Introducing Development Economics as Choose-Your-Own Adventure

I sometimes get the opportunity to give a brief introduction to development economics to students of various types. In the past, I’ve written about introducing development economics to middle schoolers in 20 minutes, introducing high school students to development economics with chocolate, and a practical activity for teaching regression discontinuity design that I’ve used with government workers in various countries.

Last week, I spoke to a group of undergraduate economics majors in a development economics class about development economics in practice. Like those popular Choose Your Own Adventure books from my childhood, I turned control of the lecture over to the students. In case it’s useful, here’s a recap of what I did.

Slide1

Since these students are already studying development economics, I didn’t explain what it is, but I did explain how I practice it, in two parts. First, I research solutions to alleviate poverty; and second, I work with governments and others to incorporate that evidence into policy. I provided a little bit of photographic evidence.

Slide2

I talked briefly about the two places where I’ve spent most of my career – the World Bank and the Center for Global Development.

Then, I put up my own low-stakes Jeopardy board with 30 of my finished or ongoing research projects and randomly selected students to pick a project to hear a little bit about. Each square linked to a slide with a little bit of information about the study. For each one, I discussed the research question, the finding, and a little bit about the interaction with policymakers.

Slide4

I only got through a handful of topics in each class (I taught two classes). Over the course of just 25 minutes, the students got a practical sense of the array of work a development economist gets to work on along with some of the ups and downs of trying to influence policy. You can scroll through the individual study slides below.

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It was fun to deliver and to seemed like it was fun for the students. They got to decide what they thought was interesting. What are your favorite tips for introducing development economics research to students?

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