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Economists have concentrated on aggregate economic growth to measure countries’ development progress and in recent years have also considered income distribution performance. This paper reverses the conventional emphasis by placing income distribution at the forefront. I examine what is known about the distributions of income and poverty in the developing countries of the world and probe the correlations between poverty, inequality, and development. I explore the main sources of inequality and the extent to which individual countries have managed to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality in the course of economic growth. Employing evidence from case studies of six developing nations, I suggest some explanations for differing patterns of development and call for development planning founded on a firm commitment to helping the poor.


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© Elsevier. Final version published as: Fields, G. S. (1981). Poverty, inequality, and development: A distributional approach. Journal of Policy Modeling, 3(2), 295-316.
doi: 10.1016/0161-8938(81)90013-2
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation
Fields, G. S. (1981). Poverty, inequality, and development: A distributional approach[Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site: