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The Absent Voices of Development Economics

Development economics focuses on improving the well-being of billions of people in low-income countries, but the Global South is severely underrepresented in the field. A small number of rich-country institutions dominate, and their growing use of randomized controlled trials in research is entrenching the imbalance.

NEW DELHI – The lack of representation of marginalized groups in the corridors of power – political, financial, and cultural – is a growing source of global concern. Knowledge confers power, so who creates it matters. As the Nobel laureate economist Paul Samuelson famously said, “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws…if I can write its textbooks.”

Development economics focuses on improving the well-being of billions of people in low-income countries, but the Global South is severely underrepresented in the field. Unfortunately, a small number of rich-country institutions have appropriated it, with serious consequences. And the problem appears to be getting worse.

Consider the Journal of Development Economics, a leading outlet for research papers in the field. Neither the journal’s editor nor any of its ten co-editors are based in a developing country. Just two of its 69 associate editors are, with Africa and Asia completely unrepresented.

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