Published on Development Impact

Where is the development economics research happening? The geographical distribution of NEUDC research

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Yesterday I posted a round-up of the research presented at NEUDC, a major conference on development economics. Although most economic research aspires to uncover principles relevant across multiple contexts, empirical research happens at a place and time. I mapped out the distribution of research presented at NEUDC, fully recognizing that this makes no claim to be representative of the profession as a whole.

Below, I charted the number of studies per country (for all countries that had at least two studies). If a study used data from multiple countries (up to four), I counted each of them. If a study used a data set that spans 30 countries, I didn’t use it.

The diagram lays out some of the recommended policy measure to strengthen these pillars. It is time for Malaysia to aim high.

As you can see, there is a LOT of research from India, and a fair amount from Kenya and Mexico.

Beyond those in the chart, there was one study presented each with data from Argentina, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Malaysia, Nepal, Nicaragua, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

As you can imagine from the chart above – but I made a chart so you don't HAVE to imagine – there’s no clear link between income per capita and research concentration.

Why do you think we observe so much more research happening in India, Kenya, and Mexico? At a casual glance, with both India and Mexico, many papers seem to draw on existing data, so the availability of administrative data may play a role. In Kenya, there seems to be a higher proportion of experiments. Of course, Kenya was an early adopter of impact evaluations with the work of Michael Kremer and subsequently many others. 

What other factors might play a role?


David Evans

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

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