Development Economics


The Development Economics field (DEV) develops student expertise in the economics of growth and development with a focus on agriculture, food security, agricultural productivity analysis, agricultural marketing policy, and the performance of food value chains. The DEV field is supported by the Department’s long history of commitment to international and regional development, a world-class external funding model, and over fifty years of applied field research, data collection, policy engagement, and capacity strengthening in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.


Faculty working in the DEV field have expertise in field experiments, quasi-experimental methods, and applied econometrics. These and other methods are applied to marketing and value chain analysis, food security policy, farm household economics, sustainable agriculture, agricultural technology development and adoption, rural nonfarm enterprises, land tenure, property rights, and other aspects of economic development. Faculty in the field collaborate extensively with graduate students and those working in other fields across the Department, as well as with researchers from other disciplines.


DEV research programs cover a broad range of topics including the economics of productivity growth, technology adoption, economic growth and transformation, sustainable agriculture, property rights, food security, food system analysis, impact evaluation, and policy analysis. 

The DEV field provides extensive opportunities for graduate students to pursue fieldwork in developing countries. Such fieldwork is often done in conjunction with long-term projects such as those funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Other projects are funded by the World Bank, U.S. foundations, and projects in collaboration with international agricultural research centers. 

These graduate research experiences usually involve participation in project design, field data collection, collaborative activities with other research institutions, and outreach to developing country policy-makers and donors. 

Graduate students play a key role in implementing these international projects, thereby gaining valuable international experience as well as research and research management experience.   

Course Programs

Ph.D. students with a major field in DEV take two required courses: 

  • AFRE 861 Agriculture in Economic Development
  • AFRE 961 Advanced Agricultural Development Economics 

In addition, the Ph.D. DEV major requires one additional course from the following menu: 

  • AFRE 841 Analysis of Food System Organization and Performance
  • AFRE 874 Empirical Methods for Field Research in Developing Countries 
  • AFRE 932 Information Economics and Institutions in Agriculture and Natural Resources

Ph.D. students can also choose from a range of other courses, both in and outside the Department, to support their DEV interests and meet other program course requirements. 

Master's students with an interest in development economics put together a suitable course program in consultation with their major professor and guidance committee. 

One graduate specialization is available to students in DEV: the graduate specialization in international development, administered by the College of Social Science.

DEV students interested in regional economic issues can build a program in that area by following the recommendations for specializing in Regional Economics and State and Local Government Policy