Development Economics

Development economics is fascinating because it shows how economic analysis can help us to understand the big themes of the 21st century – poverty and inequality, globalisation and trade, and the contrasting experience of success and failure in the economies of different regions of the world

Dr Peter Smith, University of Southampton

One of the most striking characteristics of the world economy in recent decades has been the growing inequality in the distribution of resources between different parts of the world. China, the most populous country in the world, has experienced economic growth at an unprecedented rate, and India has also made substantial progress. Meanwhile, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have stagnated, and the gap in living standards continues to widen.

Photo by Rogiro on Flickr

Development economics attempts to explore some of the economic challenges peculiar to some of the poorest countries in the world. You will investigate the factors that have led to this global inequality, and analyse some of the forms of market and government failure that may have contributed to the situation.

As part of this study programme, you will see the way in which economics can help our understanding of some of the major challenges of the 21st century, including:

  • to what extent does rapid population growth help or hinder development?
  • is it necessary for economies to go through a process of structural transformation – and how does this take place?
  • what is the role of education and health care provision in contributing to the process of development?
  • how important is it for countries to engage in international trade in the context of a globalising economy?
  • how can less-developed countries achieve sustainable development?
  • what effect has the HIV/AIDS epidemic had on economic and human development?

Development economics faces up to these questions and shows you how to apply economic analysis in a variety of situations of global significance. Development economics can draw on theory that you may have encountered in both micro and macro modules, and combine this with evidence from poorer countries.

By studying development economics, you will have the opportunity to apply the tools of economic analysis to the problems and challenges facing less-developed countries, and to begin to understand why some countries have been able to go through a process of economic and human development whilst others have languished.

Web links

VoxEU’s section on development economics

The World Bank’s economics data to download.