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Economic Development and Prosperity Patterns Around the World: Structural Challenges for a Global Steady-State Economy

  • Martin Fritz
  • Max Koch
Publishing year: 2016
Language: English
Pages: 41-48
Publication/Series: Global Environmental Change
Volume: 38
Issue: May
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Global Environmental Change, Elsevier

Abstract english

Taking a global perspective this paper sets out to theoretically and empirically identify prosperity patterns for four groups of countries at different levels of economic development. It conceptualizes

‘prosperity’ in terms of ecological sustainability, social inclusion, and the quality of life and contextualizes this definition in global perspective. Subsequently, it operationalizes and measures these dimensions on the basis of data from sources such as the World Bank, the Global Footprint Network and the OECD for 138 countries and by applying dual multiple factor analysis. Building on earlier research that suggested that higher development levels in terms of GDP per capita are capable of providing social and individual prosperity but at the expense of environmental sustainability, we ask whether other interrelations between prosperity indicators exist on other levels of economic development. Empirically distinguishing between ‘rich’, ‘emerging’, ‘developing’ and ‘poor countries’ the paper

finds that social and individual prosperity indicators largely increase with economic development while ecological sustainability

indicators worsen. Our analyses further reveal that ‘social cohesion’ can be established under different economic and institutional conditions, that subjective wellbeing increases with income rises at all levels of economic development and that a decoupling of carbon emissions from the provision of prosperity is,in principle, achievable, while a reduction of the global matter and energy throughput poses a much greater challenge. The paper concludes by highlighting the repercussions of these findings for the

trajectories that countries at different levels of economic development would need to undertake.


  • Other Social Sciences
  • Prosperity
  • Global steady-state economy
  • Ecological sustainability
  • Economic development
  • Degrowth
  • Cross-country analysis


  • ISSN: 0959-3780
Max Koch
E-mail: max [dot] koch [at] soch [dot] lu [dot] se


School of Social Work

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