Sixty Years of Development Economics: What Have we Learned for Economic Development?


If development economics is a body of thought aimed at helping countries catch up with others ahead of them, especially in per capita income, then it has to be one of the oldest fields in economics. As soon as England succeeded in industrializing ahead of its neighbors, development economics was born. It stimulated the design of accelerated industrialization strategies in France after the end of the Napoleonic wars, in Germany under Bismarck, in Russia after the abolition of serfdom, in the United States following the Civil War, and in Japan with the Meiji restoration. As an academic discipline, development economics was established in the mid-40s and early 1950s, some 60 years ago, with recessions in the industrialized economies wrecking the prior international division of labor where developing countries could rely on industrial imports in exchange for primary goods exports, and with newly independent countries emerging from the breakdown of colonial empires, both creating demand for guidelines in the catching up process. This 60th anniversary gives us an opportunity to look back at what has been achieved, derive lessons for the future, and simply celebrate a successful six decades of development economics and economic development.

de Janvry A., Sadoulet E., (2014) "Sixty Years of Development Economics: What Have we Learned for Economic Development?", Revue d’Economie du Développement, 2014/HS01 (Vol. 22), pp. 9-19