Political Economy of Development

Course Description: 

This course is a graduate-level seminar that introduces students to contemporary research on the political economy of development. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach and examines readings from both economics and political science. The materials cover the following three components: i) the theoretical debates on the determinants and mechanisms of economic growth and development; ii) research designs and methodological tools such as experiments and instrumental variable regressions used to empirically evaluate the effects of various factors on the development outcome, and iii) country cases that either support or challenge the existing development theories. At the end of the course, students will have a general understanding of the political and economic factors behind the uneven patterns of economic development cross countries and over time, as well as the methodological tools that are commonly used to assess the impacts of these factors. Although the main emphasis of the course is on economic development, political and social developments are also discussed under certain topics.

Learning Outcomes: 

The primary mode of instruction for this course is sectional teaching, which combines lectures with student presentations and discussions. The lectures equip students with basic theoretical knowledge and methodological tools to be able to read contemporary development literature. Student presentations delve deeper into the literature and country cases to identify possible directions in which the existing scholarship can be advanced. The aim of the course is to equip students with necessary knowledge and skills to conduct independent research and build on the current state of knowledge in the field and in doing so, promote research on development from a political economy perspective. 

  1. Participation and presentation (30%):  students are required to participate actively in class and give one/two paper presentation(s) and one case presentation. Each paper/case presentation should take 20-25 minutes. The presenter is expected to answer questions from the audience. Student presentations only start in Week 3.
  2. Comment papers (30%): each student will submit two comment papers on the readings of a weekof his/her own choosing. These weeks may be the same weeks in which the student is assigned to present papers or cases. The paper should be 1000 words in length (including footnotes, endnotes and bibliography, if any) and provide i) a succinct summary of the research question, methodology, and major findings of the readings; ii) an analytical review that identifies their strengths and weaknesses of the readings; and iii) possible research questions that follow from the commentary. The paper should be submitted by noon of the Wednesday of the week.
  3. For this assignment, students will have a choice between Option A and Option B:

Option A: Replication Study (40%): As mentioned in the Research Design and Methods course, replication is important to academic research and good scientific studies must be replicable. Thus, each student will choose a theme related to development (broadly defined), identify a dataset (quantitative or qualitative) associated with that theme and engage in a replication and/or extension study. The final replication report should contain five components: i) identify a theme and a specific research question; ii) a brief review of the existing literature related to the research question; iii) theory and hypothesis/hypotheses to be replicated; iv) description of research design and data used for the replication; v) replication results and discussion. The report is expected to be 2000-2500 words in length and is due on March 29th at 11:59pm.

Option B: Foresight and Scenario Planning (40%): As will be mentioned in the course, advices to policy makers or company CEOs should not be based on the current situations of the country or company because these situations will change by the time a policy or action is put in place. Foresight is therefore paramount to the work of policy advisors and business strategists. In this exercise, each student will choose a theme related to development (broadly defined), identify the uncertainties associated with the theme and construct possible scenarios that may be realized in the future. The final scenario report should contain five components: i) identify a theme and a specific issue area; ii) identify the driving forces and big shifts that are likely to occur in this area (the STEEP trends), which may affect regions, countries or organizations; iii) identify the critical uncertainties associated with (some of) the trends; iv) develop a range of scenarios that may arise in the future; v) discuss the various implications and impacts of each scenario and come out with recommendations for policy makers, chairmen of organizations or company CEOs. The report is expected to be 2000-2500 words in length and is due on March 29th at 11:59pm.

 Penalty for late work:  1 percentage point of overall grade per calendar day


This course has no formal prerequisites, but will employ some of the tools introduced in Research Design and Methods in IR I & II. Some background in macroeconomics and/or international political economy is an advantage, but is not required or assumed in this course.

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