Development economics of education bleg

by on April 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm in Education | Permalink

What should I read?  There is no need to re-recommend Banerjee and Duflo, Lant Pritchett, or James Tooley on this topic, namely education in developing countries.  What else?  I thank you in advance for your counsel.

Jeff April 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Tyler, we operate under the assumption that you have read (and re-read) everything even lightly related to all areas of economics. Please do your best not to disturb this.

Tyler Cowen April 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I never said that was all I knew!

K April 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm


Corey April 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Matt Yglesias has linked to on his blog in the past.

Euripides April 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm

If you mean books, I am reading Karlan and Apell’s “More than Good Intentions.” It’s a nice book in the Duflo-Banerjee RCT tradition.
If you literally mean blogs, I recommend Acemoglu and Robinson’s blog and there is one blog by the World Bank economists that has interesting takes every now and then.
If you want to revisit the older development tradition, Jaime Ros has a good text.

Joseph Palooka April 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

A Quiet Violence

Finley April 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I would imagine you’ve read Hernando de Soto. If not, he would be a must.

Jonathan April 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

The Mystery of Capital was amazing. I literally could not put it down for an entire day. On to the Other Path as well.

Doc Merlin April 25, 2012 at 4:11 am


Its quite literally the best book on contemporary development I have ever seen.

marginalfutility April 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm

What a crock. It was a really appealing idea, especially to libertarian (stronger property rights? what can’t that fix!). His main case study in Peru, and other places where this development fad of the year were implemented, showed that it did little to improve the plight of the poor. In some cases, they could allocate a bit less time to securing their own shack, but they didn’t get credit, they didn’t somehow manage to earn more, their kids didn’t get more schooling…
I’m sure he made a bundle from book sales and consulting fees though. So at least the idea was income generating for someone.

Josiah April 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm


EJ April 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Either Ndikumana and Boyce’s work on capital flight and development, Dev Kar’s work on illicit financial flows, or Raymond Baker’s Capitalism’s Achilles Heel.

Illicit financial outflows are a key issue that are often overlooked in the development debate. Full disclosure: I work for Raymond Baker’s organization.

Eli April 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I’m a fan of Kremer (1993).

BigD April 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Acemoglu, Collier, Easterly. Also recommend Pietra Rivoli’s Travels of a T-Shirt in the global economy.

Randy Watson April 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I just bought the book “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” by Michael Sandel, that was released today. And for inspiration about which book to read I often check the twitter account that you once recommended in the New York Times: @popsciencebooks.

Luis Enrique April 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Presumably you’ve already read Rodrik, how about the thinking of the new WB chief economist Justin Yifu Lin?

Navin Kumar April 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I *highly* recommend Debraj Ray’s Developmental Economics, which is a textbook. If you’re in India, you can pick up the Indian version for $8, or look it up on amazon (way more expensive)

Alternatively, something by Dreze and Sen.

Tyler Cowen April 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Maybe my original wording was not so clear. I meant “education in developing economies,” as a topic, not development economics per se.

Ritwik April 25, 2012 at 2:42 am

Parth Shah. But highly correlated with Tooley so you may already have read him. The McKinsey Global Institute.

Eric April 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life (Princeton Studies in Complexity) –

G April 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm
Michael Heller April 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Old stuff, but good:

James Tooley – The Beautiful Tree (2009)

World Development Report 2004 – Making Services Work for Poor People

Justin April 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Are you hoping for overviews of the general state and trends of education in developing countries or, instead, descriptions of projects aimed at improving education? Here at IPA, we have a bevy of the latter:

Geoff April 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Hanushek & Woessmann, particularly on education quality/learning rather than just quantity/attendance –

Stuart Buck April 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

There’s a literature on conditional cash transfer programs and their effect on education in developing countries. See, e.g.:

Ignacio April 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm

You probably already looked through this, but the WB has a very good blog, not all about economics though:

And here you’ll find a list of publications, including recent RCTs and working papers:'&hTpc='&hRgn='ANY'&hCnty='&hSy=2000&hEy=2012&hKeySearch=N

Lee April 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Karthik Muralidharan, Geeta Kingdon, Justin Sandefur…

Andrew Gillen April 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I recommend some work by Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann. This is a good place to start,

While a bit broader, I also highly recommend this

Donald A. Coffin April 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm

It’s not an economics book, most of the essays are by historians. And it’s not about education in general. But it is (I think) very interesting:

Roberta Wollons (ed.), Kindergartens and Culture, Yale University Press (2000).

Essays deal with the emergence and impacts of kindergarten education in Germany, the U.S., England, Australia, Japan, China, Poland, Russia, postcolonial Vietnam, and the Ottoman empire. In virtually all these countries, kindergartens emerged when the country was developing, not developed, and the range of countries and time periods provides come interesting implicit comparisons.

Matt April 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Michael Kremer has several interesting papers on education in developing countries:

marris April 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Maybe a bit too far from the development economics core tradition, but I think David Rose’s The Moral Foundations of Economic Behavior is a great read. Covers many culture-related concepts.

Yancey Ward April 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

The CIAs world fact book, if still published regularly.

Andres April 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm
Not Paul Glewwe April 24, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Paul Glewwe at Minnesota is a very good applied development economist who has done a lot of work on education. Michael Kremer (who I’m sure you know of) as well has some work in this area. Also I think it was Lant Pritchett who wrote it so sorry for the re-recommendation but the chapter in “What Works in Development” was very good. And frankly the stuff about teacher quality cited in the Banerjee and Duflo is some of the most interesting work on this topic as well.

Speaking here as a minor league type of applied development economist, despite massive strides in recent years, there still aren’t really aren’t that many good opportunities to do clean evaluations of development policies or projects. So, you just aren’t going to find some kind of edgy counterculture on the economics of education and development- it’s dominated by the big names, which may not be such a bad thing because they do tend to do good work.

Zachary April 25, 2012 at 12:39 am

The theory of Money and Credit, by Mises, is the BEST econ book I’ve ever read. It is logical and is a good intermediary to connect the logic of Adam Smith with the contemporary fed policies.

gaddeswarup April 25, 2012 at 1:41 am

I wonder whether education in developing countries can be disassociated with education in America and Americal influence particularly through foundations. There is an old book of Edward Breman which discusses this.:
There is a more recent paper by Jayant Krishnan which discusses the American influence on Indian legal education
There is also an article by David Warsh on the influence of foundations in American business education

Matt April 25, 2012 at 5:09 am

As others have said, Kremer is a must. Some more recent stuff: very interesting recent research by Bold & Sandefur on then Kenyan schooling system, both on the impact of private schooling and on the impact of contract teachers (and an RCT where they compare the effectiveness between contract teachers hired by an NGO and those hired by the govt)

Geeta Kingdon has some good stuff on India:

Dercon et al. on how parents may reduce their own contributions to schools when there are exogenous increases in school funding:

Will post more as I think of more

mfm April 25, 2012 at 6:25 am

There is a literature on effects of conflict on schooling outcomes ( see for example “Armed Conflict and Schooling: Evidence from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide” by Akresh and De Walque) and there is another on impact of early-childhood interventions/shocks on cognition and schooling in developing countries (“Under the Weather: Health, Schooling, and Economic Consequences of Early-Life Rainfall” by Sharon Maccini and Dean Yang)

Alex April 25, 2012 at 8:46 am

A good review of evidence relating specifically to reforms aimed at improving school-level accountability to improve education outcomes in developing countries:
“Making Schools Work” by Bruns, Filmer and Patrinos.

Michael April 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

Tyler: I think it goes without saying, but if you come across some good material could you please post your picks? This is a very interesting topic and it would be great to have “must read” list!

angus April 25, 2012 at 9:44 am

Two young economists doing excellent work in this field are Moussa Blimpo and Justin Sandefur.

R Richard Schweitzer April 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

But – not one word so far about Sir Peter Bauer.

Also, how important is it to learn about what does not work as expected, as advertised – or did not only did not work at all, but was regressive inresults?

Charles April 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

James J. Heckman – Great work around the intersection of human capital investment, behaviors (non-cognitive skills), education, credentialism, and productivity.


The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program by James J. Heckman and Yona Rubinstein (

The Effects of Education, Personality, and IQ on Earnings of High-Ability Men by Miriam Gensowski, James Heckman,
and Peter Savelyev (

The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children by James J. Heckman and Dimitriy V. Masterov (

Lisa April 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Mark Rosenzweig:
He might have new stuff coming out as well.

GR April 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Definitely the Kremer-Holla article from the Annual Review of Econ:

Saturos April 27, 2012 at 5:49 am

Relatedly, I always found this one hilarious:
The guy is impressed when kids pick up how to use a PC without guidance! And they’re oven on the google! Outstanding! Clearly this is spontanaeous order at work.

Ryan April 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Muhfiq Mobarak has a fascinating new paper you might enjoy

·               “Does Demand or Supply Constrain Investments in Education? Evidence from Garment Sector Jobs in Bangladesh” (with R. Heath) Paper

Bet May 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

I would imagine you’ve read Hernando de Soto. If not, he would be a must! Cheers.

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