Economic Development and AP Human Geography

What is economic development? How is it defined and measured? And what are the barriers to and the costs of development? History teacher Hiapo Emmons-Shaw is exploring economic development, the above questions and other insights with his AP Human Geography class this year. He recently took them into the town of Bethlehem for a project block designed to have students create a human geography profile of a local place. They combined background research with field observations in order to give a realistic, and somewhat objective, view of Bethlehem, NH. Their analysis involved many of the topics they have already studied in class this year, including population, migration, language, culture and religion, borders and politics, as well as economic development.

Senior Bethany Pelotte and junior Max Lauster noted observations on population, language and religion, some of which is shared below.

Population and Language

There are 2,537 people in Bethlehem, with around 100 more women than men. The majority of the population is age 35-54. The second largest age bracket is age 5-19. As there is not a great amount of diversity in Bethlehem, it is unsurprising that the percentage of people who speak a foreign language is very low. Although data on specifically Bethlehem is hard to come by, it can be reasonably inferred that it would closely model the numbers for the entire state of New Hampshire. Data shows that 91.7% of people only speak English and that every other language that is spoken only holds a very small percentage of the population.


There seems to be a vast majority of people in Bethlehem who do not practice religion. According to data, 77% of people say they have no religion. The next highest percentage was just over 10% for people who are Catholic. Every other religion has a very small percentage of the population who practice it.

Successful learners possess the ability to frame questions well and skills for in-class and out-of-class work. These habits become increasingly important as one prepares for life in college and after college. Because of this, we encourage our students to become lifelong learners that honor curiosity and use that to understand and change the world. 

“I’m hoping my students will develop a greater appreciation for the vast differences in economic and human development around the world, how those differences developed and perpetuate, and what the leverage points are for making the world economic system healthier and more equitable,” Hiapo reflects.


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