Stefan Dercon

Professor of Economic Policy

Stefan Dercon is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, and a Fellow of Jesus College. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economics.

Since 2011 he has been Chief Economist of the Department of International Development (DFID), the government department in charge with the UK’s aid policy and spending. Stefan continues to hold the post of Chief Economist at the DFID while remaining active in teaching and research at Oxford.

Between 2000 and 2002 he was Programme Director at the World Institute of Development Economics (WIDER), United Nations University where he led their research programme on “Insurance against Poverty”. Prior to this between 1993 and 2000 he was a Tenured Professor of Development Economics at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Until he joined DFID, Stefan was also the Lead Academic for the Ethiopia country programme at the International Growth Centre, which is a research centre based jointly at The London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Oxford.

Stefan is a development economist applying microeconomics and statistics to problems of development. His interests are diverse, including research on risk and poverty, the foundations of growth in poor societies, agriculture and rural institutions, migration, political economy, childhood poverty, social and geographic mobility, micro-insurance, and measurement issues related to poverty and vulnerability. Much of his work involves the collection and analysis of longitudinal data sets, and he is closely involved in 7 on-going longitudinal surveys focusing on rural households in Ethiopia (ERHS), Tanzania (KHDS), and India (new ICRISAT VLS), and on children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam (Young Lives).

He is also involved in a number of intervention-based (RCT) research projects on extending health insurance (Kenya), raising aspirations (rural Ethiopia), offering drought insurance to funeral societies (Ethiopia) and the returns to firm jobs (Ethiopia). 

Daniel Clarke and Stefan Dercon (2016) “Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference”, Oxford University Press.

Economic losses from disasters are now reaching an average of US$250–$300 billion a year. In the last 20 years, more than 530,000 people died as a direct result of extreme weather events; millions more were seriously injured. Most of the deaths and serious injuries were in developing countries. Meanwhile, highly infectious diseases will continue to emerge or re-emerge, and natural hazards will not disappear. But these extreme events do not need to turn into large-scale disasters. Better and faster responses are possible. The authors contend that even though there is much generosity in the world to support the responses to and recovery from natural disasters, the current funding model, based on mobilizing financial resources after disasters take place, is flawed and makes responses late, fragmented, unreliable, and poorly targeted, while providing poor incentives for preparedness or risk reduction. The way forward centres around reforming the funding model for disasters, moving towards plans with simple rules for early action and that are locked in before disasters through credible funding strategies—all while resisting the allure of post-disaster discretionary funding and the threat it poses for those seeking to ensure that disasters have a less severe impact.

Some of the research projects that Stefan has previously been involved with are:

Ethiopian Rural Household Survey

Most of my work has been applied microeconomics, with a focus on Africa and rural issues. In recent years, this has been mainly on risk and poverty, often using a panel data set on Ethiopia with which I have been closely involved since 1993. Some of the rounds are in the public domain. Gradually more rounds are being made available for public use. For details on the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey, click here.

Kagera Health and Development Survey

I have also been closely involved in developing another long-term panel data set, this time in the Kagera Region of Tanzania. This data set is a long-term panel data, known as the KHDS2.  In this survey, all individuals interviewed during a panel data survey between 1991-94 have been resurveyed in 2004. For more on this work, see the EDI Website. (Note that the entire data set is now in the public domain.)

ICRISAT new survey 2001-2007

Much time and effort has been spent attempting to re-start the ICRISAT village level panel data survey, linking data from 1975-85 to new data collection efforts, creating a unique individual level panel data set covering 30 years. All individuals ever interviewed, as well as all their offspring are being traced. Some of the resulting data from this effort have now been released and can be obtained via this link.

Young Lives

This is a longitudinal cohort study, following 12000 children in four countries from childhood into adulthood, in Peru, Vietnam, Ethiopia and India. Data are being released into the public domain. More details here.

Recent Publications include:

Working Papers

"Agriculture in African Development: A Review of Theories and Strategies," (2014),  CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-22, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford. (with Douglas Gollin)

"Insurance companies of the poor," (2014), CEPR Discussion Papers 10278, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers. (with Tessa Bold)

"The Price of Empowerment: Experimental Evidence on Land Titling in Tanzania," (2014), CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-23, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford. (with Daniel Ayalew Ail, Matthew Collin, Klaus Deininger, Justin Sandefur and Andrew Zeitlin)

"Climate Change, Green Growth and Aid Allocation to Poor Countries," (2014), CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-24, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.

"The Future in Mind: Aspirations and Forward-Looking Behaviour in Rural Ethiopia, (2014), " CEPR Discussion Papers 10224, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers. (with Tanguy Bernard, Kate Orkin and Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse)

"Is green growth good for the poor ?," (2012), Policy Research Working Paper Series 6231, The World Bank.


“Will Video Kill the Radio Star? Assessing the Potential of Targeted Exposure to Role Models through Video”, 2015, The World Bank Economic Review, Vol. 29 (suppl 1), pp. S226-S37. (with Bernard, Tanguy, Kate Orkin and Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse).

