2014 Annual Conference "Cities and Development: Urban Determinants of Success"

DRI's annual conference took place on November 18, 2014 in the Rosenthal Pavilion of NYU Kimmel Center.  350 guests attended to hear the presentations and discuss research that examines cities as dynamic units at which development happens. The event was co-hosted by the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.

Program and Speakers:

Download the conference program with speaker bios here.

Photographs (courtesy of Dave Anderson):

[shareprints gallery_id="5803" gallery_type="filmstrip" gallery_position="pos_center" gallery_width="width_100" image_size="xlarge" image_padding="0" theme="light" image_hover="false" lightbox_type="slide" comments="false" sharing="true"]Videos (courtesy of Dave Anderson):


[expand title="Click to view the conference abstract"] The success and failure of cities reveal powerful development forces which are hard to see on a national scale. Ideology, policy, risk, and the spread of people, goods and ideas operate in unique ways in urban environments. "Cities and Development: Urban Determinants of Success" presents city-level analyses that bring new perspectives to development debates. [/expand]



[expand title="Click to view the abstract for Paul Romer's 'The Power of the Grid'"]

In coming decades, urban populations will grow fastest in places where government capacity is most limited. If governments set the right priorities, these limits need not preclude successful urban economic development. The history of New York City shows that a government with limited capacity can implement measures that cost little, have a high social rate of return, increase its future tax base, and encourage the development of norms that support the rule of law. The Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 defined and protected a network of public space in the city’s expansion area that could then be used to encourage mobility, provide utilities, and directly enhance the quality of urban life. City governments that focus first on this foundation and then follow with laws and a system of enforcement that protect public health and limit violence can create urban environments in which private actions can drive successful economic development. [/expand]



[expand title="Click to view the abstract for Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi's 'A Long History of a Short Block: Four Centuries of Development Surprises on a Single Stretch of a New York City Street'"]

National and even city aggregates can conceal dynamism at smaller scales. A history of one block in Manhattan over more than a century shows how it had many ups and downs and many turbulent transitions, but twice achieved unexpected and remarkable success. (Work is co-authored with Steven Pennings.) [/expand]




[expand title="Click to see the abstract and get the paper download link of Alain Bertaud's 'The Effects of Top-Down Design versus Spontaneous Order on Housing Affordability: Examples from Southeast Asia''"]

The spatial structure of large cities is a mix of top-down design and spontaneous order created by markets. Top-down design is indispensable for the construction of metropolitan-wide infrastructure, but as we move down the scale to individual neighborhoods and lots, spontaneous order must be allowed to generate the fine grain of urban shape. At what scale level should top-down planning progressively vanish to allow a spontaneous order to emerge? And what local norms are necessary for this spontaneous order to result in viable neighborhoods that are easily connected to a metropolitan-wide infrastructure? Examples from Southeast Asia show that an equilibrium between top-down designed infrastructure and neighborhoods created through spontaneous order mechanisms can be achieved. This equilibrium requires the acknowledgement by the government of the contribution of spontaneous order to the housing supply. Spontaneous order ignored or persecuted by government results only in slums. Download paper here. [/expand]



[expand title="Click to view the abstract for Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 'Small Is Beautiful--But Also Less Fragile"]

We use fragility theory to show the effect of size and response to uncertainty, how distributed decision-making creates more apparent volatility, but ensures long term survival of a system. Simply, economies of scale are more than offset by stochastic diseconomies from shocks and there is such a thing as a “sweet spot” in optimal size. We show how city-states fare better than large states, how mice and small species are more robust than elephants, and how the canton mechanism can potentially solve Near Eastern problems. [/expand]


Urb.im has launched a series of blog posts about our conference. Here are the first two posts on Paul Romer's presentation, and William Easterly and Laura Freschi's talk.


