Life expectancy and human development in the 21st century

Michael Roberts Blog | September 11, 2022

Life expectancy is one of the best measures of human development.  In hunter-gather societies, on average, about 57-67% of children made it to 15 years. Then 79% of those 15 year-olds made it to 45 years.  Finally, those remaining at 45 years could expect to reach around 65-70 years. So we can see that life expectancy at birth in these societies was very low, given high child mortality. But some 40% did make it to about 65 years on average.  It seems to have been worse in the class-based feudal and slave societies.  The average medieval life expectancy for a peasant was only a mere 35 years of age at birth, but it was closer to 50 years on average for those who made it beyond 15 years. 

You can see that measuring life expectancy at birth is not a perfect guide to how long humans did live in pre-capitalist societies.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt that life expectancy on average rose sharply once science came to bear on hygiene, sewage, knowledge of the human body, better nutrition etc.  Of course, there were sharp inequalities in life expectancy in class societies between rich and poor.

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Researchers from global south under-represented in development research

Most studies on economic development are led by researchers based in the global north, even when they focus on a country or region in the global south.

Layal Liverpool

Nature | September 17, 2021

Research on economic issues relating to developing countries is led predominantly by researchers based in the global north, according to an analysis of nearly 25,000 papers. The findings show that although many studies focus on countries or regions in the global south, researchers based there have been vastly under-represented in the literature for decades.

Economists analysed data on journal articles, citations and conference presentations in development and development-policy research. They found that just 16% of 24,894 articles published in 20 high-profile development journals between 1990 and 2019 were authored by researchers based in the global south, compared with 73% authored by researchers in the global north and 11% that were collaborations between researchers in the north and south (see ‘Under-represented in research’). The work is published in Applied Economics Letters1.

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How Science can Put the Sustainable Development Goals Back on Track

Nature | January 20, 2021

A young girl looks out of a window while waiting for her father to return in New Delhi, India
The UN goals to provide jobs and universal education are under threat.Credit: Manish Swarup/AP/Shutterstock

In October, United Nations secretary-general António Guterres made a series of key appointments. He tasked 15 scientists from around the world with providing policymakers with evidence, as well as their thoughts, on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This time last year, the UN’s flagship plan to end poverty and guide the world to environmental sustainability by 2030 was already off track. Since then, the pandemic has reversed most of the achievements made in the five years since countries adopted the goals.Read More »

Leftist leaders call for cancellation of debts owed by developing countries

A statement signed by former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Indian Kerala State’s finance minister Thomas Isaac, among others, highlights the inadequacy of the measures announced recently by the G20 and IMF to postpone debt repayment

Peoples Dispatch | July 24, 2020

Cancel the debt

Prominent left-wing politicians and journalists from across the world have issued a joint statement demanding the cancellation of all debts incurred by the developing countries. The signatories to the statement include former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, foreign minister of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza and the finance minister of the Indian State of Kerala, Thomas Isaac. They reminded global leaders that “debt suspension or postponement does not provide a foundation for the necessary development” but “merely puts off the reckoning.Read More »

Australia: West Gate Tunnel saga shows risk of ‘lock-in’ on mega-projects pitched by business


The Conversation | February 18, 2020

Victoria’s government finds itself in a big hole with its West Gate Tunnel project. As diggers lie idle in a dispute over what to do with contaminated soil, it’s facing long delays and billions in extra costs. But the government appears locked into a contentious project that was put to it as a market-led proposal, an arrangement that bedevils transport projects across Australia.

Australian governments look increasingly to mega-projects to solve urban and regional transport problems. These projects are city-shaping. They can transform how entire urban regions function.

The public has a clear stake in these projects, but unsolicited market-led proposals are subverting planning processes that are meant to protect the public interest.Read More »

Lonmin’s murder, by money

by Patrick Bond

Pambazuka News | May 31, 2019

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Nicaragua’s success pains imperialism


Granma | July 22, 2019


Cuban First Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa, participated July 19 in the national commemoration of the Sandinista Revolution’s 40th anniversary, in Managua, Nicaragua, stating that the triumph of the Sandinistas represents a victory against foreign intervention in the nation, and reaffirming the willingness of our peoples to struggle and resist imperialism.Read More »