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Abstract:  This paper studies the emergence of developing countries from a development trap. It shows that countries whose dynamics exhibits several growth peaks can be considered as cases of equilibrium jump. Applying this criterion to a sample of 65 countries that were initially very poor in 1950, it identifies 13 such countries, called ‘emerging economies’. Comparing emerging and non-emerging economies in the 1950s and early 1960s, it shows that economic take-offs starting in the 1960s can be related to health and education in the early 1950s, while other possible factors, such as savings, openness and democracy are not significant.