Podcast: The Success Project
How does a New York city block transform from brothels to boutiques? Can a benevolent dictator cause economic growth?
The Success Project podcast series is made in collaboration with NYU’s graduate students. Host Will Compernolle invites scholars to present their research and discuss emerging issues in development and economics.
Hosted by Will Compernolle and produced by Carmen Cuesta Roca in New York.
Spanning over 24 generations, the descendants of Bai Yingshun have dispersed all over southeast Asia away from their homeland, the Chinese city of Longmen. Thousands of miles away from Longmen, the Bai maintain a strong sense of the identity of their forefathers in a way that has affected their economic outcomes. The story of the Bai suggests that, even outside the nation-state, an informal institution like an ethnic group can be a powerful force in shaping one's economic well-being. But what makes the Bai story unique? And how does it give insight into how a diaspora can provide a support system far from the original homeland? We talk with Kwee Hui Kian of the University of Toronto on this episode to learn more about the story of the Bai and how it aids in understanding development.
Accounts of history often give credit to great leaders who presided over episodes of high economic growth. With high levels of variation in economic growth across space and time, it can appear that a key to economic growth is finding quality leadership. Further, some have put forth the idea that autocrats can be more effective than democratic leaders because they have to deal with less red tape. History is full of bad autocrats, but is it possible that a good autocrat can cause prosperity? With all the variables that can affect economic growth, how much does a leader influence the economic performance of a given area? William Easterly of New York University and DRI talks with us on this episode about how much credit we can give leaders in explaining economic growth.
The Muridiyya order, founded by the Senegalese Muslim cleric Ahmadu Bamba Mbacke at the turn of the twentieth century, has a strong ethos of mobility and entrepreneurship. Their history breaks free from more typical economic explanations of migration: the journey of Bamba led his followers to pursue paths to regions that on the surface appear to have little economic reasoning. Murids also exhibit a strong entrepreneurial spirit based on Bamba's teachings that is alive and well in the Murid identity more than a century later. Cheikh Anta Babou of the University of Pennsylvania talks with us on this episode to dig more into the story of the Murids, how their faith shapes their economic and cultural lives, and how their story can enrich our understanding of how development happens on smaller levels.
European colonialism involved atrocities for the indigenous people who lived on the land on which Europeans settled. It follows that the effects of colonialism would persist hundreds of years later. One way to look at the effects of this history is to analyze the relationship between economic outcomes today and the intensity of European settlement during the colonial era. Europeans brought oppressive regimes and often set up institutions that were designed to extract wealth from the native population. But they also brought technologies and institutions that may be conducive to economic growth. So what can history tell us about how this tradeoff ended up centuries later? On this episode, we talk with William Easterly of New York University and Ross Levine of the University of California, Berkeley to find out a little more about the lasting effects of European colonialism.
Characteristics of our ancestors are often passed down through generations. A certain degree of economic performance and cultural values persist throughout time, but if we are taken out of the physical location of our ancestors, to what extent do these characteristics remain? A recent paper suggests a connection between the extent one's ancestors practiced an agricultural lifestyle and one's economic and education outcomes today. By looking at how ethnic groups made their living in Sub-Saharan Africa generations ago, there is some indication of how their descendants will fare in the future. Stelios Michalopolous of Brown University talks with us on this episode about this fascinating connection and how history can be an overlooked determinant in development.
Between Houston and Prince Streets on Greene Street in lower Manhattan, one city block has undergone dramatic changes over the course of four centuries. Today this Greene Street block is home to luxury retail and expensive residences, but not too long ago it was filled with art galleries, brothels, and garment manufacturing. The shifts in the block's physical character and value were often sudden and totally unanticipated. Looking only at the nation-state level can obscure meaningful growth that occurs on much smaller levels, but how much can we learn from looking at just a city block? William Easterly of New York University tells us about this exciting and surprising history of one New York City block and what it can teach us about development.
Research shows that small business creation tends to be an engine for economic growth. Every big business today was once yesterday's small business. To grow successfully, a small business needs access to credit but when a foreign bank enters into a new country, what happens to small businesses' ability to borrow money? The new financial institutions may prefer to deal with more established credit risks and make it difficult for aspiring entrepreneurs to borrow money. Or, they could increase competition and create cheaper access to credit. So what does foreign banking end up doing to lower-income countries as it pertains to development? We talk with Charles Calomiris of Columbia University to see what the effect of foreign banking is on entrepreneurship.
A person can make up to ten times more money in a rich country compared to if he/she was doing identical work in a lower-income country. This "location premium" reflects the gains to workers' income just from migration. But restrictions to labor mobility persist around the world, with reasons ranging from physical security to job protection of native workers. The economic literature is full of evidence suggesting massive gains to the migrant workers and their destination countries, but new arguments claim to show an efficiency case can be made for limiting labor mobility. Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development talks with us on this episode about the economic arguments for and against migration restrictions.
City governments tend to provide necessary infrastructure like roads, sewers, and electricity grids. They also enact regulations and other policies designed to affect the quality and density of buildings. But what's the ideal balance between government planning and de-centralized decision making when it comes to affordable housing? What can cities that rely less on planning teach us about the right role for government in improving housing affordability and development overall?
*Currently in production, please check back here for more updates.*