In response to Stefan’s Wordle, Tyler Cowen muses:
I wonder sometimes why Latin America is overstudied in development economics and similarly, why World Bank employees are often keen to work in that region. How much is a) absence of jet lag from the U.S., b) relative ease of learning Spanish and Portuguese, and c) lower population densities than Asia, which in some ways make visits more pleasant, or d) income inequality, which means that life is quite good for visitors? Are there other factors?
Less jet lag I can get behind, but I’d be shocked if it explained the gap. Language and cultural affinity could explain much of the gap between Latin America and Asia, but not the research gap between Latin America and Africa. Researchers operate in English and French across Africa, and it’s hard to find lower population densities or greater income inequality.
One possibility: there are many more Latin American economists than African ones. I don’t have figures, but I bet if you tallied all the PhD students in the top 20 econ programs, 10 or even 20 percent would be from Latin America. I would be surprised if you found more than a handful of Africans. This is partly because Africa and its universities are poorer, and have poorer links to their American cousins, but also because I seldom see an interest in the study of economics in Africa. A relative absence of role models?
But the biggest reason we see fewer economic studies in Africa: less data. Latin American countries are an order of magnitude richer (or more) and tend to have well-developed statistical agencies and national survey data.Virtually no panels exist in Africa, and data is harder to access.
All the same, I bet when Stefan runs the same exercise for 2010-15, we may see Africa outpolling Latin America, largely thanks to people like Michael Kremer.
P.S. Bill Easterly has a worthy idea.
P.P.S. There is room for hope.