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About Development Economics

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"Most of the people in the world are poor, so if we knew the economics of being poor, we would know much of the economics that really matters. Most of the world's poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture, we would know much of the economics of being poor."
These words opened Theodore W. Schultz's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979. Schultz, who earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Wisconsin in 1930, dedicated his career to understanding problems of economic development. He wrote on the declining value of agricultural land and the rising value of human capital in economic growth; adoption of agricultural technologies; the economic causes of changes in population growth, and the importance of viewing farmers in poor countries as constrained not by culture and tradition but by lack of access to productive opportunities. Today, his work remains an essential foundation of modern development economics.
Yet while the methods and models have changed, and while global changes have expanded development economics beyond its agricultural roots, our preoccupation with the "economics of being poor" and our search for solutions to global poverty persists. This tradition finds multifaceted expression in the research we do in AAE. Some examples include:
  • Behavioral economics of decision-making by individuals in specific social settings or under conditions of risk and uncertainty
  • Impacts on poor households of land use restrictions such as protected areas and payments for environmental services
  • Economics of agricultural technology adoption and natural resource use in remote or harsh environments
  • Wage, employment and poverty impacts of globalization and macroeconomic shocks
Our graduate students conduct research on many topics and go on to advance our understanding of the "economics of being poor" and teach the next generations of development economists.
Last updated on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 10:41am