DPDF Student Fellowship Competition > DPDF Student Fellowship Competition 2009

Revitalizing Development Studies

The breakdown of the Washington Consensus in favor of market-oriented reform has left the study of economic development in a state of flux and more open to new and alternative approaches.  Scholars and practitioners have increasingly argued against a one-size-fits-all approach to development policymaking.  Instead, they maintain that policies and strategies need to be tailored to specific contexts, which in turn requires the careful analysis of existing institutions, social organization, cultural norms, and political processes.  Representative questions that animate this debate include:  What role does inequality play in fostering or inhibiting growth (reversing the usual question)?  What are the variable roles of ethnicity and identity in promoting collaboration or contention in development?  Why, despite increasing growth, investment, and education (human capital), does productivity stagnate in so many developing countries?  How does “history” (i.e., colonial legacies, path dependence, etc.) influence social and economic development today?  And, more generally, what are the non-economic bases of economic success and failure?  Prominent among the answers are new perspectives that underscore the importance of factors such as institutions, identities, social networks and capital, local knowledge, and learning in promoting or impeding development.  Although these perspectives do not add up to a coherent new consensus, they do share a commitment to looking across disciplines and grounding theory in careful empirical research.

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Field Directors

Ben Ross Schneider
Ford International Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Political Science [ bio ]

Ben Ross Schneider is Professor of Political Scienceat the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Schneider received his PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His research and teaching interests fall within the general fields of comparative politics, political economy, and Latin American politics. Professor Schneider’s books include Reinventing Leviathan: The Politics of Administrative Reform in Developing Counties (2003) and Business Politics and the State in 20th Century Latin America (2004). He also has written on topics such as economic reform, democratization, technocracy, the developmental state, inequality, and corporate governance.

Andrew Schrank
Olive Watson Professor of Sociology and International Studies, University of New Mexico, Sociology and International Studies [ bio ]

Andrew Schrank is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the University of New Mexico. His research areas include comparative political, economic, and historical sociology, and specifically the organization, regulation, and performance of business in Latin America. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on industrial policy, labor market regulation, entrepreneurship, and corruption, including several pieces on the conceptualization, measurement, and evaluation of "governance" in developing countries. He has also served as an editorial board member for the American Journal of Sociology, Politics and Society, and Latin American Politics and Society, and consulted for the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, and United Nations Development Programme. Schrank's work has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, among others. He received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Recipients

Martin Jorge Ardanaz
Columbia University, Political Science
Inequality, democracy and redistribution in Latin America
[ project summary ]
What determines the extent of income redistribution across Latin America? Cross country evidence on the distribution of income show that Latin America ranks at the top among world regions in terms of income inequality. While many factors influence the distribution of income and assets generated by the economy, the view of inequality as stemming only from pure market forces (e.g. globalization) is erroneous. In particular, politics, institutions and policies are crucial factors to explain distributive outcomes. The goal of my dissertation will be to analyze the political determinants of income redistribution and inequality in Latin America. In particular I want to study variation in the redistributive capacity of fiscal systems by looking at factors that affect both the demand for redistributive policies by citizens and the supply of such policies by politicians. As a working hypothesis, I argue that in the context of democratic regimes, variations in (1) the political organization of the poor, (2) linkages between parties and citizens/interest groups and (3) state capabilities are key explanatory forces behind politician’s choice of different mixes of fiscal policy that in turn affect distributive outcomes. In order to test this hypothesis, I will use a small-N research strategy to focus on two countries where redistributive polices have been recently implemented to successfully reduce inequality (Brazil and Chile) and a third country (Peru), where income inequality is exacerbated after the state’s fiscal intervention.
Javiera Barandiaran
University of California, Berkeley, Environmental Science and Public Policy
Environmental knowledge-production and sustainable development: between the university and the state
[ project summary ]
Revitalizing development studies implies improving our understanding of sustainable development, particularly how environmental science is used in collective decisions about natural resource use. Much of this knowledge is produced at universities, which have become the object of innovation policies to improve economic competitiveness. The higher education sector is changing; many of these policies are being adopted without considering developing countries’ differences with respect to developed countries. This process has gone particularly far in Chile, where three decades of liberalization have now fully transformed the higher education sector. As higher education becomes privatized, where are debates about sustainable development supposed to happen? What are the consequences for environmental science research and development goals? Shifting the research focus from “widget-production” to “knowledge-production” draws attention to university-state relationships and the role of national knowledge-creation and transfer capacity in social and economic development. As a nexus between citizens and workers, thinkers and producers, the upper and the lower classes, universities promote shared identities and define social and economic problems and opportunities. Through archival work and interviews with personnel at a range of knowledge-producing organizations in Chile, I will examine university-state relations, and the impact of organizational changes on universities’ envrionmental research agenda and knowledge-transfer practices.
Gabriela Calderon Guemez
Stanford University, Economics
Financial Education to Women Enterpreneur: A Field Experiment Approach
[ project summary ]
Researchers in development economics have embraced the use of field experiments to isolate and identify key causal mechanisms in the development process that could not have been identified otherwise using existing data. Despite recent attempts, a persistent puzzle is the observation that that some micro-entrepreneurs with low education are not efficiently running their businesses, i.e. setting prices below marginal cost and not profit maximizing. Working with an NGO in Zacatecas Mexico, CREA, I will randomly offer business training to micro-entrepreneurs, and with baseline and follow-up surveys, observe if firms become more efficient, and how. Randomization both within and across villages will provide the proper counterfactual to identify key aspects of the treatment. A further question this project will analyze is the transmission of information about business practices within communities. For some treated individuals, I will provide incentives to “become teachers” and thus compare the “natural” transmission mechanism of information in a community without these incentives. Knowledge learned from this field experiment will help inform the development community at large about potential inefficiencies in micro-enterprise that require government intervention.
Karen Ellis
University of Chicago, Political Science
Between Profit and Piety: Islamization in the Age of Globalization
[ project summary ]
Literature and policies about development in Islamic nation-states are peppered with assumptions of cultural backwardness, portraying populations that have declared the Sharia as the supreme law of the land as a problem for development. My research takes issue with claims that “Islamization” is necessarily incongruous with notions of profitability, economic growth and overall development. By comparing three cases that have recently attempted to implement an explicitly Islamic notion of finance, Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan, this project asks: what is the effect of Islamic finance on economic development? The objectives of my research are three. First, I aim to explicate why these countries chose to tackle underdevelopment by relying on self-described Islamic solutions to prevailing problems. Second, this project studies the strikingly varied political conditions under which Islamic economic solutions came to the fore. Third, I track the influence of interventions by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, on the politics of Islamic finance in these countries. In attending to the importance of institutions while also underscoring various interpretations of both finance and Islam, my work focuses specifically on the conditions under which banking practices and prohibitions against riba (interest) work to either promote or undermine development.
Carlos Luis Freytes Frey
Northwestern University, Political Science
Risky choices: financial liberalization and the political economy of debt and taxation in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
[ project summary ]
In spite of the neoclassical consensus that predicts a positive effect of financial liberalization on economic growth, empirical studies fail to confirm such an effect for developing countries. Addressing this seeming theoretical anomaly requires a more thorough understanding of the role of the state in channeling capital flows to developing countries. When it comes to the state’s revenue, governments face a temporal trade-off between debt and taxation. Access to international financing may enhance governance and facilitate economic reform in the short term by diluting distributive conflicts. Yet in the long run external indebtedness constrains policy choices and forces fiscal adjustment upon governments. Alternatively, increasing tax revenues requires sustained investment in state’s institutional capacities to extract resources from domestic actors and may be politically costly in the short run. What structural factors and institutional and political dynamics explain developing countries’ choices regarding the trade-off between taxation and debt over time? How do these choices shape the macroeconomic and political consequences of financial liberalization for developing countries? I intend to explore these questions by means of a comparative historical analysis of the politics of debt and taxation in Latin America since the late ‘70s.
Jason Jackson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Urban Studies and Planning
The Political Economy of Indian Institutional Reforms: The Dynamics of State-Society Relations and Industrial Upgrading
[ project summary ]
Despite significant economic reforms over the past twenty-plus years and increasing economic growth and structural transformation, it is held India needs to liberalize faster and more deeply in order to maximize its developmental potential. This argument is especially made with regards to the imperative to compete with China, which is seen as the high-flyer – the dragon versus the elephant rather than the dragon versus the tiger. The experience of Latin America and Eastern Europe provides reason for caution against programs of rapid and extensive liberalization. This is particularly so since in spite of – or perhaps because of – the nature and pace of India’s economic reforms, an examination of the Indian industrial landscape reveals significant success in a wide range of areas, not only in the much-touted software and pharmaceutical sectors that dominate headlines in the West, but also in manufactured goods, the very area where India has long been held to be most deficient, especially relative to ‘the world’s factory’, China. Thus, despite the criticisms of the relatively slow pace of reforms India has seen the emergence of globally competitive manufacturing industries with domestic firms very well represented. This empirical record raises the question of whether India managed to develop a strong industrial sector despite eschewing the conventional approach to liberalization or because of its unorthodox approach. If Indian success has been due to its heterodox approach to industrial development, rather than accelerating the pace of industrial upgrading, radically liberal institutional reform may kill the goose that lay the golden egg. A better understanding of the evolution of Indian institutions and their role in industrial upgrading is necessary to inform the way forward.
Sohini Kar
Brown University, Anthropology
Financing Development: Toward an Ethnographic Analysis of Microfinance and Banking in the Everyday
[ project summary ]
In recent years, there has been an increasing popularization of microfinance in development policy. In India, the problem of “financial exclusion” has been largely addressed through grassroots and non-governmental organizations that offer innovative solutions, often in rural settings. However, “the next billion” financially excluded urban households have evolved into an opportunity for the commercial banking industry. How then are the different kinds of institutional settings—private/public, financial/non-financial—for banking services understood and conceptualized by individuals accessing them? This research project aims to provide an ethnographic and qualitative analysis of the ways in which individuals accessing development funds through microfinance in Kolkata, India interact with financial institutions and its impact on and consequences for development policy. The ethnographic study of banking as an everyday practice offers an opportunity to understand how ideas of risk, speculation, and economic knowledge are circulated and reconfigured through the emergence of new economic technologies. In particular, as microfinance gets deployed as a development technique, there remain questions—particularly in light of the global financial crisis—about how these new kinds of financial services and products interact with social structures, including kin networks and neighborhood communities, as well as local ideas about money and value.
Nicolette D Manglos
University of Texas at Austin, Sociology
"Spirit, Power, and Behavior Change: Pentecostalism and Development in Ghana"
[ project summary ]
Pentecostalism is a fairly new religious movement that has grown significantly in the past century, particularly in Africa and Latin America. One of its hallmarks in less-developed countries is the claim that the moral transformation of individuals (i.e., supernaturally-motivated behavior change) can in turn effect development in society, alleviating social ills. Though their techniques are drastically different, this assumed connection between individual “risk” behaviors and community development is shared by much current development work in Africa (e.g. the “ABC” model of HIV prevention). Yet there is also a growing body of fieldwork suggesting that behavior change models of development have been stymied because they frequently underestimate moral dynamics at work as well as the structural constraints on the social behaviors of the poor. Potentially, Pentecostal and other local religious organizations could be a moderating factor for behavior change, providing locally-motivated models for more successful development programs. Using interviews with university students in Accra, Ghana, a hub of Pentecostalism in West Africa, this study seeks to answer two questions: 1) what effect does Pentecostal membership have on development behaviors such as entrepreneurial activity, education, and patterns of social relationships? 2) Which aspects of Pentecostal congregations appear to be motivating these changes?
