Since 9/11/01, efforts to identify the causes of persistent poverty and despair in the developing world have expanded, largely focused on cultural factors, especially in Middle Eastern cultures. There is no question that cultural attitudes and practices have an impact on economic development. Culture, however, does not evolve in isolation. It is only one of many factors that impede economic growth. Geography, environment, and history influence the evolution of culture and have served as significant obstacles to growth in low-income countries. The failure to recognize these other factors leads us to underestimate the enormity of the challenges facing poor countries and, consequently, to devise prescriptions for overcoming poverty that are unrealistic and unlikely to succeed.