Small World: Poverty and Development on a Shrinking Planet


Fall 2013, Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 quarters

Taught by

economics, political economy, statistics


This program requires the equivalent of a year of economics, politics or modern world history, or alternatively, prior personal experience in international development work.

There are billions of poor people in the world today, and even more who have limited access to health care, education and political and cultural opportunities. The word commonly used to refer to the process of economic growth and the expansion of opportunity is development—but there is enormous disagreement over how this word should be understood or even whether it should be used at all. This program will examine development on multiple levels: historical, philosophical, political and economic. It will place the quest for development in the context of European colonial expansion, military conflict and the tension between competing cultural frameworks. In doing this, it will combine “outside” views of development, as seen by administrators and experts, with the “inside” views of people who are most directly affected by development and its absence. At the same time, there will be a strong push toward usable knowledge: learning the skills that are essential for people who work in the field of development and want to make a dent in this radically unequal world.

Economics will be an important contributor to our knowledge base; the program will offer introductory-level micro- and macroeconomics, with examples drawn from the development experience. Just as important is statistics, since quantitative methods have become indispensable in development work. We will learn about survey methodology and techniques used to analyze data. 

Another basis for this program is the belief that economics, politics and lived experience are inseparable. Just as quantitative techniques are used to shed light on people’s experiences, their own voices are essential for making sense of the numbers and can sometimes overrule them altogether. We will read literature that expresses the perspective of writers from non-Western countries, view films and consider other forms of testimony. The goal is to see the world, as much as possible, through their eyes as well as ours.

Spring quarter will be devoted primarily to research. It will begin with a short, intensive training in research methods, based on the strategy of deeply analyzing a few papers to see how their authors researched and wrote them. After this, depending on the skills and interests of students, an effort will be made to place them as assistants to professional researchers or, if they prefer, they can pursue their own projects. We will meet as a group periodically to discuss emerging trends in development research and practice, as well as to help each other cope with the difficulties in our own work. By the end of three quarters, students should be prepared for internships or further professional studies in this field.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

development, international relations, economics, political economy, postcolonial studies and public health.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Special Expenses

Approximately $463 to attend the Midwest International Economic Development Conference ($40 registration plus estimated costs for lodging, airfare, and meals). 


Date Revision
March 24th, 2014 Special expense added in spring.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 10145
Jr - Sr (1-16 credits): 10608

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Accepting New Students


In addition to the fall prerequisites, new admits must have skills in introductory statistics and international finance. Winter program work will assume that students know how to download and interpret statistical data from the web and that they are familiar with the system of foreign exchange markets and international capital flows that frame the options available to governments in low income countries.  Prior work in statistics and international economics would be sufficient; otherwise new admits may have to complete 4-5 assignments in statistics and economics from fall quarter.

Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 20140
Jr - Sr (1-16 credits): 20347

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Enrollment Closed

Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 30123
Jr - Sr (1-16 credits): 30272

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