Libraries pass the Pritchett postulates of development test with flying colors!

From Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution:.

After promoting women’s groups in West Bengal as a route to development a West Bengali woman asked Lant Pritchett:

You all are from countries that are much richer and doing much better than our country so your country’s women’s self-help groups must also be much better, tell us how women’s self-help groups work in your country.

Pritchett’s inability to answer the question led him to what I call Pritchett’s postulates of development, four criteria to decide whether factor X is an important determinant of development.

  • More developed countries must have more X than less developed countries.
  • The developed countries must have more X than when they were less developed.
  • Recent development successes must have more X than development failures.
  • Countries that are developing rapidly must have more rapid growth of X than those that are developing slowly.

Since more developed countries don’t have noticeably more women’s self-help groups, this idea fails Pritchett’s postulates.

To which I add, community or public libraries pass this test brilliantly.  Developed countries established them like crazy during the period of rapid growth 1880-1930, and then continued after WWII.  China has seen a similar rise of libraries according to Zhixian Yi.

After the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1912, “the New Culture Movement” and “the New Library Movement” were in full swing with the founding of the Republic of China. With “the New Library Movement” and even or dinary people’s participation in the vigorous librarianship construction, libraries developed very rapidly. Especially in 1912, Yuanpei Cai, as Minister of Education, promoted social education and established the popular library as a social institution. With the promulgation of the library regulations, this kind of library, as one of the most important institutions of social education, developed very quickly (Gong, 2011a, p. 3). The total number of the popular libraries was 2492 in 1936 (as cited in Gong, 2011a, p.3).

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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3 Responses to Libraries pass the Pritchett postulates of development test with flying colors!

  1. Bill says:

    Nope, dumb test. What about textile mills? Indentured servitude? Mortality due to urban crowding? They go up, then come down, so bullets 1 and 2 fail. Growth indicators are nonlinear.

  2. Bill says:

    I meant to write non-monotonic…

  3. mkevane says:

    Bill, Yes nothing like too glib a blog post and then a glib re-using for non-selfish purposes. And even on the original Pritchett/Tabarook is wrong, because women’s groups proliferated in the 1880-1920 period… who knows they may have indeed been the key to subsequent development…

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