Given the attention currently focused on the Arab world in part as a result of adjustments in U.S. foreign policy, a fresh look at Arab socioeconomic performance is in order. The Arab world is defined by language rather than ethnicity. The League of Arab States, formed in 1945, consists of all countries in which (a dialect of) Arabic is the spoken language of the majority. It is useful to compare the human development diversity of the Arab world to that of Latin America, another vast geographic area defined by language and culture. Our strategy in this article is therefore to disaggregate the Arab world into Arab sub-Saharan Africa, Arab fuel-endowed economies, and a remainder we call the Arab Mediterranean, and to compare these three Arab worlds to non-Arab sub-Saharan Africa, non-Arab fuel endowed economies, and the rest of the non-Arab world. We will evaluate Arab socioeconomic progress from 1970 to as close to the present as the data allow.
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