Economic Sectors and International Development


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old housesFood is a basic human necessity. Yet some countries have had long-standing problems supplying food for their citizens, many of whom suffer from malnutrition and even starvation. Shouldn't those countries devote more of their resources to farming so that they can avoid such calamities? Are countries in which more people are involved in agriculture better off than countries where people are engaged in other economic sectors?

Using the data provided to compare countries, you will determine what the relationship is between agriculture and poverty rates. You will also formulate hypotheses to explain the patterns you find.


From the list of countries given, compare the allocation of resources to economic sectors (agriculture, industry, service) and the poverty rate in each country to form a generalization about which activities wealthy countries participate in.


You will first need to get the worksheet that accompanies this lesson. You can choose either the print friendly version or the online interactive version.

old houseNext you will choose a continent from the map in the interactive activity. The table provided will supply you with information pertaining to the GDP and the percentage of its country's population at or below the poverty line. National estimates of the percentage of the population lying below the poverty line are based on surveys of sub-groups, with the results weighted by the number of people in each group. Definitions of poverty vary considerably among nations. For example, rich nations generally employ more generous standards of poverty than poor nations. When you click on the continent a table will appear with data on percentage of GDP by sector and percentage of population below the poverty line (poverty rate) (from The World Factbook ). These tables can be rearranged by clicking and dragging them. Repeat the process until enough information is gathered to form a hypothesis about the relationships and answer the questions on your worksheet.

For example, click on North America and rank the countries from highest to lowest on 'poverty rate.' Now look at the column titled, '% GDP Agriculture,' are the countries in order from highest to lowest on this statistic also? If not, are they in order from lowest to highest, or is there no pattern to their order. Likewise, compare the ranking on poverty rate with the ranking on the other economic sectors to see if there are patterns. Repeat this comparison with each of the other countries as well.


old housesThere are myriad reasons why countries experience poverty. Although this activity does not solve the problem of poverty, knowledge of the characteristics of poverty and international underdevelopment is a first step toward finding solutions.

The data in these tables strongly suggests that countries with a HIGH GDP from agriculture also have a HIGH poverty rate. Regardless of the samples of countries you selected, you should have discovered this relationship. Similarly, countries with a HIGH GDP in the service sector have LOW poverty rates. Keep in mind that finding a relationship (correlation) between two variables does not necessarily mean that one variable CAUSED the other.

There are, nonetheless, exceptions to this pattern. Can you identify some countries that don't fit this pattern? Form a hypothesis to explain the counter-examples they represent.


  1. Do countries with a high poverty rate concentrate their resources in one sector? If so, in which sector are they concentrated?
  2. If you find that there is a pattern to the relationship between poverty rates and allocation tendencies, why do you think that relationship exists? If there is not any pattern related to the allocation of resources, what other explanations might account for these high poverty rates?
  3. Is there a pattern to the geographic distribution of countries with high poverty rates and low poverty rates? Why might such a pattern exist?
  4. Go to The World Factbook and read about additional countries to see if your hypotheses from question 2 and question 3 hold true for these countries as well. Click on the name of a country to view the data; click on "economy" to move to the data about poverty and GDP by sector.