Winter 2018 Syllabus

Development Economics
TR 11:45a-1:15p Huntley 321

Why Development Economics?

Japan, Korea, Europe, the US and other “rich” countries have a total population of about 1 billion. Another 2 billion in China, India and South America are firmly middle class. But that leaves roughly 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 presents metrics to gauge poverty. We should care about people who, through no fault of their own, go to bed hungry, who have no opportunity for education, and who cannot afford healthcare.

So how do we go about studying development economics? The heterogeneity across countries is tremendous, in geography, population, government structure, institutional maturity and historical legacies. Financial markets are often shallow and (a technical term) repressed. Infrastructure – roads, potable water, access to electricity – may be missing. Economies, on average, are not diversified and so suffer from macroeconomic shocks. The lives of the majority of the population may still be tied to agriculture, directly or through jobs in rural towns. We can only scratch the surface in 12 weeks, but are helped by a readable and (if there is such a thing) wise textbook. The structure below, and the accompanying schedule, at least provide a good introduction, and a starting point for looking at a particular country or set of issues.


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 for details on Perkins et al. We will also read a selection of papers and World Bank, IMF and other materials.


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), a major paper and two midterms and a final You will also blog and comment on other’s posts.


Early on we will read one empirical paper jointly, to enhance your ability to puzzle out the statistical conventions economists use to convey their research. I ask you to them meet with me in office hours to explore term paper topics. With an area of interest defined, you are then asked to write a (graded) paper comparing two relevant economic studies. We then meet again to discuss your research topic, and prepare you to hand in a literature survey and introduction prior to the final paper deadline. You will find the Williams Communication Center most helpful in developing your argument and improving drafts – click HERE to schedule. I have paper guidelines on the web site. Use Zotero to help you keep track of references; it gives you the option to use the 17th edition Chicago author-date format for the bibliography.

Misc Papers

We will read and discuss an outside paper or book chapter roughly every-other Thursday. I will provide prompts to help you in the reading. You will be responsible to hand in typed notes and queries from your end. (At 1 point each…)


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 Tuesday and Thursday, well, your economic knowledge will remain underdeveloped. Furthermore, much of what we study is far outside our personal experiences. Reiteration and informal discussion helps with that.


The course web site is here at – I do not use Sakai. I make all of you “editors”, so that you can post and comment. Given the current enrollment of about 16, 2 blog posts over 10 weeks leads to about 3 posts per week. (If we have an even number, then I will ask you to pair up and instead do 3 blogs per pair.) I will assign due dates on a rotating basis, and suggest topics. I expect you to read and comment on your classmates’ posts, including any I add the initial week to start things off. We will often discuss the latest posts at the start of class. You will find “how-to” pages under “Guidelines & Handouts” on the menu bar.


All grades are letter grades. I convert them to numbers and average with the weights below. If you are on the threshold between two grades, I use class participation to decide whether I round you up and down.

Item Weight Total
Midterms 15% each
Final 20%
Exams 50%
Blogging 10% 10%
Notes on Misc Readings 5% 5%
First Comparison Paper 10%
Lit Review 5%
Final Paper 20%
Papers 35%
TOTAL  — 100%

Office Hours

I plan to be at Lexington Coffee Shop on Tuesday afternoon from 2:00-5:30 pm. I run a tab those days – let them know, the coffee is on me. I will also be available 4-7 pm Monday in my office. If neither time works, take the initiative and contact me. In addition, if you walk past my office and I’m there, invite yourself in. But if it’s just a class, please don’t be offending if I shoo you out! My office is the first off the handicap rap on the lower level of Huntley (HU125B). I prefer that you contact me by email at, but feel free to call or text my cell phone at 460 – 6288 to coordinate office hour logistics.

Honor Code

My midterms are takehome tests; pledge! The final will be a standard Williams School “Blue Book” exam, where you must pledge the folder. Papers are likewise expected to be original, and to duly cite sources (as per paper guidelines). Due to class enrollments, if I pair you with another student for blog posts and presentations, make sure both your names appear.


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.