First Advisor

Richard Brinkman

Term of Graduation

Spring 1993

Date of Publication

Spring 1993

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science: Economics


Systems Science




Central America -- Economic conditions, Economic development



Physical Description

3, viii, 216 pages


Since World War II the five historic Central American nations, Costa Rica, EI Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, underwent a period of aggregate economic growth which was followed by a collapse of dramatic proportions. All five countries experienced an economic downturn in the latter 1970s which led to several years of declining GDP and GDP per capita, together with an economic and social disarray which is typically referred to as "la crisis" in Central American literature.

The intent of this study is to present an argument for the position that the economic collapse of the five Central American nations was due in considerable part to their failure to pursue economic development in a manner which would generate sustainable increase. Based on a conception of modern economic growth and the statistical studies of Simon Kuznets and others since the 1940s, a set of indicators was selected for the purpose of clarifying the structural transformation referred to as economic development. This formulation of economic development was then used to distinguish the process from the simple aggregate expansion known as economic growth.

The economic development indicators were also applied to the statistical records of two east Asian economies which were comparable in many respects to the Central American nations shortly after World War II. Both Taiwan and South Korea, like the nations of Central America, emerged from the 1940s as dominantly agricultural, dualistic, importers of manufactured consumer goods.

The study begins with an examination of the growth versus development issue in economic theory, proceeds to discussion of the historical record of the two sets of nations, consideration of the indicators, evaluation of the data, and conclusions based on the data.

The development indicators clearly distinguish the records of the Central American nations from those of the east Asians. Whereas both Taiwan and South Korea illustrate the expectations of structural transformation in economic development as defined by Simon Kuznets, the Central American nations obviously do not.

Conclusions are drawn that the policies which were followed by the two east Asian nations generated the complex structural transformation which characterizes an industrialized economy. The strictly market driven policies of Central America, on the other hand, generated simple aggregate growth for a number of years without a change in the structure of the economy.

The study presents evidence that the Central American nations avoided structural change during the post-World War II period in anticipation of receiving the benefits of growth without undergoing the costs of a change in structure. Such a change in structure would have required reorganization of long-standing historic patterns of national social, economic and political interaction.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL

Persistent Identifier