Approximately 40 researchers from around the world gathered at the University of Notre Dame recently for an annual conference on poverty and development that included a presentation from a Nobel Prize winner.

The two-day Theoretical Research in Development Economics (ThReD) conference was co-sponsored by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Department of Economics, and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters.

ThReD focuses on increasing understanding of the causal mechanisms that determine wealth and poverty, and why some countries grow economically while others fail to do so.  

The conference addressed theories underlying development, from the diffusion of new technologies to culture and identity formation.

"Development isn’t just about measuring what is happening and the impacts of different policies,” said Faculty Fellow and organizer Joseph Kaboski, the David F. and Erin M. Seng Foundation Professor of Economics. “To think creatively about solutions, we need theories that help us piece together the evidence and help us understand the root causes of underdevelopment and development.”

The event, held May 10 and 11, drew economists and political scientists from Europe, Canada, and Africa for sessions on topics including premature mortality and corruption.

Among the speakers was Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson of the University of Chicago, who presented his research on how political decentralization affects accountability among local politicians in developing countries.

ThReD’s work ties into Kellogg’s research focus on human development and the university-wide emphasis on Catholic social teaching. 

“A lot of the questions ThReD addresses are about how to measure human flourishing and how to encourage it, and this is something Notre Dame and Kellogg are particularly interested in,” said Faculty Fellow Terry Johnson, an assistant professor of economics. “(Development) is not just about the calories you’re able to eat in a day. It encompasses the economic, social, and spiritual aspects of life, all of which are really important.

“It’s exciting to see a group of scholars digging deeper into all of these areas,” he added.