Development Economics
MWF 11:15a-12:10p CGL 104

I’m still working on content.

Why Development Economics?

One reason is pedagogic convenience, because the course covers topics that are treated in passing or absent altogether in the W&L economics curriculum. But I argue it is also an intellectual necessity, because standard models don’t work. There are too many missing markets, corner solutions, and qualitative differences in what is important. In other words, you often can’t take the models you’d reach for to analyze one or another aspect of the US economy to do the same for a much poorer society. There are also many issues in the latter that are irrelevant to us, the U.S. See the “Why…” tab for more.

I believe the most important motivation is ethical: addressing poverty should matter to us. Japan, Korea, Europe, the US and scattered other “rich” countries have a total population of about 1 billion. There are another 2 billion in China, India and South America wno are firmly middle class or above. But that leaves another 4 billion out of the world’s population of 7 billion who are not well off. Perhaps 1 billion are truly poor, subsisting on the equivalent of less than $2 per day – our text covers how we can develop metrics of (extreme) poverty and use those to generate rough numbers. We should care about people who, through no fault of their own, go to bed hungry, who cannot afford to not work and so have no opportunity for education, and who cannot afford healthcare. Andrew Carnegie thought that the greatest sin he could commit was to die wealthy. He didn’t, but he didn’t die poor, and he certainly didn’t die prematurely because he was poor. As we will see, there are no magic bullets. You can however make a difference to at least a few lives.

So how do we go about studying development economics? The structure below, and the accompanying schedule, will start you on that path. We must leave much out given the constraints of our 12-week term, but we can at least lay a good foundation. To help you in that process, I will ask you (typically with a partner) to “adopt” a country for the term. That can help you have a focus for your paper, and examples to add to class discussion that will keep us aware of the danger of generalizing about “macro” features, alongside the commonalities that come from living in a societies that have low levels of wealth and income.


By the end of the term you should:

  • understand the key models of developing country growth and structural change
  • understand contexts in which what happens within a family is central
    1. agricultural production
    2. fertility, risk and savings
    3. education and migration
  • be familiar with ways to define and measure poverty
  • know how malaria and other communicable diseases affect entire societies
  • understand key trade and macroeconomic issues for developing countries and how they differ from those in OECD countries

Text and Readings

See the Text tab. We will also read a selection of World Bank, IMF and other materials. In general I should be able to post these on Perusall, which allows us to jointly mark-up and comment on pdfs.


The nature of class will vary from day to day. Much will consist of discussion (for issues), but there will also be chalk-and-talk (for models), group and individual presentations, plus you will be writing papers and [two midterms / a final].


I provide a topic and a detailed guide, including how to cite the sources you utilize. You really should touch base with me during office hours as you develop your paper topic and again after you’ve done initial reading. I require that you hand in all written work by the deadline as a hard copy. You will find the Williams Communication Center most helpful in improving drafts – click HERE to schedule.


You will need to take your final exam in Huntley during one of the standard exam slots. All other written assignments will be take-home. I hand out the questions in class, and collect them the next class. For convenience, I also post the questions on the course web site.


I expect you to be in class, absent illness and such. The Perkins et al. text is quite readable, but no text can do justice to the heterogeneity of developing country structures and issues. That will be one function of class. Plus let’s be realistic: if you don’t have to prepare a bit every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, well, your economic knowledge will remain underdeveloped. Furthermore, much of what we study is far outside our personal experiences. Reiteration and discussion helps with that. Most important, you learn most from trying to grapple with material; presentations and discussion are a good way to do that. (Writing papers is another…)


I will assign pairs of you to one of a variety of countries. You’ll need to present basic data to the class, and (when a country focus is apropos) use that country as the context for your paper(s). Likewise when we have a paper as an assignment, I’ll ask a pair of you to lead the discussion with (i) an overview of the content and (ii) a critique of what it does (and does not) do.


The course web site is at – I do not use Sakai. I will sign you all up as contributors, which should permit you to post and comment. Given the current enrollment of about a dozen, 2 blog posts over 8-plus weeks (none the first or last weeks) leads to about 3 posts per week. I expect you to read and comment on all posts, including any I add to round out slow weeks. The blogroll and current reads can help you develop blog topics. Of course it is also appropriate to blog on your paper topic. We will often discuss the latest posts at the start of class. (See my own blog, Autos & Economics on Google blogspot, but little of the existing content is relevant to Econ 280.)


All grades are letter grades. I round up/down your final grade on the basis of class participation.

Item Weight Total
Midterms 15% each 30%
Final 20% 20%
Readings, Memos 5% 5%
Presentations 5% 5%
Blogging 10% 10%
First Paper 10% 10%
Second Paper 20% 20%
TOTAL  — 100%

Office Hours

I plan to be at Lexington Coffee Shop on Tuesday afternoon from 2:30-5:00 pm. Coffee is on me. I will also be available 4-7 pm Monday evenings, sometimes in my office, sometimes at the Palms –
check first. If neither time works, take the initiative and contact me – I don’t have any Thursday classes, and on other days I am sometimes in my office very early morning or into the evening. In addition, if you walk past my office and I’m there, invite yourself in. But don’t be offended if it’s just before our class and I shoo you out!


p class=”base”>My office is the first off the handicap rap on the lower level of Huntley (HU125B). Please contact me by email at Text my cell phone at 460 – 6288 only for last-minute schedule adjustments.

My classes are MWF so I am in principle free any time TTh, with variation from week to week. I plan to be at Lexington Coffee Shop on Tuesday afternoon from 2:30-5:00 pm. On early Monday evenings 4-7 pm I will sometimes be in my office, sometimes at the Palms. If neither of those times work, contact me. If you walk past my office and I’m in (= door open), invite yourself in!

My office is the first one off the handicap ramp on the lower level of Huntley (HU125B). Please contact me by email at Text my cell phone at 460&nbps;- 6288 only for last-minute schedule adjustments.

Honor Code

My midterms are takehome tests. Please pledge. Ditto the final, though you get reminders about that. Papers are likewise expected to be original, and to duly cite sources (as per paper guidelines). Due to class enrollments, I will likely pair you with another student for blog posts and presentations; make sure your name is on any and all joint work!


Please contact me in private, as per the university policy quoted below. Note that you will need to work in advance with the staff administering final exams if you need a separate room or extra time.

Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All undergraduate accommodations must be approved by the Title IX Coordinator and Director of Disability Resources. Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements. Accommodations for test-taking must be arranged at least a week before the date of the test or exam, including finals.