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The Tyranny of Experts Book Launch

AudienceTOE Last Monday we had the pleasure of hosting a few of our closest friends at Cooper Union's Great Hall to celebrate the launch of Professor Easterly's new book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. Paul Romer gave a gracious introduction, and many audience members had the chance to question Bill's audacious theories in a Q&A at the end of the lecture. Below are just a few selected clips from the evening (Paul's introduction, Bill on his membership in Authoritarians Anonymous, and his answer to the perennial favorite question: "But What Can I Do?"). To hear more, take a look at the author's speaking schedule for the next few months which will take him to Boston, DC, the West Coast and London, and of course, read the book.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Kane. See more photographs from the launch here.

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Beyond the Nation: Pioneering Studies in How Development Spreads

Is the emphasis on nations as actors in development excessive and obsolete?

Come to DRI's Annual Conference on Friday November 15th! Studies to be presented will show how development spreads with the spread of people, goods, technologies, and ideas across national boundaries. Other talks feature evidence showing a much smaller than expected role for nations and national leaders in explaining development outcomes. It is time for fresh thinking on how development spreads so that it can spread even more.


William EasterlyWhy are we So Obsessed with Nations in Economic Development? Most development differences are explained by differences between regions (e.g. Europe vs. Africa, East Asia vs. Latin America) rather than differences between nations. Yet both right and left exaggerate the role of national policy actions in development. Migration of peoples like the emigrants from Fujian Province, China to the rest of East Asia helps explain the success of intra-regional trade, investment, and development in East Asia. The decentralized spread of technologies like mobile phones and even cars has contributed far more to development than national efforts to sponsor politically-fashionable technologies like broadband.

Ross LevineThe Spread of Development through Colonial European Settlement As much as 40 percent of the development that has ever happened outside of Europe is associated with migration and settlement of Europeans during the colonial period in places around the world. What did the settlers bring with them to make this happen?

Emmanuel Akyeampong and Yaw Nyarko: How Indigenous Entrepreneurs Brought Cocoa and Transformed Ghana The spread of development to Ghana was tied to the spread of cocoa. The first cocoa beans were brought into Ghana by a local farmer from Equatorial Guinea around 1878, and within 20 years Ghana was the world’s largest producer. Cocoa has thrived ever since except when punitively taxed. The colonial and post-colonial governments have been less successful actors than indigenous entrepreneurs. For example, in an effort to promote other commodities, the independence-era governments built storage silos all over the country; the silos were successful only as nesting grounds for indigenous snakes.

Jonathan MorduchKeynote Speech: How Microcredit Went Global One of the most celebrated innovations in development and aid did not happen at the national level. The creation of a global microcredit movement was achieved through transnational networks dedicated to codifying best practices, reforming financial regulations, and building investment funds. The story helps understand the often counter-intuitive role of global public goods in promoting development.

Steven Pennings: Do National Leaders Matter? This paper challenges the conventional wisdom that national leaders like Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Park Chung Hee in South Korea deserve credit for the growth miracles that happened on their watch. The evidence speaks surprisingly and strongly: the data are inconsistent with the attribution of growth miracles or disasters to national leaders.

CollagePhoto credits: Gopal Vijayaraghavan, woodleywonderworks, Nestlé, graphi-ogre, IITA Image Library

Conference funding is generously provided by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.


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Why aren't children learning? (and what we can do about it)

On Tuesday, February 28th, Abhijit Banerjee, MIT Professor of Economics, will discuss how he is rethinking the fight against poverty in his lecture Why aren’t children learning? (and what we can do about it).  The lecture, part of the Albert Gallatin Lecture series, will take place at 6:30pm at the Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts at 1 Washington Place in New York City.

Banerjee is the author, with Esther Duflo, of the recent must-read development book, Poor Economics, which describes his and his colleagues’ work evaluating development interventions through randomized experiments at the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

Download the event poster here; to attend the event register with Gallatin.

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Wesleyan's Forum for International Development

David Rice, DRI’s Executive Director, will be speaking at Wesleyan University’s Forum for International Development this Saturday February 18th. David will give the keynote address “Is it Better to Give or Receive? Rethinking International Development,” as well as a lecture on “Innovating Capital Flows to Small Enterprises.” Nathaneal Goldberg, Policy Director at Innovations for Poverty Action, will discuss “How Do We Know What Works in Development?” Other discussion topics include different approaches to development, Wesleyan non-profits, identifying and scaling up effective interventions, and getting involved in development.

Click here for the full program.

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VIDEO: Professor Easterly Speaks at the Carnegie Council

Why is honesty so important? Professor Easterly discussed this cardinal value in his own career, and in the context of international development, with Julia Kennedy and Devin T. Stewart at the Carnegie Council on September 15. "People do know a lot about their own problems at their own level," he said. "They can give you feedback on how you're doing, if you are trying to solve their problems from the top, from government. In a democracy, you give feedback on how well, or how badly, the government is doing.

"So individual rights is also a way to mobilize all the knowledge in society that we need to make the economy work. It's the individual that has the particular knowledge so that they know how to run their factory, to employ people, to be a worker themselves, to start new businesses."

Professor Easterly previously discussed Globalization and Creative Capitalism at previous Carnegie Council events.

Watch the video below:

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/78371999]

Or, listen to the podcast:

[audio http://media.carnegiecouncil.org/carnegie/audio/20110915_Easterly_v2.mp3]

>>Ethics Matter: A Conversation with William Easterly (Carnegie Council Website)

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LECTURE: Mapping Africa's Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Africa’s entrepreneurs get far too little credit for their contributions to economic growth, and too little help from the international community to access capital and find partners.  The Kauffman Foundation is using mobile phones to map the evolution ofAfrica’s entrepreneurial networks, and study the factors that help or hinder entrepreneurs.

Mellena Haile, a researcher from the Foundation, spoke about this program, called E-Pulse, at a DRI and Africa House luncheon on August 15. E-Pulse will survey entrepreneurs in over 50 African countries about their business activities via text message. The data will be used to mapAfrica’s “entrepreneurial ecosystems,” and to help entrepreneurs connect with one another.

The Kauffman Foundation’s research in Africa is founded on Expeditionary Economics, which seeks to develops indigenous entrepreneurship and spur economic growth in post-conflict countries.

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PODCAST: Professor Easterly on Development and Individual Freedoms at Columbia Panel

What should we do to end world poverty? Not only do we not know the answer to this question, said Professor Easterly, but this is also the wrong question to ask. He joined Yuval Levin (National Affairs magazine), Meir Kohn (Dartmouth) and James Otteson (Yeshiva University) in a panel discussion on “Seeking the Good Life and Raising Others’ Estates” at the Columbia Tikvah-Hertog Summer Institute on Economics and the Common Good. Listen to the podcast to learn more about answer-finding mechanisms, professional skepticism and M. Night Shyamalan’s aid worker doppelganger. [audio http://dri.as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/20919/Columbia_SeekingTheGoodLife_081011_EXCERPT.mp3]

>>Download the podcast (25.7 MB)

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CONFERENCE MATERIALS: Best and Worst of Aid 2010 (Incentives, Accountability and Effectiveness)

DRI's 2010 annual conference presented new findings, discussions and debates on the best and worst of what happened in aid. The full conference agenda is available here. More presentations and audio clips will be posted as they become available.


Aid and Development Today: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times - William Easterly, NYU, Professor of Economics and Co-Director of DRI

The Best and the Worst of International Efforts on Failed States - Clare Lockhart, CEO, Institute for State Effectiveness

[slideshare id=3525592&doc=thebestandtheworst-100323141946-phpapp02]

What Works and What Does Not Work in Aid, and the Transformative Challenges Ahead - Isabel Guerrero, Vice President, South Asia Region, World Bank

Thoughts on Aid - Andrew Mwenda, Founder and Owner, The Independent

Historical Lessons: What did Development Aid Do Best? What Did it Do Worst? - Lant Pritchett, Harvard Kennedy School

[slideshare id=3478075&doc=pritchettthebestofaidnewslides-100319094830-phpapp02]

Coverage on the Aid Watch Blog: March 15, 2010 - Worst in Aid: The Grand Prize March 17, 2010 - Best in Aid: The Grand Prize March 22, 2010 - How is the aid industry like a piano recital? A defense of aid March 31, 2010 - Three Afghan Success Stories

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