Agricultural economist Theodore Schultz opened his 1979 Nobel Prize acceptance speech as follows:
Most of the people in the world are poor, so if we knew the economics of being poor, we would know much of the economics that really matters. Most of the world’s poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture, we would know much of the economics of being poor. [Emphasis added] tweet
Awarded the prize jointly with W. Arthur Lewis, Schultz was recognized for his work on the concept of human capital in economic and agricultural development as well as for his “pioneering research into economic development… with particular consideration of the problems of developing countries.” Raised on a farm in South Dakota, Schultz was known for gaining theoretical insights from visits to farms and interviews with farmers. With such insights, he challenged many of the notions regarding the inefficiency of poor farmers in developing countries by demonstrating that these farmers were simply responding to the incentives and constraints of local agricultural policies. Schultz has also been recognized for successfully arguing that the agricultural sector has an important role to play in the growth of developing countries, bringing agricultural development back into the foreground of economics.
As researchers and graduate students in Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, we are inspired by Schultz’s belief that the economics of being poor is the economics that really matters. Through the dissemination and discussion of our work within the broader community of economists and development practitioners, we hope to kindle greater interest in and comprehension of the economics of poverty and agricultural development. We have founded this blog to facilitate an exchange of ideas, largely but not exclusively drawn from economic research, about how best to help the poor improve their living conditions. To keep us honest and motivated in our endeavor, we’ve adopted Schultz’s insight as to “the economics that really matters” as our moniker and motto.
Our objective is to encourage the exchange and development of research ideas and applications. We anticipate that this blog will provide space for the discussion of development economics both within and beyond the Cornell community. We welcome comments and contributions. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.