Jacob I. Ricks
Emory University, Political Science
Politics and Constructing Social Capital: Irrigation Associations in Southeast Asia
[ project summary ]
Development scholars and practitioners have long explored the benefits of social capital to overcome collective action problems. They have also been cognizant of the difficulty of achieving and maintaining a level of social capital that is beneficial for both economic and political development. This dissertation argues, in correspondence with Theda Skocpol, that the state is intimately involved in the creation of institutions which can “scale up” social capital, or, as Peter Evans has argued, translate it from narrow local loyalties into an organizational structure efficient for development. Such action, though, is often difficult due to political, historical, and social factors. I will present a theoretical explanation for the role of the state in scaling up social capital, paying special attention to the political variables which affect the state’s ability to engage in institutional creation and implementation. The theory will then be comparatively tested by investigating the creation and implementation of a number of irrigation associations in two Asian countries: Thailand and Indonesia. These cases will also be compared to the relative success of Taiwan’s irrigation associations. Through rigorous qualitative research, I will assess the relative importance of politics, history, and sociological factors in accomplishing the developmental task of scaling up social capital. In essence, I hope to explain how social capital can be scaled up and under what conditions scaling up will occur.
Rebecca Senn Tarlau
University of California, Berkeley, Education
Rethinking Schools: Rural Development, Education and Collective Action in Brazil
[ project summary ]
Education is seen as the solution to a range of economic and social issues, however, exclusive focus on access to schools ignores critical questions about how education actually achieves development goals. This project focuses on the education system established by the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), the largest contemporary social movement in Latin America. The MST’s explicit goal is for schools not only to educate in the traditional sense, but to also organize youth and adults into agents for change and development in MST communities. The MST schooling system is based on the pedagogies of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and the idea that education can be used to help people in oppressive conditions collectively define solutions to improve their lives. Freirean educational practices have taken root around the globe, but there is still a lack of empirical studies that show how or if these educational processes are linked to social and economic development. Most studies of Freirean educational programs focus on individual personal transformations, because the link between personal transformation and education is easier to make. In this study, I will investigate the relationship between MST schools and development in MST rural communities across the country.
Sheba Tejani
New School, Economics
Economic Development and Feminization of the Labor force
[ project summary ]
My dissertation proposal tests and questions the widely accepted view that globalization is associated with the feminization of labor in the export-oriented sectors of manufacturing in developing countries. By feminization I mean a high female intensity of employment. I intend to investigate whether there has been a defeminization of labor as output has shifted to towards hi-tech manufactures in developing countries, as the gender wage gap has narrowed or as structural change has set in by developing an econometric model using a cross-country data set for the period 1990-2004. I will also attempt to understand the emerging patterns of the gender segregation of professions within the IT enabled industry in India by doing an in-depth and interdisciplinary qualitative study. This study is important for it reveals how gender hierarchies are perpetuated at the frontiers of a dynamic and globalized service sector industry in a developing country such as India.
John A Zinda
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Sociology
Transnational Encounters in Developing China's New National Parks
[ project summary ]
Transnational conservation organizations, local and national state organs, businesses, and local residents are collaborating to make new national parks in Diqing Prefecture of southwest China. These parks are the centerpiece of a development drive founded on cultural tourism and nature protection. Members of each group proclaim the parks a tremendous advance and vaunt their own contributions, yet each also begrudges the compromises that must be made. This proposed dissertation concerns how these actors turn globalizing ideas into particular manifestations of development, with attendant social and ecological consequences. What are the roles of the state, businesses, residents, and NGOs in establishing rules? How does conservation knowledge translate into rules and management practices? By tracing collaborations over development-via-conservation in specific institutional contexts, I will investigate how the processes of making and breaking relationships, through communicating knowledge and making, contesting, and implementing rules about conservation practices, facilitates the dialogue between what have seemed globally hegemonic conservation ideas and on-the-ground realities. While these collaborations are messy and contingent, they also reveal mechanisms through which actors with specific organizational, financial, political, and symbolic resources create and conduct conservation practices.