Development Economics


This course will give students an overview of the current debates and knowledge in the field of development economics. Both theory and empirics will be discussed, following standard introductory microeconomic and statistical methods. The course also aims to offer an introduction to research in this field, as it will discuss a number of recent studies, with a strong link to fieldwork.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Alexander Coutts


Weekly - Available soon

Total - Available soon

Teaching language



Mandatory Precedence:

- 1100. Principles of Microeconomics


General book sources:

Ray Debraj (1998), Development Economics, Princeton University Press.

Banerjee Abhijit V., and Esther Duflo (2011), Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, Public Affairs.


  • 1. Poverty:

    Ray Debraj, chapters 1 and 8.1-8.2.

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapters 1 and 2. Practical class: organization.

  • 2. Macro:

    Ray Debraj, chapters 3-4. [for a deeper understanding of the main growth models]

    Banerjee Abhijit V., and Esther Duflo (2004), Growth Theory through the Lens of Development Economics, Handbook of Economic Growth, chapter 7, pp. 473- 552.

    Collier Paul (2007), The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, Oxford University Press. [with special attention to chapter 7]

    Easterly William (2001), The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics, MIT Press. [with special attention to chapter 6]

    Sachs Jeffrey D. (2005b), The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, Penguin Press. [with special attention to chapters 13-14]

    Practical class: debate Sachs vs. (Collier) vs. Easterly.

  • 3. Toolbox:

    Angrist Joshua (2008), Treatment Effects, The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics.

    Duflo Esther, Rachel Glennerster, and Michael Kremer (2006), Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit, NBER Technical Working Paper 333.

    Practical class: Revision by TA.

  • 4. Education:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 4.

    Barrera-Osorio Felipe, Marianne Bertrand, Leigh L. Linden, and Francisco Perez-Calle (2011), Improving the Design of Conditional Transfer Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Education Experiment in Colombia, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 3(2), pp. 167-195.

    Duflo Esther, Rema Hanna, and Stephen Ryan (2012), Monitoring Works: Getting Teachers to Come to School, American Economic Review, 102(4), pp. 1241-78. [focus on experimental results]

    Glewwe Paul, Michael Kremer, and Sylvie Moulin (2009), Many Children Left Behind? Textbooks and Test Scores in Kenya, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 1 (1), pp. 112-135.

    Practical class: Glewwe Kremer and Moulin paper.

  • 5. Health:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 3.

    Cohen Jessica, and Pascaline Dupas (2010), Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Randomized Malaria Prevention Experiment, Quarterly Journal of Economics 125(1), pp. 1-45.

    Duflo Esther (2000), Child Health and Household Resources: Evidence from the South African Old-Age Pension Program, American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings, 90(2), pp. 393-398.

    Miguel Edward, and Michael Kremer (2004), Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities, Econometrica. 72(1), pp. 159-217.

    Practical class: Cohen and Dupas paper.

  • 6. Finance

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapters 6-8.

    Ashraf Nava, Dean Karlan and Wesley Yin (2006), Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 121(2), pp. 635-672.

    Banerjee Abhijit V., Esther Duflo, Rachel Glennerster and Cynthia Kinnan (2015), The Miracle of Microfinance? Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 7(1), pp. 22-53.

    Jack William and Tavneet Suri (2014), Risk Sharing and Transactions Costs: Evidence from Kenya’s Mobile Money Revolution, American Economic Review, 104(1), pp. 183-223.

    Practical class: Ashraf Karlan and Yin paper.

    7. History:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 10.

    Acemoglu and Robinson, chapter 4.

    Acemoglu Daron, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson (2001), The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation, American Economic Review, 91, pp. 1369-1401.

    Feyrer James and Bruce Sacerdote (2009), Colonialism and Modern Income -- Islands as Natural Experiments, Review of Economics and Statistics, 91(2), pp. 245 -262.

    North Douglass C. (1991), Institutions, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(1), pp. 97-112.

    Sachs Jeffrey (2003), Institutions Matter but not for Everything, Finance and Development, 38-41.

    Practical class: Acemoglu Johnson and Robinson paper, emphasizing debate with Jeffrey Sachs.

    8. Democracy:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 10. Acemoglu and Robinson, chapter 4.

    Bjorkman Martina and Jakob Svensson (2009), Power to the People: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment on Community-Based Monitoring in Uganda, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124 (2), pp. 735-769.

    Vicente Pedro C. (2014), Is Vote Buying Effective? Evidence from a Field Experiment in West Africa, Economic Journal, 124(574), pp. F356-387.

    Wantchekon Leonard (2003), Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Benin, World Politics, 55, pp. 399-422.

    Practical class: Bjorkman and Svensson paper.

