When does a developing country become 'developed'?

Chile is in the wealthier rung of the so called developing countries. According to this site, here are some demographic statistics.

The CIA Factbook

BTW I am sure someone will question the site’s accuracy or methods. While I don’t think this is bad information - but I would be a moron if I didn’t think that the CIA’s statistics on certain countries might reflect some biases. Is there any alternative source?

*Infant mortality rate: 9.36 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.94 years
male: 72.63 years /female: 79.42 years (2001 est.)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.2%
male: 95.4% /female: 95% (1995 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $10,100 (2000 est.)

  • Now here are some statistics for Greece, a country in the ‘poorer’ rungs of the developed countries.

*Infant mortality rate: 6.38 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.59 years
male: 76.03 years /female: 81.32 years (2001 est.)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95%
male: 98%/female: 93% (1991 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $17,200 (2000 est.)

*How much further would Chile have to go before it becomes “developed”? I assume Greece would have been deemed a “developing country” some time ago itself. And there a few other countries in between, like the former Communist countries of Central Europe and a the oil-rich Gulf and Pacific Rim ‘tiger’ countries. The former may have incomes along the level of Chile and Mexico (such as Poland) but have health/education standards that are as high as developed countries. The latter (such as Kuwait) have relatively high incomes, but lower levels of health and/or education.

Does a country officially pass from one bracket to another? Is there some sort of declaration made by the UN?

When the country stops taking handouts and starts giving them instead. [sub]Actually, in case you couldn’t tell, I have no idea. Just throwing my $0.02 in before I head home. Maybe it has something to do with the country’s infrastructure level…access to modern conveniences such as plumbing and that sort of thing[/sub]

I recall Koreans being really happy when the country was admitted to the OECD. The assumption it meant they were joining the 1st World.

But it also includes Mexico and Turkey, while ignoring - say - Singapore (probably because OECD countries are expected to be politically pluralistic).

I thought South Korea had been established as a developed country for some time now. They didn’t have a very democratic system though until fairly recently…

…and that’s probably the factor I was ignoring. Is an authoritarian country - regardless of how high of a per capita GDP it has - a developed country? I suppose the tangible risk of eminent coup d’etat, mass upheaval, or revolution is more important than the numbers I have been comparing countries with like baseball stats.

My guess is that there is a twofold criteria.

The first would be the straightforward look at stats like GDP per head and the like. I think a relatively high GDP per head is necessary, but not sufficient.

The second criteria would be a diverse - a “developed” - economy. A nation that is dependent on the export of natural resources or crops, particularly if it were only one or two exports, regardless of how valuable said export is, would likely not be considered a developed country.


Mexico had a one-party system until two years ago.

Under the WTO, a country is “developing” if it annouces that it is. UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) has designated 49 countries as “least developed” based on criteria found here. They are: 1) a low income, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita; 2) weak human resources, as measured by a composite index (Augmented Physical Quality of Life Index) based on indicators of life expectancy at birth, per capita calorie intake, combined primary and secondary school enrolment, and adult literacy; 3) a low level of economic diversification, as measured by a composite index (Economic Diversification Index) based on the share of manufacturing in GDP, the share of the labour force in industry, annual per capita commercial energy consumption, and UNCTAD’s merchandise export concentration index.

I skipped the most obvious places to look. The UNDP uses Human Development Indicators (warning: large pdf file), which is based on the World Bank’s World Development Indicators. Very complicated stuff. The development industry stays busy.

*Originally posted by cuate *


Good questions - While not an expert on development, per se, I do understand a bit about the concept and how people/organizations use it in assessing various countries. “Development” is such a loose term - often it isn’t clearly defined and, as such, can have different meanings depending on the persons/organizations using the term. While some people define development by using economic measures (such as GDP/Capita), others use a broader definition that incorporates both economic and social measures.

Check out the United Nations’ Human Development Index at http://www.undp.org/hdr2001/. While the HDI is a rather crude measure, it does consider both economic measures (such as GDP/Capita and Purchasing Power Parity) and social measures (such as Life Expectancy and Literacy Rates) in calculating its Index. For a country to rate high on the HDI, it needs to rate high in both economic and social measures of development. I just checked it, and both Chile and Greece rate as having High Human Development.

In addition, other economic, social, and political factors may be used/considered by persons/organizations in examining the level of development among countries. For example - labor force profile (number of people in the labor force engaged in a particular type of economic activity), access to health care, infant mortaility rates, women’s issues (such as number of women in the labor force), human right’s issues (such as number of political prisoner’s), etc.

Ah, looks like chula beat me to the punch on the HDI :slight_smile: