Thursday, April 25, 2013

Last chance...

What were your favorite/least favorite topics of the course?
What topic do you think is the most pressing in terms of where policy makers should address their attention?
What are some interesting research questions related to growth and development that you'd like to learn more about?


  1. My favorite part of the class was the reading and discussion of The Bottom Billion. Tying in the topics that we discussed, such as aid, and how it really can be(and has) been applied to help countries in need with an actual "agenda for action."

    To me the most pressing topic was easily education with the special emphasis on female education. With education comes improved growth and development. So making education a more viable choice for these bottom billion countries through programs and aid can go a long ways.

    With that, I would like to learn more in-depth about the possible solutions to the education problem of these countries. How can we make the investment in education worth it for them?

  2. This course was really interesting and informative. I really appreciate the practical aspects of this course; I'm more able to knowledgeably discuss some political topics such as the impacts and costs of foreign aid. This class also stressed the importance of human capital and the implications of maintaining an efficient workforce.

    This class seems beneficial to econ and non-econ majors; the economic aspects such as Solow growth model and Malthusian theory are fairly simple concepts to introduce a non-econ major, and the econ major will see the Solow Growth model in 322 and the Malthusian model potentially elsewhere. Also beneficial was the semi-introduction of econometrics that was informative without being terrifying. Some of the bigger problems were touched on - heteroskedasticiy, auto-correlation, endogeneity and compensation via instrumental variables - without delving too deeply into statistical regression.

    There wasn't really an aspect I didn't enjoy in the class. Collier was an excellent read and paired phenomenally with class topics. Tests were fair.

    Policy should be customized for each country depending on traps, (infrastructure should be a larger focus for landlocked countries, in both the landlocked country and surrounding countries) but a focus should be on education and accountability. Collier made it clear in his Bottom Billion that aid and accountability are not substitutes, and a little bit of accountability could drastically increase the effectiveness of any aid.

    I'm interested as to the kind of impact a dedicated private investor could have on a country stuck in the bottom billion, looking it at not solely as aid but also as an enterprise. Obviously this individual would have to have a staggering quantity of capital, but assuming he had enough to say:

    1) set up in africa
    2) secure a water supply (check out this map of underground aquifers)
    3) find a profitable way to encourage construction of infrastructure. Construct homes, better medicine, education, etc.

    Obviously the stipulation here is that the investor is private, and can make this enterprise profitable, while simultaneously improving living conditions, wealth, and education. Maybe some kind of Mao-ish commune in which we sell the extra produced food and the aided people keep the rest, except billions of people don't die.

    Theres clearly a ton of room for exploitation and moral hazard in this situation, so its effectiveness or use is pretty questionable.

  3. As a student just dipping into economics and getting an econ minor, (without taking econometrics…woops) there was not anything that was too far over my head. Some of the math for Solow looked crazy the first time I saw it, but then again, it was the first time seeing it. I took this class because you were teaching it, Dr. Schuhmann. I am glad I did.

    As an Environmental Studies student, education and the effect on economic growth (and vice versa) was my favorite topic, and also the topic where I believe policy changes can make the biggest difference in terms of productivity and how the proper use of natural resources can increase productivity. Health and education go hand in hand, so I think the health unit was really useful, but education is the key in not only economic problems, but environmental problems as well. In terms of environmental education, the biggest impact will come from working within these poorer nations.

    Our discussion on foreign aid was somewhat eye opening because I don’t think I have really thought about if foreign aid really helps the receiving nation. I want to look more in depth into foreign aid and health, and how/if they tie into education. This education could be for the donor nation and for the receiving nation.

  4. My favorite part of the class was the section on development and health. It is crazy to think that this day in age entire illnesses can be eradicated for just dollars a day. It seems like with all the talk about healthcare systems in the US that someone would have realized that we are doing really well and focus the public's interest on helping others around the world. With technology spillover it seems like someone would have come up with a way to inexpensively distribute the drugs that can save millions of lives.

    I believe that one of the most pressing/beneficial issues that we briefly talked about this semester is the development of infrastructure. I have spent time in Panama the last two years and was able to apply what I learned in this class to thinks that I saw while traveling through that country. We stayed in a tiny fishing village of only a few hundred people. In the village there was only one road that lead there and the first year we went, about 25 miles of the road was unpaved and was regularly washed out during the rainy season. The second year we went the road had been paved and this stretch of road went from taking about and hour and a half to about 45 minutes. The paving of this road did much more than make it easier to travel to Santa Catalina. There were new people in the town selling fruits and vegetables for cheaper than they could be grown by the locals. The town went from having one teacher that split her time between three towns to now having a second which increased the amount of schooling that all the students had in the town. The closest high school was in the next town over and now it was much easier for kids to make it to school and enrollment rates in high school had risen.

    Infrastructure is the most important aspect to promoting both economic growth and economic development. It has the power to improve health by making easier to get to doctors; it improves education by making it easier and safer for students and teachers to get to school; it can improve the economy by opening up new areas to new markets, it also opens up areas for potential tourism which can lead to an increase in foreign aid.

    In order for other things to take place, such as increasing the enrollment rates for girls in primary school, infrastructure must be created and maintained. Infrastructure will lead the bottom billion nations toward the developed world.

  5. I really enjoyed this class. Even though the topics and so in depth, when we broke them down they were simpler and I understood them more. My favorite part of the class was reading The Bottom Billion. I enjoyed this book because it broke down specific topics in a way that was very easy to understand. Before this class I never thought about developing countries very much and why they were in the bottom part of the world. Each topic that we discussed in class shed more and more light on why they were stuck and what we could do to help them. I did not like the Solow growth model section of the class. I never really understood that in my past economics classes and it still is a bit fuzzy to me. I understand it to a point, but explaining it to others would be a struggle for me.

    The Education and the IRR was a particularly interesting assignment because I am so fortunate to have parents who pay for my education and I do not need to think about opportunity costs like others do. This made me think more about other people and how education is really a privilege and not something that everyone jumps on just because having a degree sounds good. I think that this is a pressing topic because I think that more people need to be educated and if the bottom billion focused on educating their habitants, it would be a great start to getting them out of their traps and become more developed countries.

    I would like to look more at aid for developing nations. It never occurred to me before how aid can be a bad thing and I would like to learn more about that. I would also like to learn more about what countries are doing to educate woman and help them.

  6. My favorite topic of the course would have to be the education topic. To me, it seemed like it had more endogeneity than the rest of the topics, and it was very interesting to see how much econ growth and development lead into education and then how much education helped improve growth and development. I believe that education and G&D had the strongest link out of any of the topics that we covered, which made it the most interesting in my opinion.

    I also believe that education is the most pressing area for policy makers to focus on. Just as Dr. Schuhmann said, the benefits of education are almost limitless and there are essentially no negative externalities associated with it. Only good may come from it.

    One research question I would like to learn more about is whether or not inequality really is a prerequisite to economic growth and development. The patterns that we see thus far, that inequality increases as growth increases then starts to level off as more attention gets brought to it as growth reaches a certain level, are very intriguing to me. I think it would be really cool to see whether inequality tends to level off and decrease or if it will continue to increase with further growth.

  7. Nikolai LipscombMay 1, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    My favorite topics of the course were foreign aid, education, and the natural resource trap. Not that I enjoyed the other topics any less, I just felt the largest increase of knowledge for me was in these areas. As far as a "least" favorite topic (which I shall define not as something I failed to enjoy, but rather "the topic that provided me the least marginal gain in knowledge from this course"), I pick inequality & poverty; after all, it is a fairly common topic in economics, so I simply had a fair amount of knowledge about these things going into the class. Nevertheless, I learned some interesting new concepts and measurements such as the Lorenz curve, Gini Coefficients, Kuznet's curve, etc...

    In regards to areas of policy maker attention, I think it's fairly logical that education should be a number one priority as it can easily raise awareness of the other problems among the populace of developing nations. Agreeing with Dr. Schuhmann's statement, I also believe that the education of women in the poorest nations can provide the largest marginal benefit for a certain amount of effort placed into developmental assistance. After education, I would probably target capital & infrastructure or health next. Granted, helping one can help the other as we have seen among these many factors of development.

    A few research questions have struck my mind:
    E-waste in the developing world -- I've run into quite a few articles regarding e-waste being shipped to SS-Africa and other poor nations. E-waste is short for electronic waste (computers, monitors, gaming consoles, etc...) that ends up being shipped and dumped in the developing world. Interestingly enough, some citizens of these countries have been making a living by picking through these e-waste dumps and salvaging metals and parts to sell. However, there are quite a few health problems associated with e-waste, I'm sure we can all imagine the types of exposure these people go through in order to salvage e-waste components. On the other hand, what if some benefactor were to provide a means of safe salvaging of e-waste by building a plant or some kind of proper system of metal procurement. According to the articles I've read, there is a significant amount of tradable metals to be found in e-waste dumps. Could it turn into a beneficial industry to developing economies and would it truly be safe?
    Cultural Tourism -- Many developing countries have very rich cultures that attract tourism. Are these nations maximizing on these opportunities? Or do tourists not value culture as highly as they claim to? What aspects of culture do people value the most? Music, food, dance, art, history? I've had a lot of musical training in Caribbean, South American, and even some African music. I can certainly say if I traveled to one of these regions, I would seek out a lot of musical experiences during my stay. This could be some kind of willingness-to-pay research: choice modeling may be the best approach.