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LCS-DV201: Poverty: What causes it, and what it causes

Dr. Elliott Green, Associate Professor of Development Studies, Department of International Development, LSE

Course outline

The course is an interdisciplinary analysis of poverty in the developing world, where the focus is on poverty both as a dependent variable (what causes poverty) and an independent variable (what poverty causes).  The course will draw from a variety of disciplines but will pay special attention to the political economy of poverty; however, no prior mathematical or statistical qualification is required.

The course pays particular attention to the work of the Nobel-prize winning development economist Amartya Sen.  We examine his concept of capabilities, which changed the way people conceive of poverty both philosophically and practically, as well as his work on famines, both as regards his theory of entitlements and the relationship between democracy and famines.  However, the course is not just about Sen’s work.  We also focus on new work in development economics over the past decade.  Much of our attention will be on understanding poverty and a micro household or individual level, as well as on how governments and other actors can reduce poverty.  Thus we focus on the relationship between poverty and education, microinsurance and microcredit, and democratization.  We also ask whether poverty is a cause of violence, a topic that is hotly debated within the current literature on civil wars.  Finally, we conclude with a critical analysis of the Millennium Development Goals and prospects for poverty reduction in the 21st century.

Contingent upon local arrangements we plan to spend one day outside the classroom talking to government officials about poverty reduction policies in South Africa, either in the Cape Town city government or the Western Cape government.

There is one required text for this course:

  • Sen, Amartya. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Full course outline 

About the instructor


Dr Elliott Greenis Associate Professor of Development Studies in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  

He holds degrees from Princeton University (BA) and the LSE (MSc, PhD) and has been teaching at the LSE since he received his PhD in 2005. 

Dr Green sits on the editorial boards of both the Journal of Modern African Studies and the Journal of Development Studies, and has published widely on such issues of decentralization, nationalism, ethnic conflict and patronage politics in Africa. 

His current research focuses on the political demography of modern Africa with special attention to migration and urbanization and with particular interest in Uganda, Tanzania and Botswana, among other countries.