ECON304: Economic Development

Course Syllabus for "ECON304: Economic Development"

Please note: this legacy course does not offer a certificate and may contain broken links and outdated information. Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub (you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). To find fully-supported, current courses, visit our Learn site.

This course introduces major theories of economic development and to place them in a historical context. In his contributory introduction “Economic Growth, Economic Development and Human Development” in The Development Economics Reader (2008), edited by Giorgio Secondi and published by Routledge, Secondi defines economic development as the “branch of economics that studies relatively poor countries.” In the same book, Mahbub ul Haq, writing under the title “The Human Development Paradigm,” suggests that the “basic purpose of development is to enlarge people’s choices,” which is in line with the views expressed by the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Whether development is simply studying poor countries or expanding people’s choices in poor countries, one of the essential requirements is that there must be a means for making the choices available. This means that economic development must include growth, but growth can take place without economic development. Without economic growth, the choices cannot be expanded. At the same time, however, economic growth can take place and people’s choices can still be limited. Therefore, economic development requires economic growth, but the inverse is not required. Indeed, Pearce defines economic development as “the process of improving the standards of living and well-being of the population of developing countries by raising per capita income” (1992). In essence, theories of economic development attempt to explain the process that less developed countries (LDCs) go through to become developed countries (DCs). Further, because economic development is more than economic growth and involves changes in all aspects of the society, both social and political, the discipline tends to be interdisciplinary, drawing from other social sciences such as sociology and geography. In this course, in addition to discussing the theories of development, we will also try to explain how the theories are applied and how successful they have been in explaining the development patterns of various countries. The oft cited example of Ghana and Malaysia might be instructive at this point. Both countries gained independence from the British in 1957 (Ghana a few months earlier in March and Malaysia in August). At the time, both countries were roughly at the same level of development. If you fast forward to the 2000s, Malaysia’s per capita GDP is five times that of Ghana’s per capita GDP; it is $16,200 in Malaysia and $3,100 in Ghana. The literacy rate in Malaysia is 88.7% and 67.3% in Ghana. Malaysia has 11 times more physicians per 1,000 people than Ghana, and life expectancy is 74.04 in Malaysia but 61.45 in Ghana. There are many questions which the development economist wants the answers to, but mainly this boils down to:  What accounts for the vast differences in the many measures of human development indices? We study economic development to learn from the Malaysians so that we can offer useful advice to the Ghanaians. The units in this course are stacked as building blocks; each successive unit depends on a thorough understanding of the previous unit. The course begins with some of the stylized facts of the countries classified as developing countries. You will find that they are not all alike. Some countries, such as the oil rich ones, may have a very high per capita GDP. You will learn the definitions of major terms and concepts. The sections that follow the introductory unit outline the major theories of economic development, tracing their development throughout history as the dialogue on development economics has progressed. Finally, the course will present a number of development successes and failures and will prompt you to draw your own conclusions on the validity of certain theories based on case studies.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • define economic development and its components;
  • describe major theories of economic development;
  • explain and apply some basic economic models related to economic development and economic growth, including the Solow Growth model and its extensions;
  • identify and discuss economic development theories in the social and political context in which they were created; and
  • critically examine economic development theories in light of a history of poor performance in development programs.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband Internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    be competent in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed the following courses from the “Core Program” of the Economics discipline: ECON101: Principles of Microeconomics and ECON102: Principles of Macroeconomics.

Course Information

Welcome to ECON304: Economic Development. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Samuel K. Andoh

Primary Resources: This coursecomprises a range of different free, online materials. However, it makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: Before taking this course, you should have completed ECON101: Principles of Microeconomics and ECON202: Principles of Macroeconomics. These pre-requisites lay the foundation for understanding the advanced material in ECON304. Pay special attention to Unit 1 as this lays the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in the latter units of this course. You have to work through each unit of this course and all of its assigned materials. You will also need to complete:

  • Unit 1 Activities
  • Subunit 2.5.2 Assessment
  • Subunit 2.5.3 Assessment
  • Subunit 2.6 Assessment
  • Unit 2 Activity
  • Unit 3 Activity
  • Subunit 4.3 Assessment
  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for it, you will need to work through the assessments and activities listed above as well as all of the reading material in the course.

In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: Completing this course should take you a total of approximately 61 hours. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. The time advisory includes the estimated time you should expect to devote to reading through the resources and completing any assignments that may be included. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 12 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Monday night; subunits 1.2 and 1.3 (a total of 4.5 hours) on Tuesday night; subunits 1.4 and 1.5 as well as the activity (a total of 4 hours) on Wednesday night; etc.

Tips/Suggestions: It is important to pay close attention to the new terminologies you encounter in this course and every other course. You may think you know what words mean, but as used by economists, these words have technical meanings. Spend the time to study the new vocabulary, and it will pay handsome dividends.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.