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Why study development?

To study development is to study why societies flourish. As a collective, our species has made unimaginable progress: we have defied every frontier and trounced the limits of the possible. We now know this has not come without costs to our planet, but there is little to suggest that we have reached our final frontier.

The story of our species is not a story felt equally across our world. Poverty, inequality, and conflict rattle much of the globe. What sets one society on a path of success, but another on a path of failure? Is it fortune, force, or foresight? Are these differences etched and hard to remove, or are they mutable? Can we, with precision, identify the forces that release growth and development upon the world?  Or is reality more muddied, a mess of complex interactions difficult to disentangle, rendering such exercises futile?

Development economics, as a discipline, is flourishing. It uses a combination of tools - historical, theoretical, and empirical - to find answers to some of the above questions. Much remains to be done and to be learned, yet one aspect is clear: development lies at the heart of economics itself, asking and answering some of the most fundamental questions our discipline has posed in its short history.

Useful resources for current students

I often get asked about further notes, career advice, PhD programs, and interesting books. Below is a scattered set of resources.

Additional lecture notes and readings

Development is broad, and so too is the literature. Greg Fischer (and others) provides a now-dated but still useful set of reading summaries:

  • Reading Summaries for Development (link)

  • Reading Summaries on Economic History (link)

LSE does not follow a standard textbook such as Debraj Ray's Development Economics. The textbook is worth picking up for those interested in development theory. Two additional resources are:

  • Teaching Development Economics (link) - a new source compiling lecture slides on development theory by some leading thinkers

  • Notes for a Course in Development Economics (link) - these are graduate-level notes prepared by Debraj Ray

If you are interested in the overalp between development and environmental economics, I highly recommend watching the BREAD-IGC Course on Environmental Economics.

How do I get a job in development? Should I do a PhD?

These are universal questions, with no true answers, but there has been a lot of advice on this matter. Chris Blattman has two nice articles on this:

  • Getting a job in international development (link)

  • How to get a PhD and save the world (link)

Organisations to look out for, beyond the standard IOs and NGOs, include:

  • International Growth Centre (IGC) - a research and policy organisation run out of LSE & Oxford but with a network of country offices in Africa & Asia. A rare organisation that lets you be on both the research and policy frontier

  • Overseas Development Institute (ODI) - I would in particular flag the ODI Fellowship Scheme, likely the best albeit bumpy way to learn how development is done in practice

  • Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) - a research organisation with an established track record in implementing research projects in-country

  • Abdul Lateef Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) - likewise, a stellar research organisation that implements academic research projects

  • Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) - an exciting research centre at Berkeley

  • Economic Growth Center (EGC) at Yale

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