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Understanding the mechanisms of economic development

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  • Angus S. Deaton

Abstract

I argue that progress in understanding economic development (as in other branches of economics) must come from the investigation of mechanisms; the associated empirical analysis can usefully employ a wide range of experimental and non-experimental methods. I discuss three different areas of research: the life-cycle saving hypothesis and its implication that economic growth drives higher rates of national saving, the theory of speculative commodity storage and its implications for the time-series behavior of commodity prices, and the relationship between economic growth and nutritional improvement. None of these projects has yet been entirely successful in offering a coherent account of the evidence, but all illustrate a process of trial and error, in which although mechanisms are often rejected, unlikely theoretical propositions are sometimes surprisingly verified, while in all cases there is a process of learning about and subsequently modifying our understanding of the underlying mechanisms

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15891.

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Date of creation: Apr 2010
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Publication status: published as Angus Deaton, 2010. "Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 3-16, Summer.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15891

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  1. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-32, August.
  2. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2003. "Relative Prices and Relative Prosperity," NBER Working Papers 9701, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Atkinson, Anthony B, 1969. "The Timescale of Economic Models: How Long Is the Long Run?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(106), pages 137-52, April.
  4. Johnson, Simon & Larson, William & Papageorgiou, Chris & Subramanian, Arvind, 2013. "Is newer better? Penn World Table Revisions and their impact on growth estimates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 255-274.
  5. Deaton, Angus & Laroque, Guy, 1996. "Competitive Storage and Commodity Price Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 896-923, October.
  6. Paxson, Christina, 1996. "Saving and growth: Evidence from micro data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 255-288, February.
  7. Angus Deaton, 2004. "Measuring poverty in a growing world (or measuring growth in a poor world)," Working Papers 178, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  8. Angus Deaton, 2005. "ERRATUM: Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 395-395, May.
  9. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, randomization, and learning about development," Working Papers 1224, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  10. Deaton, A., 1999. "Commodity Prices and Growth in Aftica," Papers 186, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  11. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2000. "Consumption Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Eyal Dvir & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Three Epochs of Oil," NBER Working Papers 14927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Deaton, A. & Paxson, C., 1997. "Economies of Scale, Household Size, and the Demand for Food," Papers 178, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
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Cited by:
  1. David Card & Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2011. "The Role of Theory in Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 39-62, Summer.
  2. Jean Cartier-Bresson, 2013. "Le pouvoir du positivisme et ses limites : microéconométrie et macroéconométrie actuelles du développement," Working Papers hal-00847005, HAL.
  3. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2012. "Costly posturing: relative status, ceremonies and early child development in China:," IFPRI discussion papers 1206, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  4. Pauw, Karl & Thurlow, James, 2010. "Agricultural growth, poverty, and nutrition in Tanzania:," IFPRI discussion papers 947, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  5. Mlambo, Kupukile & Murinde, Victor & Zhao, Tianshu, 2011. "How Does the Institutional Setting for Creditor Rights Affect Bank Lending and Risk-Taking?," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2011-03, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  6. Miguel Szekely, 2011. "Toward Results-Based Social Policy Design and Implementation - Working Paper 249," Working Papers 249, Center for Global Development.

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