GY308      Half Unit
The Economic Geography of Growth and Development

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Olmo Silva STC 5.06a


This course is available on the BA in Geography, BSc in Economic History and Geography, BSc in Economics, BSc in Environment and Development, BSc in Environmental Policy with Economics and BSc in Geography with Economics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course will introduce students to the framework and tools used by economists to study the processes of growth and development, and analyse its determinants. After a short discussion of the basic modelling framework, the course will focus on empirical aspects. First, it will discuss the drawbacks and failures of simple models in which technological change fully determines the rate of growth of a country or region. Then it will present a set of enriching ingredients, which will allow for a better understanding of why different countries and regions around the world are characterised by different stages of development. The presentation of the material will be structured around four main blocks: Human Capital, Education and Growth; Trade and Globalization; the Role of Geography and History; and the New Institutional Paradigm. The course will close with a discussion of how the original framework worked out by economists back in ‘60s, coupled with new insights, provides a flexible tool to derive policy implications for growth and development.

Topics covered:

1. Stylized facts and a general economic framework for studying growth

2. Physical and human capital accumulation

3. Trade and globalization: their effects on growth and inequality

4. The Role of Geography and History

5. Institutions and growth


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of classes/seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures, in-person lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures across Lent Term.


This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to prepare for group discussion of some readings and hand in short essays. There is also a class debate (normally taking place after Reading Week during one of the students' assigned classes) where students are asked to work in small groups and deliver a presentation on an assigned debate topic.

Indicative reading

- Mankiw, G. (1995): “The Growth of Nations”, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, vol. 1.

- Van Reenen, J. and B. Sianesi (2003): “The Returns to Education: A Review of the Empirical Macro-Literature”, IFS Working Paper WP02/05 (appendix material is optional).

- Wolf, A. (2004): “Education and Economic Performance: Simplistic Theories and their Policy Consequences”, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, vol. 20.

- Edwards, L. and R. Lawrence (2010): “US Trade and Wages: The Misleading Implications of Conventional Trade Theory”, NBER Working Paper 16106.

- Frankel, J. and D. Romer (1999): “Does Trade Cause Growth?”, American Economic Review, vol. 89.

- Krugman, P., Richard C. and T.N. Srinivasan (1995): “Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences”, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, vol. 1 (excluding discussions).

-Autor, D., D. Dorn and G. Hanson (2012): “The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects of Import Competition in the United States”, NBER Working Paper 18054.

- Henderson, J. V., T. Squires, A. Storeygard, and D. Weil (2018): “The Global Distribution of Economic Activity: Nature, History and the Role of Trade”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 133(1).

- Nunn, N. and D. Puga (2012): “Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa”, Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 94(1).

- Persson, T. and G. Tabellini (1994): “Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?”, American Economic Review, vol. 84.

- Rodrik, D., A. Subramanian and F. Trebbi (2004): “Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions over Geography and Integration in Economic Development”, Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 9.

- Tabellini, G. (2010): “Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe”, Journal of the European Economics Association, vol. 8.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2021/22: 23

Average class size 2021/22: 12

Capped 2021/22: No

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills