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Report: The Persistent Problem--Inequality, Difference, and the Challenge of Development
Released on July 10, 2008

Global levels of inequality today are at extremely high levels even as conditions for alleviating deprivation are more favorable than ever before.  Inequities in the international system and within developing countries threaten to halt progress toward greater democratization and economic development for the poorest countries in the world.
The report by the Task Force on Difference, Inequality, and Development of the American Political Science Association, entitled The Persistent Problem: Inequality, Difference, and the Challenge of Development, highlights how these problems threaten efforts to alleviate deprivation such as the Millennium Development Goals.  It shows that in an increasingly interdependent world, international institutions should be made more accountable to poor countries if they are to maintain their legitimacy and effectiveness.

For democracy and capitalism to fulfill their promise of ending deprivation in developing countries, they must be based on institutions that reflect their distinctive histories and cultures. Deepening democratic processes in developing countries is essential for establishing political and economic institutions to equitably reflect local experiences. Effective change will be interactive, not imposed.

Full Report

Executive Summary
I. Introduction: Inequality in a World of Promise
II. What We Know About Global Inequalities - Income Polarization - Household Wealth - New Inequalities among “Developing” Countries - Accelerated Growth but the Persistent Challenge - Sidebar: Africa: The Challenges of Global and Domestic Inequality
III. Inequality, Difference, and the Politics of Global Markets - Global Trade in an Unequal World - Institutions and Power Disparities - Sidebar: The WTO Process - Global Finance in an Unequal World - More Frequent Financial Crises - Cost of Restoring Stability
IV. Domestic Inequality and the Politics of Economic Development - Inequality and Growth - Reforming Economic Institutions - Colonial Legacies, Inequality, and Economic Development - More Democracy but Increasing Inequality - Impact of International Markets and Technological Development - Limited Advance of Democracy in Developing Countries - New Patterns of Popular Mobilization - Persistent Inequalities Often Increase Inefficiency and Insecurity - Sidebar: China: Rapid Growth but Increasing Inequality and Insecurity - Sidebar: India: Persistent Problems of Inequality and Insecurity Despite Accelerating Growth
V. Confronting Social Difference: Marginalization, Conflict, or Recognition? - Sidebar: The Myth of the “Primordial” Ethnic Conflict - Democracy and Violence - Marginalization and the Post-Liberal Challenge
VI. Conflict and Economic Development
VII. Conclusion: Overcoming Persistent Inequalities
Bibliographic Essay
    Globalization and Global Inequalities
    Inequality, Difference and the Politics of Global Markets
    Domestic Inequality and Economic Development
    Conflict and Economic Development

Executive Summary
Bibliographic Essay

Report Fact Sheets

Each fact sheet below summarizes the key points from each main section of the report The Persistent Problem: Inequality, Difference, and the Challenge of Development.

All figures, charts, and graphs from the task force report The Persistent Problem: Inequality, Difference, and the Challenge of Development are available for download here. These images are available for public use with appropriate citation

Figure 1: Inequality, Social Hierarchy, and the Persistence of Inequality 

Figure 2: Historical Trends in Global Inequality, 1820-1992

Figure 3: International Inequality Measured by Gini Coefficients, 1950-2000

Figure 4: International Income Polarization in PPP$, 1960-2005

Figure 5: Net Wealth Per Adult in 2000

Figure 6: Number of People in Absolute Poverty ($1/day) Per Region, 1981-2004

Figure 7: Distribution of Manufacturing Exports from Developing Countries, 1990-1999

Figure 8: Distribution of Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to Developing Countries, 1990-1999

Figure 9: Developed Country Tariffs Against Imports by Region, 2000

Figure 10: Frequency of Financial Crises

Figure 11: Inequality Within Countries--Trends from 73 Countries from 1950s-1990s

Figure 12: Financial Crises and Income Distribution

Figure 13: Regime Types in Developing Societies, 2001

Figure 14: Unemployment in Developing Countries by Region

Figure 15: Non-Agricultural Self-Employment in Developing Countries

Figure 16: Armed Conflicts, 1990-2000

© Copyright 2010 Task Force on Difference, Inequality and Developing Societies
1527 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1206
Ph: 202.483.2512  Fx: 202.483.2515  E-Mail:




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