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20 influential development economists in 2024

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This article includes 20 of the top development economists worldwide in 2024. These experts are shaping development economics in a diverse range of geographies and subject areas. Below are their main research areas, a brief biography, and, when available, their social media links. Follow them today or check out their publications for insights into their work and emerging market news.  

1. Esther Duflo

randomized control experiments | poverty alleviation | financial inclusion | social policy

Duflo is a French-American economist who earned a Master’s degree at the Paris School of Economics and then a Doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After graduating from MIT, she co-founded the J-PAL Poverty Action Lab to help inform policymakers about how to alleviate global poverty by carrying out randomized control experiments. In 2019, Duflo won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences; she is the youngest person and second woman to do so.

2. James Heckman

early childhood education | econometrics | microeconomics | labor economics

James Heckman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2000 for the Heckman equation, which is used to correct bias in non-randomly selected samples. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and Director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development. Heckman’s studies focus on the efficacy of early childhood education programs.


3. Simplice Anutechia Asongo

inclusive social development | communication and information | economic policy

Simplice Asongu is Lead Economist and Director of the African Governance and Development Institute in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Also a professor at the University of Cape Town, his educational background includes a PhD from Oxford Brookes University in the UK.

4. Nancy Qian

China | development economics | political economy | historical development

Nancy Qian is Professor of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences at Northwestern University, and previously taught at Yale University. Qian co-directs the Global Poverty Research lab, and founded the China Econ Lab. She received her PhD in Economics from MIT. Alongside her academic work, she has published many articles and opinion pieces in media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio.


5. Shang-Jin Wei

international finance | trade | China’s economy

Shang-Jin Wei is a professor at Columbia University, where he teaches international affairs, Chinese business and economy, and finance and economics. From 2014-2016, he served as Chief Economist and Director General of Economic Research and Regional Cooperation at the Asian Development Bank. He received his PhD and M.S. in economics and finance, respectively, from the University of California, Berkeley.

6. Dani Rodrik

globalization | economic growth | political economy | inclusive economies

Dani Rodrik is a Turkish economist and professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In line with these interests, he is the co-director of the Reimagining the Economy Program and the Economics for Inclusive Prosperity Network. He studied at Robert College in Istanbul and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts prior to receiving his MPA and PhD from Princeton University. Rodrik was also highlighted in FocusEconomics’ article on top economic influencers to follow.


7. Edward Miguel

Sub-Saharan African Development | research transparency | health, environment and productivity

Edward Miguel is an American development economist who is currently the Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He also serves as Faculty Director of the Center for Effective Global Action.

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8. Pascaline Dupas

fieldwork | poverty alleviation | policy | health

Pascaline Dupas is Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She studies the challenges facing poor households in lower-income countries and the root causes of these difficulties, with the aim of finding interventions and policies that reduce global poverty effectively. Her extensive fieldwork includes projects on education policy in Ghana, government-subsidized health insurance in India, and family planning policy in Burkina Faso. Dupas received a National Science Foundation CAREER award from the U.S. government in 2013 and the Best Young French Economist Prize from the U.S. government in 2015.


9. Stefan Dercon

African development | poverty | policy

Stefan Dercon is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department of the University of Oxford. Dercon also teaches economic policy at Oxford’s Jesus College. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Previously, he was Chief Economist of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and he served as a policy advisor to several UK Foreign Secretaries. His research centers on poverty, its determinants, and how to reduce it.

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10. Karthik Muralidharan

development economics | public economics | labor economics

Karthik Muralidharan is an Indian development economist and is the Tata Chancellor’s Professor of Economics at the University of California, San Diego. Muralidharan gained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard, an M.Phil. in Economics from Cambridge (UK), and then a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard. He is also the co-founder and scientific director at the Centre for Effective Governance of Indian States (CEGIS).


11. Sabina Alkire

welfare economics | development economics | ethics

Sabina Alkire is an academic and Anglican priest. In addition to serving as Professor of Poverty and Human Development at Oxford University, she is also the director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). She and fellow OPHI member James Foster developed the Alkire-Foster method for measuring multidimensional poverty.

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12. Christopher Udry

agriculture and rural economies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Christopher Udry is an American development economist. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and eventually earned a PhD from Yale University. He is currently a professor at Northwestern University. In 2017, he co-founded the Global Poverty Research Lab and serves as co-director.


13. Naila Kabeer

poverty | gender | social policy

Naila Kabeer is Professor of Gender and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences—where she received her PhD—in the Department of International Development. She previously served as President of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) and serves on the editorial board of several journals related to development, gender and development.


14. Ricardo Hausmann

development policy | economic growth | economic diversification

Ricardo Hausmann has held several notable titles throughout his career: Venezuelan Minister of Planning, Venezuelan Central Bank Board Member, and Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank. He currently serves as Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Growth Lab and is also a professor of International Political Economy. Hausmann was pivotal in the development of several widely used concepts in economics such as dark matter, product space and economic complexity.


15. Hernando de Soto

economic regulation | informal economies

Hernando de Soto is a Peruvian economist and businessman, widely known for his influential advisory work for the Peruvian government and the publication of books on development economics, including The Mystery of Capital and The Other Path. De Soto is the current President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, which promotes economic development in Lima, Peru. In 2021, he ran for President in Peru.

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16. Pinelopi Goldberg

international trade | development economics | applied microeconomics

Pinelopi Goldberg is currently Professor of Economics and Affiliate of the Economic Growth Center at Yale University. Previously, she served as Chief Economist of the World Bank Group, President of the Econometric Society, and Vice-President of the American Economic Association. Her research focuses on international trade and development policy. Goldberg received a diploma in Economics from the University of Freiburg in Germany and a PhD in Economics from Stanford University.


17. Daron Acemoğlu

political economy | inequality | economic development and growth

Daron Acemoğlu is a Turkish-American economist who co-wrote the well-known book Why Nations Fail with James A. Robinson. He is a professor at MIT and director of the MIT Shaping the Future of Work Initiative.


18. Gita Gopinath

international finance | macroeconomics | exchange rates | international financial crises | debt | monetary policy

Gita Gopinath is an Indian-American economist who has served as the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund—the Fund’s second-highest post—since early 2022. Previously, she was the IMF’s Chief Economist between 2019 and 2022. At the IMF, she has led groups tackling important and timely issues such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. Gopinath’s academic career includes several economics degrees from top universities in India and the U.S., and faculty positions at Harvard and the University of Chicago. In 2021, the Financial Times named her among the “25 most influential women of the year”. Gopinath was also included in our article on top economic influencers to follow.


19. Abhijit Banerjee

development economics | economic theory

Banerjee is an Indian-American economist who is the co-founder and co-director of the J-PAL Poverty Action Lab. Banerjee completed an MA in Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Dehli, India, and then went on to do a PhD in Economics at Harvard. In 2019, he received the Nobel prize in Economic Sciences alongside Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their shared work on experimental methods for development economics. He is a tenured professor at MIT.

20. David McKenzie

migration | small businesses | impact evaluation methods

Hailing from New Zealand, David McKenzie is currently a lead economist at the World Bank’s Development Research Group, within the Finance and Private Sector Development Unit. McKenzie received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and then attained a PhD in Economics from Yale University. Previously, he taught Economics at Stanford University.

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If we missed one of your favorite development economists, let us know who you would like to see included in the future by writing to 

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