How does a New York city block transform from brothels to boutiques? Can a benevolent dictator cause economic growth? The Success Project Podcast Series explores how development happens at levels you've never considered. The Success Project podcast series is made in collaboration with NYU’s graduate students. Host Will Compernolle invites scholars to present their research and discuss emerging issues in development and economics. Produced by Carmen Cuesta Roca.
The Bai Clansmen
Spanning over 24 generations, the descendants of Bai Yingshun have dispersed all over southeast Asia away from their homeland, the Chinese city of Longmen. Thousands of miles away from Longmen, the Bai maintain a strong sense of the identity of their forefathers in a way that has affected their economic outcomes. The story of the Bai suggests that, even outside the nation-state, an informal institution like an ethnic group can be a powerful force in shaping one's economic well-being. But what makes the Bai story unique? And how does it give insight into how a diaspora can provide a support system far from the original homeland? We talk with Kwee Hui Kian of the University of Toronto on this episode to learn more about the story of the Bai and how it aids in understanding development.
How Much Do Leaders Explain Growth?
Accounts of history often give credit to great leaders who presided over episodes of high economic growth. With high levels of variation in economic growth across space and time, it can appear that a key to economic growth is finding quality leadership. Further, some have put forth the idea that autocrats can be more effective than democratic leaders because they have to deal with less red tape. History is full of bad autocrats, but is it possible that a good autocrat can cause prosperity? With all the variables that can affect economic growth, how much does a leader influence the economic performance of a given area? William Easterly of New York University and DRI talks with us on this episode about how much credit we can give leaders in explaining economic growth.
The Murid Ethic and the Spirit of Entrepreneurship
The Muridiyya order, founded by the Senegalese Muslim cleric Ahmadu Bamba Mbacke at the turn of the twentieth century, has a strong ethos of mobility and entrepreneurship. Their history breaks free from more typical economic explanations of migration: the journey of Bamba led his followers to pursue paths to regions that on the surface appear to have little economic reasoning. Murids also exhibit a strong entrepreneurial spirit based on Bamba's teachings that is alive and well in the Murid identity more than a century later. Cheikh Anta Babou of the University of Pennsylvania talks with us on this episode to dig more into the story of the Murids, how their faith shapes their economic and cultural lives, and how their story can enrich our understanding of how development happens on smaller levels.
The European Origins of Economic Development
European colonialism involved atrocities for the indigenous people who lived on the land on which Europeans settled. It only makes sense that the effects of colonialism would persist hundreds of years later. One way to look at the effects of this history is to analyze the relationship between economic outcomes today and the intensity of European settlement during the colonial era. Europeans brought oppressive regimes and often set up institutions that were designed to extract wealth from the native population. But they also brought technologies and institutions that may be conducive to economic growth. So what can history tell us about how this tradeoff ended up centuries later? On this episode, we talk with William Easterly of New York University and Ross Levine of the University of California, Berkeley to find out a little more about the lasting effects of European colonialism.
The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways
Characteristics of our ancestors are often passed down through generations. A certain degree of economic performance and cultural values persist throughout time, but if we are taken out of the physical location of our ancestors, to what extent do these characteristics remain? A recent paper suggests a connection between the extent one's ancestors practiced an agricultural lifestyle and one's economic and education outcomes today. By looking at how ethnic groups made their living in Sub-Saharan Africa generations ago, there is some indication of how their descendants will fare in the future. Stelio Michelopolous of Brown University talks with us on this episode about this fascinating connection and how history can be an overlooked determinant in development.
Greene Street: A Long History of a Short Block
Between Houston and Prince Streets on Greene Street in lower Manhattan, one city block has undergone dramatic changes over the course of four centuries. Today this Greene Street block is home to luxury retail and expensive residences, but not too long ago it was filled with art galleries, brothels, and garment manufacturing. The shifts in the block's physical character and value were often sudden and totally unanticipated. Looking only at the nation-state level can obscure meaningful growth that occurs on much smaller levels, but how much can we learn from looking at just a city block? William Easterly of New York University tells us about this exciting and surprising history of one New York City block and what it can teach us about development.
useful addition to the development policy scene
Much great research is done on topics of development, and policy interest is commensurate — rightly so, as the stakes are high. This is a welcome to addition to let us consume even more of this content, and keep thinking.
Pace was slow, information incomplete
Heard about this on Slate Money. The interviewer needs to pose more probing questions. Going through the article to promote the thoughts of the authors did not bring alternate views to the discussion. Might listen to a few more, but the quality needs to improve.