“Child Development in a Changing World: Risks and Opportunities”, 2015, The World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 30 (2), pp. 193-219 (with Jo Boyden and Abhijeet Singh).

“Focus on environmental risks and migration: Causes and consequences”, 2015, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 10 (6). (with Neil Adger, Nigel W. Arnell, Richard Black, Andrew Geddes and David S. G. Thomas)

“Live Aid Revisited: Long-term impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian famine on children”, 2014, Journal of the European Economic Association. (with Catherine Porter)

"Aid and Agency in Africa: Explaining Food Disbursements Across Ethiopian Households 1994-2004", 2014, Journal of Development Economics, (with N. Broussard and R. Somanathan) pdf

"Agriculture in African Development: A Review of Theories and Strategies”, 2014, Annual Review of Resource Economics, Vol. 6, pp. 471-92. (with Douglas Gollin)

"Is Green Growth good for the Poor?", 2014, World Bank Research Observerpdf

"Climate Change, Green Growth and Aid Allocation to Poor Countries", 2014, Oxford Review of Economic Policypdf

”Offering rainfall insurance to informal insurance groups: Evidence from a field experiment in Ethiopia”, 2014, Journal of Development Economics, 106, pp 132-143. (with R.V.Hill, D.Clarke, I.Outes-Leon, A.Seyoum Taffesse) pdf

“African Agriculture in 50 years: smallholders in a rapidly changing world?”, 2014 World Development. (with Paul Collier) pdf

“School Meals as a Safety Net: An Evaluation of the Midday Meal Scheme in India” 2014, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 62(2), pp 275-306. (with A. Singh and A. Park) pdf  

“Vulnerability to individual and aggregate poverty”, 2013, Social Choice and Welfare, 41 (4), pp. 721-740 (with C. Calvo).pdf

"School Inputs, Household Substitution, and Test Scores," 2013,  American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 5(2), 2013, pp. 29-57. (with J. Das, J. Habyarimana, P.Krishnan, K.Muralidharan and V. Sundararaman) pdf

“Changing Living Standards in Southern Indian Villages 1975–2006: Revisiting the ICRISAT Village Level Studies”, 2013, Journal of Development Studies, 40(12). pp.1676-93. (with P.Krishnan and S.Krutikova) pdf

“Agriculture and development: revisiting the policy narratives, Agricultural Economics, 2013, 44 (s1 November), pp. 183-187pdf

“Height in mid childhood and psychosocial competencies in late childhood:   Evidence from four developing countries”, Economics and Human Biology, 2013, 11 (4) pp.426-432. (with A. Sánchez).pdf

"From Nutrition to Aspirations and Self-Efficacy: Gender Bias over Time among Children in Four Countries," 2013, World Development, vol. 45(C), pp 31-50 (with A.Singh)pdf

“Growth and Chronic Poverty: Evidence from rural communities in Ethiopia”, 2011, (with John Hoddinott and Tassew Woldehanna), Journal of Development Studies,48(2), pages 238-253.pdf

“Triggers and Characteristics of the 2007 Kenyan Electoral Violence”, 2011, (with Roxana Gutierrez-Romero), World Development, 40(4), pp.731-744.

"Political Connections and Social Networks in Targeted Transfer Programmes: Evidence from Rural Ethiopia," 2011, (with Bet Caeyers), Economic Development and Cultural Change, 60(4), pp. 639 – 675.

"Migration and Economic Mobility in Tanzania: Evidence from a Tracking Survey" (with Kathleen Beegle and Joachim De Weerdt), Review of Economics and Statistics, August 2011, 93: 1010-1033.

"Consumption risk, technology adoption, and poverty traps: evidence from Ethiopia," (with L.Christiaensen), (2011) Journal of Development Economics, 96(2): 159-173

"Information Flows and Social Externalities in a Tanzanian Banana Growing Village", (with Katleen Van den Broeck), (2011) Journal of Development Studies, 47(2): 231-25.

"Property Rights in a Very Poor Country: Tenure Insecurity and Investment in Ethiopia", (2011), (with Daniel Ayalew and Madhur Gautam), Agricultural Economics 42 (1). 75-86.

"Orphanhood and human capital destruction : is there persistence into adulthood?", 2010, (with Kathleen Beegle and Joachim De Weerdt), Demography,Vol.47, No.1, February (2010), pp. 163-180.

"Poverty and the Psychosocial Competencies of Children: Evidence from the Young Lives Sample in Four Developing Countries", (2009), (with P. Krishnan), Children, Youth and Environments 19(2), 138-163.

“The intergenerational impact of the African orphans crisis: a cohort study from an HIV/AIDS affected area”, (2009) with K.Beegle and J.De Weerdt), International Journal of Epidemiology, 38 (2): 561-568.

“Rural Poverty: Old Challenges in New Contexts”, (2009), World Bank Research Observer vol. 24: Spring, pp. 1-28

For diary, meeting and other general enquiries email:

Download Stefan Dercon's CV

Piece on potential solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis mentions Professors Dercon and Collier
The Times - Saturday, 30 January, 2016