Conference on the Economics of Asset Dynamics and Poverty Traps

pastoralist in Africa

While the world has seen much progress in economic growth and poverty reduction over the last few decades, the persistence of extreme poverty and its increased concentration in specific places, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, has stimulated renewed interest in the processes of economic development. While much research has been done investigating these issues, our understanding of the complexities of asset dynamics and its heterogeneity across households remains incomplete. This indicates a need for a scholarly review and evaluation of the factors affecting capital formation and resulting productivity and income dynamics, with a focus on empirical analyses conducted at a micro-economic level. Such a need provided the main motivation for this conference.

The goal of this workshop was to bring together empirical researchers with modelers working in the area of economic growth and poverty reduction. The workshop comprised four lines of inquiry: 1/ nutrition, health and human capital formation; 2/ missing and incomplete financial markets; 3/ the psychology of poverty, hope and aspirations; and 4/ dynamics and resilience in natural resources and agriculture. Each line of inquiry featured original papers written by researchers doing especially innovative work in this area, aiming for two or three papers for each of the four areas of focus and a total of about 12 papers. Each paper had a prominent discussant followed by an open audience discussion after its presentation. There was also a session specifically covering policy implications, and a lively round table with high level participants from the World Bank, USAID, and other organizations.

Presenter videos:




View coverage of the conference on the blog Economics That Really Matters.

(Please click on the presentation titles to access the currently available slides.)

Day 1:
Tuesday, June 28

Mechanism 1: Nutrition, Health and Human Capital Formation

  • Shocks and Nutrition, Health and Human Capital
    Duncan Thomas, Duke University and NBER
    Elizabeth Frankenberg, Duke University and NBER
  • Poverty and Cognitive Function
    Heather Schofield, University of Pennsylvania
    Frank N. Schilbach, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Emma Boswell Dean, University of Pennsylvania
  • Discussant: John F. Hoddinott, Cornell University

Mechanism 2: Psychology of Poverty, Hope and Aspirations

Mechanism 3: Imperfect and Incomplete Financial Markets

Mechanism 4: Dynamics and Resilience in Natural Resources and Agriculture

Day 2:
Wednesday, June 29

Policy in the Presence of Poverty Trap Mechanisms

Lunch Speaker: Makhtar Diop, The World Bank

Policy Implications Roundtable

  • Kaushik Basu, The World Bank
  • Greg Collins, USAID
  • Chris Barrett, Cornell University