Course description

It is well known that there are enormous differences across (and within) countries, not only in terms of economic wellbeing, but also regarding health, education and nutrition standards. The main objective of this course is to provide different explanations for why this is the case and what economists see as the chief remedies for reducing poverty in all forms.

The central questions raised are to what extent, if any, growth reduces poverty and whether economic growth is necessary and/or sufficient for poverty alleviation. Is it the case that poverty can be seriously reduced through other means, such as redistribution of private income and wealth, and/or reallocation of government expenditures? Or should other objectives than poverty reduction be the prime objective for development? If so, which ones?

The main theories - old and new - of what determines growth will be presented and contrasted to the now rich empirical evidence on growth determinants. A key question is whether there are ''built-in" mechanisms in the growth process that lead to a widening gap between rich and poor countries, or whether growth in initially poor countries tend to be higher, ensuring convergence in living standards in the long term.

Also different theories of how growth and income distribution within countries are inter-related (both ways) are brought to the empirical data. A related question is whether human capital in the form of better knowledge (education), health and nutrition standards are fostering growth - on top of being an outcome of growth. The different mechanisms through which population growth affects economic growth - and vice versa - are examined theoretically as well as empirically.

A further question explored is whether high economic growth and poverty alleviation in the now poor countries is compatible with a non-deteriorating environment and without depleting the resource base. How international trade, investment and globalisation of markets affect the poorest countries are also brought up, theoretically as well as empirically. Finally, the question whether the main constraints on development are economical or political is explored.


Ingvild Almås and Mitch Downey.

Administrative Office:

Office hours: Mon-Thu, 12.30-13.30, closed on Fridays. Room A497.
Phone 16 30 38, e-mail: