Additional Readings on The Bottom Billion

The Bottom Billion

Collier summarizes a few points from the book in this Ted Talk on The Bottom Billion from 2008. “How can we give credible hope to those billion people?”

The Least Among Us

A New York Times Book Review. Who knew development books frequently get high level press?

Richard Dowden of the Royal African Society Weighs in on Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Collier

The journalist disagrees about increasing aid for Africa, but he does agree with Collier’s ideas on agriculture.

Aid Allocation and Poverty Reduction

This draft was written by Paul Collier and David Dollar while working at the World Bank. It argues that a poverty efficient allocation of aid could nearly double the amount of people lifted out of poverty each year.


Discussion Questions for The Bottom Billion

Discussion Questions, The Bottom Billion


1. What themes continue to show up in the work of Sachs, Easterly, and Collier related to why certain areas remain undeveloped?

2. Below are the causes of underdevelopment according to Sachs (left) and Collier (right). How are these categorizations useful (or not) in creating solutions?

  • The poverty trap                                                       Civil war
  • Geography                                                                   Bad neighbors
  • The fiscal trap                                                             Natural resources
  • Government failures                                                Bad governance
  • Cultural barriers
  • Geopolitics
  • Lack of innovation
  • The demographic

3. Like Sachs, does Collier downplay the role of imperialism as a cause of civil war?

4. Collier aims to write an agenda for the G8. Do you think the G8 is the best forum to address these poverty traps?

5. According to Collier, why is support from the West imperative to the bottom billion’s development? Do you agree?

6. Rate this book from 1 (how did this get published?) to 5 (highly recommend).

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

The Bottom Billion

bottom billion paul collier

Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion examines the failure of the 50 countries at the bottom of the global pyramid. Collier provides his analysis for why these countries remain at the bottom using four poverty traps: civil war, being landlocked by bad neighbours, natural resources, and bad governance in small countries.

His remedy includes using limited aid, military intervention, global cooperation (interested in how this connects to intervention), and trade policy to make global markets more inclusive. Collier believes advancing the development of these countries is not only the compassionate thing to do, it is for the sake of global security. Ultimately, as he writes, “change in the societies at the very bottom must come predominantly from within; we cannot impose it on them.”

Collier is a former World Bank employee and currently an economics professor at the University of Oxford. The Bottom Billion broadens his research for a wide audience. He even asserts his hope that this is a book we can read on the beach (I hope it is too).

It is worth noting that since the publication of this book, new research has found that 72% of the world’s poor now live in middle income countries.

Discussion questions to follow. See if this book is at a library near you.