    9. Corruption:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 10. Besley, chapter 2.

    Bertrand Marianne, Simeon Djankov, Rema Hanna and Sendhil Mullainathan (2006), Obtaining a Driver's License in India: An Experimental Approach to Studying Corruption, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(4), pp. 1639-1676.

    Fisman, Raymond and Edward Miguel (2006), Corruption, Norms, and Legal Enforcement: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets, Journal of Political Economy, 115(6), pp. 1020- 1048.

    Olken Benjamin (2006). Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia, Journal of Political Economy, 115(2), pp. 200-249.

    Reinikka Ritva and Jakob Svensson (2004). Local Capture: Evidence from a Central Government Transfer Program in Uganda, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 119 (2), pp. 679-705.

    Practical class: Olken paper.

    10. Curses:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 10.

    Easterly William and Ross Levine (1997), Africa’s Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112 (4), pp. 1203-1250.

    Habyarimana James, Macartan Humphreys, Daniel N. Posner and Jeremy M. Weinstein (2007), Why Does Ethnic Diversity Undermine Public Goods Provision?, American Political Science Review, 101(4), pp. 709-725.

    Mehlum Halvor, Karl Moene and Ragnar Torvik (2006), Institutions and the Resource Curse, The Economic Journal, 116(508), pp. 1-20.

    Vicente Pedro C. (2010), Does Oil Corrupt? Theory and Evidence from a Natural Experiment in West Africa, Journal of Development Economics, 92(1), pp. 28- 38.

    Practical class: Habyarimana, Humphreys, Posner and Weinstein paper, with lab games conducted.

    11. Conflict:

    Banerjee and Duflo, chapter 10.

    Collier Paul and Anke Hoeffler (2004), Greed and Grievance in Civil Wars, Oxford Economic Papers, 56, pp. 663-595.

    Fearon James, Macartan Humphreys, Jeremy M. Weinstein (2009), Can Development Aid Contribute to Social Cohesion After Civil War? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Post- Conflict Liberia, American Economic Review, 99(2), pp. 287–91.

    Miguel Edward, Shanker Satyanath and Ernest Sergenti (2004), Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach, Journal of Political Economy, 112(4), pp. 725-753.

    Practical class: Fearon, Humphreys and Weinstein paper, with lab games conducted.

Note: This reference list is not complete. In the lectures I may mention other sources, which may be relevant for the exam.


A course webpage (moodle) will be used to disseminate information about the course and the slides used in class.

Teaching method

There will be two lectures of 1 hour and 20 minutes per week, based partly on slides and blackboard notes. These will be complemented by a weekly practical class of 1 hour and 20 minutes. For each topic, a general overview of the theoretical and empirical issues will be given in the lectures, and some examples taken from recent research will be studied in greater detail in the practical classes. The participation of students will be strongly encouraged to foster discussion.

Evaluation method

The Final Exam is mandatory and must cover the entire span of the course. Its weight in the final grade can be between 30 to 70%. The remainder of the evaluation can consist of class participation, midterm exams, in class tests, etc. Overall, written in class assessment (final exam, midterm) must have a weight of at least 50%.

  • 1. Practical class presentation (paper) – 20%.

    This is the group presentation of a designated research paper or specific source in the practical class. It will involve a powerpoint presentation (made for 25min), and broad discussion in class, as everyone is expected to read the paper in advance and have questions to ask. The group will be responsible for answering the questions raised.
  • 2. Impact evaluation proposal – 20%.

    The impact evaluation proposal will take the form of a 5-page (font size 12 pp) written report (which can be done in groups), which should be sent to the TA by TBD, 2018. This impact evaluation proposal should contain:

    (i) a relevant research question related to any of the themes of the course, competently motivated (i.e., relating to other papers, policy debates, etc.);

    (ii) the description of a proposed intervention that is useful for answering the research question (the intervention may be real or imaginary; however, feasibility will be particularly valued!);

    (iii) an evaluation design, including method (field, lab, natural experiment, etc.) and description of measurement (household survey, administrative data, etc.);

  • 3. Oral participation in the lectures and practical classes – 10%.

    This includes number and quality of questions asked during the student presentations.

  • 4. Final exam – 50% (minimum grade to pass the course: 7).

Subject matter

The focus of the course will be on the microeconomics of development, with strong policy and empirical components. We will begin with an introduction to poverty and its measurement. We will then discuss the origins of development in growth theory, while linking to the debate on foreign aid. After reviewing impact evaluation methods, including randomized designs, we will study specific interventions on education, health, and finance. We will then turn to the study of institutions, including their historical roots, democracy, corruption, resource and ethnic curses, and conflict.


Programs where the course is taught: