The International and Development Economics Program: A History

Michael Boozer, Director International and Development Economics Program & Director of Graduate Studies, IDE Program, 2005

As some of you may already know, the Department of Economics and the Economic Growth Center at Yale lost a great friend and founder earlier this month in Lloyd Reynolds at the age of 94.  While I myself never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Reynolds, I have, in my time at Yale, become a serious student of his life’s work, as my colleagues can attest.  But more importantly, all of us here have benefited from the entrepreneurial spirit that Mr. Reynolds brought to the growth and development of economics at Yale.  He came to Yale after the war in 1945, and in 1951 (to 1959) he not increased the quantity of economists at Yale (the size of the Department doubled while he was chair), but also substantially increased the quality, including the hiring of some fellows by the names of James Tobin and Gus Ranis, whom you may have heard of.  He took a brief leave from Yale at the end of the decade at the Ford Foundation, and he managed to extract a $15 million foundation grant to start the Economic Growth Center at Yale, which he directed from its founding from 1961 to 1967.  From the 1960’s until the end of the 1970’s, the Economic Growth center engaged in 25 “country studies” of LDCs via the Country Analysis Program, the results of which were published in a number of books sponsored by the Economic Growth Center.

But it was in 1952, a year after he became Chair, he was approached by Robert Triffin, himself newly arrived to Yale after stints at the Federal Reserve from 1942-1946, and the IMF from 1946 to 1949, and the European Payments Union, which helped found, from 1950 to 1951.  (All this after a brief stint as an Instructor of Economics at a small liberal arts college in Cambridge – Harvard).  Even after coming to Yale in 1951, Triffin kept one foot in the realm of public policy on international monetary systems and organizations and international economic cooperation with consultancies to the UN, OECC, and the EEC until his death in 1993.  Triffin’s background in international banking, currency, and the interlinkages of international currencies impressed on him the need to have young economists and staff statisticians employed in foreign currency organizations and central banks who were trained in post-Keynsian macroeconomics and monetary systems planning.  But Triffin envisaged a two-way street whereby Yale scholars (staff and graduate students) would obtain first-hand knowledge of the sending countries’ economies.  While the opposite flow of Yale scholars never took hold, the IFEA program which was initiated by Triffin and enabled by Reynolds was widely considered a success by Reynolds and Tobin when reflecting on the IFEA program in the 1970s, by which point the program had trained 380 students from 77 countries.  By that point, the largest number of students (49) were from Japan, followed by Mexico with 26.  The program was originally funded, like the Growth Center itself, with a grant from the Ford Foundation from 1955 until 1967, which provided partial funding for students.  While the basic academic structure has remained largely the same, the program originally had stronger ties with the UN, the Federal Reserve, and the precursor to the World Bank for summer internships to get practical 2 months of additional training.

In 1969, Prof. Robert Evenson finally accepted an offer from the Department of Economics and the Economic Growth Center at Yale after obtaining a PhD from Chicago (he turned down an earlier offer in 1966, but he eventually saw the light).  1969 was also the first year Yale College began accepting women, and thus it marked a crucial turning point where the entirety of Yale became a more diverse (and competitive) institution.  [From 1955 to 1969, the IFEA program alone had trained nearly 250 men and women from abroad at the Master’s Level, and thus was an earlier precursor to the Globalization of Yale.]  Bob took a leave from Yale to do field work in the Philippines to do field work from 1974 to 1977, including collecting panel data collection that has continued even past the year 2000.  He returned to Yale with tenure in 1977, at which point he assumed the Directorship of the IFEA program.  In a fit of classic Evenson introspection, and perhaps a discussion or two, he renamed the “International and Foreign Economic Administration” program to the “International and Development Economics Program” reflecting his views on the redundancy of “International” and “Foreign” and replacing the archaic “Administration” from the Triffin central-banker and bureaucrat days to focus on Development, and the needs of many countries with help on issues of technology and infrastructure improvements and growth and development – issues on which the faculty of the Growth Center in the late 1970s were leading the field.  Under Bob’s tutelage and Directorship for the next 25 years, nearly 500 students obtained their degrees in the IFEA/IDE program, and the program solidified its position as a training ground for practioners in development economics and beyond.  That he was able to virtually single-handedly manage the program even while guiding PhD students and continue to turn out books and articles on a variety of areas of development economics is astonishing, and legions of IDE graduates are always returning to the Growth Center to see “their Professor”.