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Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development

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  • Angus Deaton

    (Princeton University)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Angus Deaton, 2010. "Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development," Working Papers 1225, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:rpdevs:deaton_understanding_mechanisms_of_economic_development_with_abstract_apr_2010.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Eyal Dvir & Ken Rogoff, 2009. "The Three Epochs of Oil," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 706, Boston College Department of Economics.
    2. Paxson, Christina, 1996. "Saving and growth: Evidence from micro data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 255-288, February.
    3. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-455, June.
    4. 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 706-732, August.
    5. Angus Deaton, 2005. "Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 1-19, February.
    6. Eyal Dvir & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Three Epochs of Oil," NBER Working Papers 14927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    11. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2007. "Relative Prices and Relative Prosperity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 562-585, June.
    12. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 1998. "Economies of Scale, Household Size, and the Demand for Food," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 897-930, October.
    13. 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.
    14. Angus Deaton, 1999. "Commodity Prices and Growth in Africa," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 23-40, Summer.
    15. 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.
    16. repec:pri:rpdevs:deaton_instruments_randomization_learning_all_04april_2010 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Christopher D. Carroll & Lawrence H. Summers, 1991. "Consumption Growth Parallels Income Growth: Some New Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 305-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. 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.
    19. 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, May.
    20. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2017. "Costly Posturing: Ceremonies and Early Child Development in China," IZA Discussion Papers 10662, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Chen, Xi, 2014. "Fetus, Fasting, and Festival: The Persistent Effects of in Utero Social Shocks," IZA Discussion Papers 8494, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. repec:kap:reveho:v:16:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11150-017-9399-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Brzozowski, Matthew & Crossley, Thomas F. & Winter, Joachim K., 2017. "Does survey recall error explain the Deaton–Paxson puzzle?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 18-20.
    5. Sunil Mitra Kumar, 2016. "RCTs for better policy? The case of public systems in developing countries," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 33(1), pages 83-98, April.
    6. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-70 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Miguel Szekely, 2011. "Toward Results-Based Social Policy Design and Implementation - Working Paper 249," Working Papers 249, Center for Global Development.
    8. 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).
    9. 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.
    10. Pauw, Karl & Thurlow, James, 2011. "Agricultural growth, poverty, and nutrition in Tanzania," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(6), pages 795-804.
    11. Mehlum, Halvor & Torvik, Ragnar & Valente, Simone, 2016. "The savings multiplier," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 90-105.
    12. Jean Cartier-Bresson, 2013. "Le pouvoir du positivisme et ses limites : microéconométrie et macroéconométrie actuelles du développement," Working Papers hal-00847005, HAL.
    13. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic development; mechanisms; life-cycle savings; commodity prices; economic growth; nutritional improvement;

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General

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