Development economics

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What can we learn from the economy of the Global South?

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Aims and scope: 

Economic development has always been one of the most lively and challenging areas in economics. Over the last decades, advances in economic theory and econometric methods have allowed development economists to review some age-old questions. Why do some countries grow faster than others? What is the link between inequality, poverty, and economic development? How can we explain rural-urban migrations in the light of urban poverty? Do poor people make the wrong decisions about consumption, work or investment? Why is credit more expensive in developing economies? Are free trade and foreign investment good for development? Does development aid work? This course will introduce you to these advances and give you a feel of the current debates, acquainting you with new ideas and new ways of answering fundamental questions about the economics of poor societies and the process of economic development.

But the scope of this course goes well beyond understanding the economy of the world's poorest, and a word of caution is in order here. By helping you understand the economics of poor societies and the process of economic development, this course will likely shake up not only the way you see the economies of faraway countries, but also the global economic system, the economy of your own country, and your personal economy. You should probably think twice before taking this course if you are happy with the way you see things now...


This course will be based on synchronous web conferences and asynchronous online written discussions. At the start of the course, students will be paired in North-South teams for coursework that will account for 25% of the final grade.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is an approach for learning content through an additional language (foreign or second), thus learning both the subject and the language simultaneously. This approach to teaching and learning has never featured as strongly on university curricula as it does now. Besides, the great revolution of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has had a tremendous impact on education and on the development of foreign language communication skills in particular. ICT is an ideal platform for developing interactive strategies and methodologies that promote independent learning, peer interaction, and language use for real communicative purposes. In a world where students are digital natives and where broadband connections and mobile-data enabled smartphones are widespread, there is great potential for combining CLIL with ICT. If we add to this the opportunities that international university partnerships and networks offer for student interaction across borders, we have all the necessary ingredients for a successful course.


1. Introduction to economic development. Course aims and scope. An overview of development. Why is economic development important and what's in it for me? 2. Concept and measurement of development. The scientific method. Income per capita vs human development index? 3. Economic growth. The Harrod-Domar model. The Neoclassical growth model. Which model explains economic development better? 4. Empirical evidence. Conditional convergence. Are poor countries catching up with developed ones? 5. Economic inequality. Concept and measurement. Inequality and develoment. The inverted-U hypothesis. Does inequality help or hinder development? 6. Poverty. Nutrition. Collateral. Is there a poverty trap? 7. Population and development. Does population growth help or hinder development? 8. The dual economy and migration: the Lewis model. Is there surplus labour in rural areas? Should the government encourage rural-urban migration to accelerate economic development? 9. Urban poverty: the Harris-Todaro model. South-North migration. Illegal migration. Do increased refugee quotas reduce deaths at sea? Does the regularisation of illegal immigrants reduce immigrant poverty? 10.Rural markets. Land and labour contracts: ownership vs fixed-rent vs sharecropping. Is sharecropping inefficient? Should land reform reduce land inequality? 11. Rural markets II: Capital and insurance markets. Banks and moneylenders. Why is capital more expensive in backward rural areas? Are poor people too risk averse to get out of poverty? 12. International trade. Free trade vs protection. The infant industry argument. Why did protection fail to produce a competitive computer industry in Brazil? 13. International finance. Is there a vicious circle of debt? Are developed countries pushing loans into developing countries? 14. The political economy of international development policy. Does international development aid work?

Indicative reading: 

Ray, D. (1998). Development economics. Princeton University Press; Basu, K. (2003). Analytical development economics: the less developed economy revisited. MIT Press; Banerjee, A. & E. Duflo (2012). Poor Economics. Public Affairs; Thirlwall, A.P. (2011). Economics of development. Palgrave Macmillan; Todaro, M. P., & Smith, S. C. (2015). Economic development. Pearson.

Teaching modules: