I was trying to edify myself by scanning Chris Blattman’s slides on his research on the link between poverty and violence in the developing world, but I found myself puzzling over the clothing being worn by the various Africans in his photos. Where does that stuff come from? As it happens, Laura McClure at Mother Jones has a slideshow on this and the answer is basically that poor people in Africa are wearing clothes westerners didn’t want anymore and gave to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
This seems like an interesting example of Charles Kenny’s Getting Better thesis that life in the poorest countries is improving in ways not captured by GDP. Indeed, in some ways I’d imagine the availability of free clothing would depress Africa’s measured economic output. But it still reflects a real improvement in living standards.