The Kuznets Visitors Program completes a successful second year

by Adena Spingarn
May 20, 2024

Nine development economists from around the world joined the Economic Growth Center as Kuznets Visitors during the 2023-2024 academic year to collaborate with coauthors and other faculty in person, deliver seminars, and connect with students. Launched in 2022, the Kuznets Visitors program seeks to strengthen the university’s connections with the development community around the world by bringing outside scholars nominated by EGC faculty affiliates to Yale for 1-2 weeks.

To Marcela Eslava Mejia, the visit to Yale was a welcome opportunity to take a break from her administrative responsibilities as Dean of Economics at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia and focus wholly on her research. Her main goal during her visit was to collaborate with EGC affiliate Orazio Attanasio, fellow Kuznets visitor Santiago Levy (Nonresident Senior Fellow – Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution), and other colleagues who have contributed research to LACIR: Latin America and Caribbean Inequality Review in order to “put together a picture, a shared vision of the drivers of inequality in Latin America.” According to Attanasio, Eslava and Levy had extensive discussions of labor market turnover, the presence of informal markets, and the size and productivity distribution of firms. “All these aspects are key to understanding inequality in Latin America," Attanasio said, describing their visits as “tremendously useful and stimulating.” He added, “We hope to organize more of this type of visit.” 

During her time at Yale, Eslava enjoyed meeting with a diverse group of colleagues all thinking about similar problems but from different perspectives. She was also particularly gratified by the opportunity to make a short visit. “It’s a great idea to have this space,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to find time to spend longer terms abroad so this arrangement that’s capable of accommodating short visits is super useful.” 

“The visit was a huge boost to my research,” said Todd Schoellman, Senior Research Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In addition to connecting with collaborators on their research on labor market dynamics around the world, during his Fall 2023 visit Schoellman also met with many other colleagues - including graduate students, visiting scholars, and Yale faculty - to discuss research ideas. “It was a really exciting and stimulating time,” he said. “Overall, I was really impressed with how interactive the visit was and how many different people I got to talk to about development.”

Arya Gaduh, Associate Professor of Economics and the Director of the Masters of Science in Economic Analytics Program at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, used his Spring 2024 visit to Yale to learn more about research being done by development economists affiliated with EGC and the economics department. “I felt that discussions with colleagues were the most valuable,” he said. “They helped me rethink some of my ideas on development research and sparked new ideas for future research.” A conversation with EGC affiliate Mark Rosenzweig about the advantages of researching many topics over the course of a career rather than focusing on a single topic such as health or education was particularly affirming. 

Gaduh also enjoyed meeting with undergraduate and graduate students interested in doing policy research on Indonesia. “The meetings were a wonderful opportunity to share my experience both as an academic and a policy researcher,” Gaduh said.

Kanika Mahajan in the podcast studio
Kanika Mahajan recording an episode of the Voices in Development podcast on women's employment in India, April 2024.

For Kanika Mahajan, Associate Professor of Economics at Ashoka University in Sonepat, India, spending two weeks at Yale was an opportunity to lay the foundation for future collaboration and exchange of ideas. “You seldom get a chance to spend so much time and get a chance to speak to so many people,” she said. “Meeting in person provides an excellent opportunity to discuss ongoing research and potential new ideas. During the visit I had some thought provoking conversations which not only added value to my existing work but also opened the door for future collaboration and feedback. I hope to brainstorm and pick some of these threads in the future.”

In addition to having fruitful conversations with faculty and graduate students, Mahajan also connected with students from the Salus Populi Foundation, the EGC-supported group promoting development economics to Yale undergraduates, to discuss important work on gender, labor, and firms in India. She was impressed by the students’ level of engagement. “They were asking good questions,” she said. 

Mahajan’s Kuznets visit coincided with that of Farzana Afridi, Professor of Economics at the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi, and the two recorded a podcast on women’s labor force participation in India for EGC’s Voices in Development podcast series. The program addressed their current work on digital platforms and women’s economic empowerment in India.

Meet the visitors in the Kuznets Visitors Program's inaugural year

In 2022, EGC expanded the programming of its long-running lecture series to bring to campus short-term visitors who could advance research priorities and provide diverse perspectives to the development economics community at Yale. Learn about the Kuznets Visitors in our series of articles.

Afridi feels that the most valuable parts of her visit were conversations with other scholars also working on policy-minded research. “It was great to learn about EGC research projects that are pushing the frontiers of research with policy influence, specifically projects that are in collaboration with government agencies and multilateral institutions that have strong potential for being scaled up in the future” she said. “There is tremendous potential to learn from the findings of these interconnected research projects and build common knowledge for the greater good.”

Charles Gottlieb, Professor at the Aix-Marseille School of Economics and Associate Director of the Global Centre for International Economics at the University of St. Gallen, spent his Kuznets visit discussing his work creating a large-scale data set that harmonizes labor force and time use surveys from many countries around the world. He met with EGC faculty Michael Peters and Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg to discuss how they could use this data set to develop an index of gender that will allow researchers to evaluate how economic opportunities differ for men and women across countries. “It was very inspiring to meet and exchange ideas around my dataset with Yale faculty and graduate students,” Gottlieb said. He hopes to collaborate with EGC in institutionalizing the data set. 

Francis Annan, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, presenting research at the EGC Development Workshop, April 8, 2024.

Also visiting Yale in the Spring was Francis Annan, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, who discussed the growing field of digital governance with other development scholars. “The visit brought much clarity to what I think the big questions are,” he said. “I found that there’s this natural, mutual interest in what we consider the big questions when it comes to finance and development, especially the role of digital technology in improving public programs to not only reduce poverty but also improve the welfare of firms.” Annan hopes to continue these conversations by organizing a one-day workshop on digital governance in concert with EGC.

Annan, who also participated in a podcast episode, appreciated how smoothly his visit went from a logistical standpoint. “One thing we tend to underestimate but is so valuable is the power of administrators in organizing people to come present work and get feedback and reflect on mutual interests,” he said. “The role of administrators is so critical. They made the whole visit seamless.” 

The Visitors Program is an outgrowth of the annual Kuznets Memorial Lecture. Both programs are named for Simon Kuznets, the pioneering economist who was instrumental in founding EGC in 1961 and who later went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for theoretical and empirical contributions to the measurement of economic growth. This year, Christopher Udry, Robert E. and Emily King Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, delivered a lecture on “Structural Change and Declining Agricultural Productivity: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa.” Since 2020, the Kuznets lecture has been followed by a one-day mini-conference featuring early-career scholars presenting on related research; this year’s topic was “Agriculture and Development.” 

EGC particularly encourages nominations of scholars from groups that are under-represented in the economics profession as well as scholars from low- and lower-middle-income countries. Those interested in visiting EGC under the Kuznets Visitors program can send a letter of interest to