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Development Economics (Growth, Inequality and Poverty)

4005 (ISS-IBEI)

Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Compulsory courses




This course is largely about income in three guises: changes in average income per head in countries (growth), the dispersion of income between and within countries (inequality), and insufficient income (poverty). For sure, income is not all that there is, but it is a fundamental component of human development. The ranking of countries according to the UN Human Development Index is broadly in line with that based on income per capita; and the developed economies are also at the top of achievements in human development, while the low-income countries in most cases show a poor record of living standards. Moreover, disparities in life expectancy across countries and within countries tend also to be correlated with income gaps. Therefore, focusing on economic growth – or the lack of it – and the disparities in income between countries and among households or individuals is well justified if one wants to understand the potential for countries and individuals to improve their living standards.

The course uses some of the tools of development economics, but it is intended to be also accessible for non-economists, as it will be taught in a non-technical manner. It will introduce the participants into key debates and issues in the field of international development in the context of a rapidly globalizing world economy. While discussing the empirical evidence, particular attention will be given to the Global South.


The course will consist of four sub-modules, with, in total, 12 sessions of 2 hours each:

  1. Economic growth and income traps (3 sessions)
  2. Income inequality (4 sessions)
  3. Poverty and its remedies (3 sessions)
  4. Students’ presentations of case studies (2 sessions)

The first ten meetings consist of lectures with an exposition by the instructor of relevant concepts, debates, evidence and policy implications, complemented by discussion of selected readings with the active participation of the students. In some lectures this participation involves presenting a summary of a reading or researching and informing the class about ongoing developments on a given topic. More details will be offered at the start of the course. The final two sessions are devoted to the presentation and discussion of case studies (team work) summarising and assessing recent developments in inequality and poverty in a given country (or countries). Classes will take place on Wednesdays between 16h and 18h.

The final grade will be a weighted average of the assessment of a presentation of a case study (40% of the total grade), a final essay or a research briefing (of a maximum length of 2,500 words, excluding references) on a given question or topic (40%), and class participation (20%).