement is observed since 1870. The absolute gap between the West and the Rest widened, although an incomplete catching up occurred since 1913, slowing down after 1970. All regions in the Rest fell behind in terms of longevity as, in the West, life expectancy at birth continued rising while the proportion of healthy years out of the total life span increased. Education and, to less extent, life expectancy explain the Periphery’s limited success in catching-­‐up up. A large variance appears in the behaviour of the Rest. Since 1970, Asia –driven by China and India-­‐ Latin America and North Africa have been catching up, while former communist Europe and Sub-­‐Saharan Africa fell behind.

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