The structural transformation as a pathway out of poverty: analytics, empirics and politics

A powerful historical pathway of structural transformation is experienced by all successful developing countries, and this working paper presents the results of new empirical analysis of the process. Making sure the poor are connected to both the structural transformation and to the policy initiatives designed to ameliorate the distributional consequences of rapid transformation has turned out to be a major challenge for policy makers over the past half century. There are successes and failures, and the historical record illuminates what works and what does not. Trying to stop the structural transformation does not work, at least for the poor, and in fact can lead to prolonged immiseration. Investing in the capacity of the poor to cope with change and to participate in its benefits through better education and health does seem to work. Such investments typically require significant public sector resources and policy support, and thus depend on political processes that are themselves conditioned by the pressures generated by the structural transformation itself.