Raising a Nation: Perspectives on Growth and Development

The RAN course is the first of the two-course series in the Economic Development Certificate Program offered by the Center.

The course is open to advanced undergraduate and graduate students in Economics by permission of the instructors and the Harvard Business School. Students enrolled in the Master Programs of the Sofia University Faculty of Economics and Business Administration need only permission by the instructors and can receive credit towards the completion of their masters degree.

The course is offered every Fall semester. Please see the Syllabus for more details.

The RAN course is concerned with two key questions: Why are some countries so rich and others so poor? And what can economic policy do to change that? The large disparity in income levels that exists between First World and Third World countries stands as one of the most compelling and important questions for the economics profession. This interest in economic growth goes beyond mere intellectual curiosity. A good understanding of the process of growth and development is essential before making policy recommendations that could affect the standard of living of people around the world. Arguably, our misunderstanding of this process can and has had adverse consequences for some Third World countries.

In this semester, we aim to provide a broad survey of the theories that economists have for analyzing the issue of economic growth. What forces – social, economic, political, even cultural – might explain the differences in growth rates and income levels observed around the world? Does bad geography condemn certain countries to remain poor? Is having the right set of institutions more important than one’s resource endowments? How should we think of the roles that technological change and innovation play? Are countries ultimately dependent on a few gifted entrepreneurs – the Bill Gates and Richard Bransons of the world – to bring about growth and prosperity?

This course is unique in that we adopt a two-pronged approach in the class. On one level, we will pursue the economic theories proposed for explaining differences in growth outcomes across countries and the empirical evidence marshaled either for or against these theories. At the same time, we seek to ground our discussion in the real world by examining specific case studies that will shed more light on the relevance of these theories and speak to the more practical aspects of how policies are actually conducted. In short, this course attempts to offer a healthy balance between the perspectives of the academic researcher and the growth practitioner.

This course is designed for students who find such issues absorbing, and are prepared to invest the effort to acquire the analytical skills tackling questions in economic growth. The literature is vast and the reading list is ambitious, as we aim to cover most of the basic theory and empirical tools at an advanced graduate level. We hope that any student enrolling in this course will be able to leave with a strong understanding of the main strands and themes in the growth literature. We also have a much more humble aim to expose students to the basics of economic research, such as: how to read an economics paper, how to formulate testable hypotheses, how to go about empirically investigating the validity of a theory, and how to be critical about the limitations of one’s research strategy and results.

The workload for the semester is fairly challenging and expectations will be high. On a weekly basis, the readings that we have assembled involve a mix of both fairly accessible case studies, as well as technical papers.

Pre-requisites: Intermediate Microeconomics, Intermediate Macroeconomics, Multivariable Calculus, Econometrics.