A successful inaugural year for the Kuznets Visitors Program

by Greg Larson
June 14, 2023

Augustin Tapsoba, presenting slides
Augustin Tapsoba, Assistant Professor of Economics at the Toulouse School of Economics, presents at EGC's Development Lunch on March 6, 2023. Photo by Vestal McIntyre.

Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, ten economists from around the world – including Colombia, Costa Rica, France, and Mexico – visited Yale for brief residencies, marking a successful inaugural year for the Kuznets Visitors Program.

Launched in fall 2022 by the Economic Growth Center, the program invites outside scholars to campus for 1-2 weeks to collaborate with Yale faculty, share research, and connect with students, with a goal of deepening Yale’s connections with the broader development community.

Participants in the program are economists outside Yale who are nominated by EGC faculty affiliates, and can work on a diverse set of questions in development. In particular, EGC encourages participation from groups that are under-represented in the economics profession, as well as scholars from low- and lower-middle-income countries.

The program offers participants a break from the day-to-day responsibilities of their home institutions, which benefits their scholarship and can help them reconnect with what drew them to their research topics in the first place.

“Working with my dear friends at Yale was reinvigorating and enriching, and helped jump-start new stages in several research projects focused on early childhood education,” said Raquel Bernal, a Professor of Economics and President at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. “These projects are very close to my heart, because I am convinced that educating children is the answer to many of the issues we face in developing countries, including inequality, growth, and development.”

"Raquel Bernal shakes hands with Peter Salovey"
Raquel Bernal, a Professor of Economics and President at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, meets Yale University President Peter Salovey. 

“It was great to have Raquel visit for a week,” said Orazio Attanasio, the Cowles Professor of Economics and an EGC affiliate, who collaborates with Bernal on early years interventions and child development research and nominated her for the program. “Her visit also helped reinforce our connections with the Universidad de los Andes, one of Colombia’s best universities.”
Given her dual role as a researcher and university president, Bernal also met with Yale leaders while on campus – including President Peter Salovey, Provost Scott Strobel, and Lucas Swineford, the Executive Director of Digital Education at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning.
“I learned about Yale’s latest developments and its take on the new challenges facing higher education,” Bernal said. “These conversations were extremely insightful and enlightening, and will be of much help at Los Andes – where we are also thinking about what our next couple of decades will look like, in the face of fast technological transformation and artificial intelligence.”

Simon Kuznets Memorial Lecture Series

The Simon Kuznets Memorial Lecture is an annual event hosted by the Yale Economic Growth Center since 1987 and features a prominent economist speaking on issues in economic development. The lecture series was founded by EGC Faculty members in 1986 to honor Simon Kuznets, the famous Belarusian-American economist who helped establish EGC in 1961.

"Augustin Tapsoba speaks at the Kuznets mini conference on March 3, 2023"
Tapsoba at the Kuznets Mini-Conference on "Norms, Gender, and Development", March 3, 2023. Photo by Julia Luckett.

The visitors program was inspired by EGC’s annual Kuznets Memorial Lecture – named in honor of Simon Kuznets, the Nobel laureate who helped found EGC – which has brought a prominent development economist to campus every spring for nearly four decades. Since 2020, the event has included a mini-conference showcasing cutting-edge research by younger researchers. This year, the topic of the lecture and mini-conference was Norms, Gender, and Development. 

“I work on social norms and gender issues, so I really enjoyed the lecture and conference,” said Augustin Tapsoba, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Toulouse School of Economics and a native of Burkina Faso, who visited during the Kuznets programming. During his time at Yale, Tapsoba also presented his paper on the marriage market dynamics of polygamous communities in sub-Saharan Africa. “It was nice to be exposed to so many people in my field who work on similar things, and the experience as a whole was very fulfilling.”

“The program is a good opportunity for young researchers to interact with colleagues at Yale,” said Kaivan Munshi, a Professor of Economics and EGC affiliate who nominated Tapsoba for the program. “Augustin’s presentation was very well received, and visiting during the Kuznets lecture and conference gave him a chance to meet other younger researchers.”
The program aligns with EGC’s mission to advance the study of development economics and nurture a community of researchers and policy practitioners working on these issues.

"Photo of Benjamin Marx"
Headshot of Benjamin Marx.

“Over the years, Yale has assembled one of the strongest groups in development economics anywhere in the world,” said Benjamin Marx, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics at Boston University and a native of France, whose research focuses on the nexus of political economy and development. “This program fosters substantial connections between the visiting researchers and Yale faculty, and among the visitors themselves – it is a huge service to the profession, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of it.”
“The program provides the opportunity to invite and interact with some of the most creative talent in the field and to exchange ideas on key topics of research,” said Costas Meghir, the Douglas A. Warner III Professor of Economics at Yale University who nominated Marx for the program.
In many cases, the program brought together co-authors who are normally thousands of miles away from one another.

"Mendez and Van Patten stand beside each other"
Diana Van Patten and Esteban Méndez at the Yale School of Management. Photo by Julia Luckett.

“It’s different when your colleagues are right next to you, since you can immediately talk about ideas, work through the research, and receive feedback,” said Esteban Méndez, a researcher from the Central Bank of Costa Rica who focuses on digital payments, trade, and the implications for economic development. “That kind of engagement is very important.”
“I think it’s a great program,” said Diana Van Patten, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale’s School of Management, fellow native of Costa Rica, and longtime collaborator with Méndez. During his visit, Van Patten also invited other prominent Costa Rican scholars based in the United States to visit New Haven. “It was nice to have so many Costa Ricans in the same place, and to have the chance for the Yale community to get to know this extended family of economists and policymakers.”

Participants in the program also have the opportunity to run a guest lecture for a class and meet with Yale students, including the weekly informal research discussions among graduate students who work related topics.

“It has been a real privilege to interact with the Kuznets visitors, who have been generous with their time and concrete with their advice – ranging from what they wish they'd done at our stage to paper recommendations to suggestions for work-life balance,” said Jillian Stallman, a PhD student in the Department of Economics. “Since they're just a little further along than us, we feel comfortable discussing the less glamorous things, and the visits are long enough for unhurried, free-flowing discussions. Meeting engaging and thoughtful role models like these makes me optimistic about entering this field, and I'm looking forward to welcoming the next class of visitors to campus this fall!”

After a successful first year, EGC looks forward to continuing the Kuznets Visitors Program next year, and for many years to come. Researchers interested in participating in the program can send a letter of interest to egc@yale.edu.