January 15, 2009

Economic Opportunity At Home And Abroad: Scholarly Lessons In Economic Development

Eileen Norcross

Senior Research Fellow

Daniel M. Rothschild

Executive Director

Why do some societies prosper, while others remain stagnant and poor? Why do some economies remain strong while others fail? The Mercatus Center's Global Prosperity Initiative works to answer these important questions by conducting scholarly research that helps policy makers better understand the driving forces behind international economic development as well as economic growth and opportunity in the United States. In this program, Mercatus scholars share some of their recent findings and explore the problems of domestic and international economic development and how scholarly research is helping to address these questions.

Fear of a deep recession has led policymakers to propose an unprecedented stimulus package to save the economy, a sort of Main Street economic recovery package that would rely heavily on federally-funded infrastructure projects to create jobs and stimulate economic activity. How have similar measures performed in the past, and what concerns should policymakers consider when evaluating such policy? What institutional structures support economic growth and opportunity?

Looking across the Atlantic Ocean leads us to another but related question: While most regions of the world witness increased standards of living, better health care, and greater economic opportunity, why does sub-Saharan Africa continue to face famine, wide-spread disease, high levels of political corruption, and war? While South Africa has managed to avoid some of the most catastrophic problems associated with their neighbors, they have still been plagued with economic and social troubles that no promised silver bullet has yet addressed.