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Role of societal organizations in alleviating poverty is the topic of Steine lecture at Vanderbilt

May. 9, 2005, 10:51 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ñ Political economist Daron Acemoglu will discuss “Rethinking the Wealth of Nations” at Vanderbilt University on Wednesday, May 18. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is the 29th David Steine Memorial Seminar.

The lecture will be at 3:10 p.m. in Wilson Hall Room 126, and a reception with Acemoglu will follow.

Established in 1978 to honor the memory of David Steine, a professor of business administration in the College of Arts and Science from 1951 until his death in 1976, each Steine memorial lecture addresses an economic problem of interest to the general public. The lectureship has been endowed through the generosity of Steine‘s family, friends, colleagues and business associates.

Acemoglu will explore the impact of societal organizations on economic development, a subject crucial to the international debate on how to alleviate poverty. “Social scientists and philosophers have for centuries debated the sources of the poverty and wealth of nations. While some, like Machiavelli and Montesquieu, have emphasized the importance of environmental factors such as climate or geography, others have seen the primary causes in the organization of society or in ‘institutional‘ factors, broadly defined,” he says.

When considering such institutional factors, Acemoglu explains, “We have to look at the incentives that society provides to individuals in order to understand both the process of rapid economic growth over the past two centuries and the reasons for divergence across nations during this process.”

In his lecture, Acemoglu will consider when the organization of society may be expected to encourage economic development and when it may block it, and he will outline the challenges lying ahead for this research approach.

Acemoglu is the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught since 1993. He is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Centre for Economic Performance of the London School of Economics and the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London. Acemoglu is also the editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics and associate editor of the Journal of Economic Growth.

His research covers a wide range of areas within economics, with his most recent scholarship being on the role of political institutions in economic development. His current work explores the links among political structure, legal and market institutions and a nation‘s long-run rate of economic growth. It takes into account the differing effects of institutions established by colonial powers in North America, South America and Africa on economic development in countries in those regions.

His work has been widely published in leading scholarly journals, and he has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the award for best paper published in the Economic Journal in 1996, the inaugural T.W. Shultz Prize at the University of Chicago in 2004 and the inaugural Sherwin Rosen Award for outstanding contribution to labor economics in 2004.

In April, he received the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, awarded every two years to an American economist under the age of 40 for making a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. The Clark Medal has proven a predictor of future Nobel laureates.

Media contact: Susanne Hicks, (615) 322-NEWS