Seminar: Economic and Political Development in Latin America

Course content

Latin America has left behind a long era of structural political instability and disappointing results in terms of economic development. Poverty has declined, and income distribution has gotten less unequal in almost every country during the last decades, essentially due to a combination of better macro performance and successful social policies for redistribution. Most of Latin American countries, though, still face important obstacles to consolidating this trend of progress, especially in terms of implementing necessary reforms in key areas like education, democracy and governance; and in closing still large inequality gaps in several areas.

The purpose of the seminar is getting a deeper understanding of these specific economic and political aspects of development in Latin America, based on short empirical studies that look at different angles of development in this region, and explore the potential mechanisms at work.

Participants can choose any topic as a frame for her or his individual paper. Examples are:

  • Government and democracy

  • History and institutions

  • Civil conflict and the state

  • Ecucation

  • Health

  • Economic growth and inequality

  • Conditional cash-transfers and microfinance

  • Impact evaluation and field experiments

  • Growth diagnostics



MSc programme in Economics

The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics

Learning outcome

After completing the seminar, the student should be able to:


  • identify relevant economic and political aspects for the process of development in general, and for Latin America in particular,

  • gauge their contribution to the overall process of development, and

  • present theories and empirical evidence supporting their arguments;


  • design a research strategy to conduct empirical analysis on a development topic,

  • interpret and evaluate the validity and robustness of empirical results, and

  • relate the results to existing research on the topic.


  • communicate the results of own empirical analysis and theoretical argumentation, in the context of an academic discussion,

  • incorporate suggestions received from external revisions of one’s own work, and

  • provide constructive criticism to others’ work.

Planning/start-up meeting, research and writing process of the seminar paper, sessions with presentation of own paper and critical evaluation/feedback to another student´s paper, actively participating in discussions at class.

Before the session a "so-finalized-as-possible"-draft of the paper must be uploaded in Absalon. After the presentations, the student submit an edited version of the paper in the Digital Exam portal as the final exam paper. The aim is that students use the presentation sessions as an opportunity to receive and use the constructive feedback to improve the paper.

Government and democracy

  • Chang, Roberto, Constantino Hevia and Norman Loayza (2010), “Privatization and Nationalization Cycles”, NBER Working Paper No. 16126.

  • Scartascini, Carlos, Ernesto Stein and Mariano Tommasi (eds., 2010), “How Democracy Works: Political Institutions, Actors, and Arenas in Latin American Policymaking”. IADB and David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University.

  • Baland, Jean-Marie, and James A. Robinson (2008), “Land and Power: Theory and Evidence from Chile”. American Economic Review 98(5), 1737-1765.


History and institutions

  • Dell, Melissa (2010), “The Persistent Effects of Peru's Mining Mita”. Econometrica 78(6): 1863-1903.

  • Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson (2008), “The Persistence and Change of Institutions in the Americas”. Southern Economic Journal 75(2), 282–299.


Civil conflict and the state

  • Dube, Oeindrila, and Juan Vargas (2013), “Commodity Price Shocks and Civil Conflict: Evidence from Colombia”. Review of Economic Studies, Feb 2013.

  • Acemoglu, Daron, James A. Robinson and Rafael J. Santos (2009), “The Monopoly of Violence: Evidence from Colombia”. Mimeo, Harvard University.

  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2010), “The destabilizing influence of drug trafficking on transit countries: The case of cocaine”. Ch. 3 in World Drug Report 2010. UN Publications, New York.



  • Urquiola, Miguel, and Eric Verhoogen (2009), “Class size caps, sorting, and the regression- discontinuity design”.  American Economic Review 99(1), 179-215.

  • Calderón, Valentina, and Miguel Urquiola (2006), “Apples and oranges: Educational enrollment and attainment across countries in Latin America and the Caribbean”. International Journal of Educational Development 26: 572-590.

  • Urquiola, Miguel (2006), “Identifying class size effects in developing countries:  Evidence from rural Bolivia.” Review of Economics and Statistics 88(1), 171-177.

  • Hsieh, Chang-Taim, and Miguel Urquiola (2006), “The effects of generalized school choice on achievement and stratification: Evidence from Chile's school voucher program.”  Journal of Public Economics 90, 1477-1503.


Conditional cash-transfers and microfinance: impact evaluation and field experiments

  • Calderón, Maria Cecilia, and Jere Behrman (2009), “Case Study on IFPRI and Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and Non-Conditional Cash Transfer (NCCT) Programs”. Impact Assessment Discussion Paper no. 30, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

  • Karlan, Dean, Margaret McConnelly, Sendhil Mullainathanz and Jonathan Zinmanx (2010), “Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving”. Mimeo, Yale University.

  • Karlan, Dean, and Jonathan Morduch (2009), “Access to Finance”. Ch. 2 in Handbook of Development Economics, vol. 5, Dani Rodrik and Mark Rosenzweig, eds.

  • Conger, Lucy, Patricia Inga and Richard Webb (2009), “The Mustard Tree: A History of Microfinance in Peru”, Editorial Universidad de San Martín de Porres, Lima.


Growth diagnostics

  • Rodrik, Dani (2010), “Diagnostics before Prescription.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 24(3): 33-44.

  • Velasco, Andrés (2008), “Why Doesn’t Latin America Grow More, and What Can We Do About It?” Working Paper 2008-0115, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.

  • Hausmann, Ricardo, Dani Rodrik and Andrés Velasco (2008), “Growth Diagnostics”, in J. Stiglitz and N. Serra, eds., The Washington Consensus Reconsidered: Towards a New Global Governance, Oxford University Press, New York.


Development economics; and simple regression analysis and instrumental variables from Econometrics I are requisites.

Students will benefit from having taken: Advanced Development Economics: Macro Aspects, Applied Econometric Policy Evaluation, and Economic History – but these courses are not requisites.

• Planning meeting: Monday September 4, 2017, 12-13
• Extra days of introducing teaching: Monday Sept 11 and 18, 13-15
• Deadline commitmentpaper: In agreement with the lecturer and not later than 1st of October.
• Deadline of pre-paper uploaded to Absalon: Week 43
• Presentations/Workshops: Week 44

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
- a seminar paper in English that meets the formal requirements for written papers stated in the curriculum and at KUNet for seminars.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The student must in a satisfactory way demonstrate that he/she has mastered the learning outcome of the course and the objectives stated in the Curriculum.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • Project work
  • 186
  • English
  • 206