Syllabus Economics of Development and Growth

This is the first of four posts showcasing the syllabi of the courses I taught at Temple University Japan (TUJ) over the past three or so years. The first one is on Economics of Development and Growth, a development economics class I taught to third and final-year students. 

Although I really enjoyed this class, I only taught it twice, each time with a good number of undergraduate students (20-30, ideal). The intro text reads:

“This course is an introduction to the main concepts in development economics, a sub-discipline of economics studying how poor countries can develop. The course covers the main postwar theories of economic development as well as the current major domestic themes of economic development, i.e. poverty, population growth, urbanization, health and education, agricultural transformation and environment. International aspects of economic development, primarily trade and finance, are also discussed.”

I used Todaro, M. and S. Smith (11th edition, 2011), Economic Development, Prentice Hall – a standard text which I followed more or less stringently during the lectures.

A few exceptions were the “excursions” into critical development studies, urbanization and international finance. The latter section saw a guest appearance of my good friend Stefan Angrick.

Among the questions we asked throughout the course:

  • How do we measure development? Are there metrics beyond GDP that capture how advanced a nation is, or by how much it is lagging behind?
  • How did the current world of rich and poor countries come about?
  • What were the key thoughts of development economics after the Second World War and how have they fared since?
  • How do we build an issue-based framework with which we can analyse and compare different countries in today’s world?

I “promised” my students that by taking this class they could:

  • Intuitively apply economic concepts to the development discourse and understand both their explanatory power as well as analytical limitations in guiding policy in poor countries.
  • Critically engage with quantitative and qualitative data drawn from a variety of sources. (I hope that by the end of the course, students will find most charts or graphs published in the Financial Times or the Economist easy to read!)
  • Learn about the economic geography of the world, building empathy for people from all walks of life, around the globe.
  • Find it easier to construct arguments, presenting a hypothesis, supporting evidence and a critical assessment of one’s own thinking.

Assessment in the class was via class notes, class participation, several quizzes, one presentation, a mid-term exam, and a final essay. Several interactive sessions and role plays lightened up the workload. We used cutting edge visualization tools (supply chains and foreign trade statistics), emerging market fund management fact sheets and other external sources to enrich our discussions.

I took time to go over the central graphs and charts in Todaro’s text, which are probably one of the more difficult aspects as the book is generally very well-written. I also used quite a lot of videos, and somehow many of them tended to be about Bangladesh.

All in all a tremendously enjoyable class that helped me refresh my own academic background and become more up to date with the main discussions in the field. I would love to teach one of these classes at some point again.

Here is an overview of the classes:

1 Introduction to the class, overview, explanation of assignments, getting to know each other  
2 Introducing economic development: a global perspective Todaro & Smith (TS), chapter 1
3 Classroom exercise: measuring development See online board for instructions
4 Comparative economic development TS 2
5 Classic theories of economic growth and development TS 3
6 Classroom activity: post-independence choices and dilemmas (group presentations and discussion) See online board for instructions
7 No class (instructor presenting at conference) See online board for instructions
8 Contemporary models of development and underdevelopment TS 4*
9 Development and its discontents: critics of the mainstream narrative Texts assigned in class, they include:

Ha-Joon Chang, “Institutions and Economic Development: Theory, Policy and History”, Mushtaq Khan, “Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms in Developing Countries: Policies, Evidence and Way Forward”

10 Midterm exam
11 Poverty, inequality and development TS 5
12 Population growth and economic development TS 6
13 Urbanization and rural-urban migration TS 7*
14 Urbanization continued Glaeser, E. (2011), Triumph of the City, Penguin
15 Human capital: education and health TS 8
16 Agricultural transformation TS 9
17 Environment TS 10
18 Development policymaking and the role of the market, state and civil society TS 11*
19 International trade theory and development strategy TS 12
20 International trade classroom exercise  See online board for instructions
21 International trade continued
22 Global financial system: foreign finance, investment and aid TS 14*
23 Case studies: development finance See online board for instructions
24 Fiscal policy and course summary TS 15

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