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Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development

  • Angus Deaton

In this paper, I advocate the investigation, testing, and modification of mechanisms as a progressive empirical research strategy for the field of economic development (and other areas of applied economics). I discuss three lines of work that have elucidated mechanisms that are relevant for development: 1) connections between saving and growth; 2) the determinants of commodity prices, which are a key source of income for many developing countries; and 3) some unexpected puzzles that arise in considering the linkages between income and food consumption. In each case, my discussion illustrates the positivist approach to the hypotheticodeductive method. In this approach, mechanisms are proposed, key predictions derived and tested, and if falsified, the mechanisms are rejected or modified. If the predictions of a mechanism are confirmed, if they are sufficiently specific, and if they are hard to explain in other ways, we attach additional credence to the mechanism, albeit provisionally since later evidence may undermine it. Sometimes the falsifications can be repaired by changing supplementary assumptions, and sometimes they involve long steps backwards where the model is abandoned; and often there is disagreement about which is the correct response. But the end result is an accumulation of useful knowledge and understanding.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.24.3.3
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 24 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 3-16

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:24:y:2010:i:3:p:3-16
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.3.3
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/jep/
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  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1980. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 0445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Angus Deaton, 1999. "Commodity Prices and Growth in Africa," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 23-40, Summer.
  3. 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.
  4. Chris Carroll & Lawrence H. Summers, 1989. "Consumption Growth Parallels Income Growth: Some New Evidence," NBER Working Papers 3090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-55, June.
  6. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," NBER Working Papers 9822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Deaton, A. & Paxson, C., 1997. "Economies of Scale, Household Size, and the Demand for Food," Papers 178, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  8. 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.
  9. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2000. "Growth and Saving Among Individuals and Households," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(2), pages 212-225, May.
  10. Paxson, Christina, 1996. "Saving and growth: Evidence from micro data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 255-288, February.
  11. A. B. Atkinson, 1969. "The Timescale of Economic Models: How Long is the Long Run?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(2), pages 137-152.
  12. Robert M. Solow, 1956. "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 65-94.
  13. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2003. "Relative prices and relative prosperity," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  14. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2000. "Consumption Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Kuznets, Simon, 1976. " Demographic Aspects of the Size Distribution of Income: An Exploratory Essay," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 1-94, October.
  16. 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.
  17. Gregory Clark & Michael Huberman & Peter H. Lindert, 1995. "A British food puzzle, 1770–1850," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(2), pages 215-237, 05.
  18. Eyal Dvir & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Three Epochs of Oil," NBER Working Papers 14927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Eyal Dvir & Ken Rogoff, 2009. "The Three Epochs of Oil," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 706, Boston College Department of Economics.
  20. repec:pri:rpdevs:deaton_instruments_randomization_learning_all_04april_2010 is not listed on IDEAS
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