Stefan Dercon

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 Economies.

He combines his academic career with work as a policy advisor, providing strategic economic and development advice, and promoting the use of evidence in decision making. Between 2011 and 2017, he was Chief Economist of the Department of International Development (DFID), the government department in charge with the UK’s aid policy and spending. Since 2020, he has been the Development Policy Advisor to successive Foreign Secretaries at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. 

His research interests concern what keeps some people and countries poor: the failures of markets, governments and politics, mainly in Africa, and how to achieve change. 

His latest book, Gambling on Development: Why some countries win and others lose will be published in May 2022. It draws on his academic research as well as his policy experience across three decades and 40-odd countries, exploring why some countries have managed to settle on elite bargains favouring growth and development, and others did not. Previously, Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make A Difference  was published in 2016, and provides a blueprint for renewed application of science, improved decision making, better preparedness, and pre-arranged finance in the face of natural disasters.

He is a Fellow of BREAD, a Research Fellow of CEPR and of IZA, an Affiliate of J-PAL, a Non-resident Fellow, Centre for Global Development, Washington and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacture (FRSA). He studied economics and philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and holds an MPhil and DPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford. Before re-joining the University of Oxford, he held positions at the University of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), the Catholic University of Leuven, and WIDER (Helsinki), part of the United Nations University. 

In 2018, the Queen awarded him as an honorary Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for services to economics and international development.


For diary, meeting and other general enquiries email:


Ongoing research projects, programmes and working papers

Risk finance and social protection approaches to humanitarian crises 

  • Pople, A., Hill, R., Dercon, S. and Brunckhorst, B., 2021. Anticipatory cash transfers in climate disaster responseCentre for Disaster Protection Working Paper6. (Impact evaluation of anticipatory finance pilot in Bangladesh)
  • Impact evaluation of early payment of social protection for lean season crises in Niger, Mauritania and Senegal (with Patrick Premand and others at World Bank)
  • Evaluation of BRAC support to village committees during crises within the ultra-poor programme (with Ashley Pople and BIGD, Dhaka)

Psychological challenges of poverty (with Mind and Behaviour Research Group):

  • Aspirations, Assets and Anti-Poverty Programmes (with Mahreen Mahmud, Robert Garlick, Richard Sedlmayr, Johannes Haushofer) (working with GiveDirectly in Kenya)
  • Long-term evaluation of an aspirations intervention in Ethiopia (with Kate Orkin, Tanguy Bernard, Alemayehu Seyoum Tafesse, and Giulio Schinaia)
  • Role of Life-Skills Coaching in BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Programme in Bangladesh (with Ashley Pople and BIGD Dhaka)

Organisational performance and implementation 

  • Harris, D., O,Borcan, D.Serra, H.Telli, B.Schettini, and S.Dercon (2022), “Proud to Belong: Impact of Ethics Training on Policy Officers in Ghana” (with ERINN at Oxford)
  • Asim, S., R.C.Gera, D.Harris, and S.Dercon, “Does Effective School Leadership Matter? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Malawi” (with World Bank and ERINN at Oxford)
  • Dercon, S., H.Dienes, D.Rogger and G.Schinaia (in progress), “Mission alignment and autonomy for team performance in the Ethiopian Civil Service”, (with World Bank Bureaucracy Lab)
  • Understanding how to successfully scale interventions in health and education (work with GCRF AAAA Hub, Claire Cullen, Noam Angrist and Young1Love

Environmental governance in fragile contexts (with Virunga National Park, DRC

  • Engineering structural transformation through migration for jobs (an impact evaluation of attempts to reduce agricultural encroachment in the Park through job creation in firms in Goma) (with Sebastien Desbureaux and Ashley Pople)

Political and economic governance


Selected publications


Gambling on Development. How some countries win and others lose. Hurst, 2022.

Migration and Global Environmental Change, Foresight. The Government Office for Science, London, 2017 (with R. Black, N. Adger, N. Arnel, and A. Geddes - report)

Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make A Difference, Oxford University Press, 2016. (with D.Clarke)

Insurance against Poverty, 2004, Oxford University Press (Edited volume, 445 pages.) 

Selected journal articles

“Impacts of industrial and entrepreneurial jobs on youth: 5-year experimental evidence on factory job offers and cash grants in Ethiopia.” 2022. Journal of Development Economics, p.102807 (with C.Blattman and S.Franklin).

“Aspirations, poverty, and education. Evidence from India.” 2021. The Journal of Development Studies57(1), pp.163-183 (with P.Serneels)

“Cash transfers in adolescence: a developmental perspective.” 2020. Lancet Child and Adolescent Health4(3): 177-178. (with J.R. Pozuelo, A.Stein, S.J.Blakemore, K.Kahn, S.Dercon, and A. Pettifor). 

Has Gavi lived up to its promise? Quasi-experimental evidence on country immunisation rates and child mortalityBMJ Global Health, Dec 2019, 4 (6): e001789. (with P. Jaupart and L.Dipple).

"Parental Aspirations for Children's Education: Is There a "Girl Effect"? Experimental Evidence from Rural Ethiopia.” 2019. Journal of the American Economic Association, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 109: 127-32. (with T.Bernard, K.Orkin, and A.S.Taffesse).

“Biased Policy Professionals”, 2019, World Bank Economic Review, July, Volume 33, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 310–327. (with S.Banuri and V.Gauri).

“The impacts of industrial and entrepreneurial work on income and health: experimental evidence from Ethiopia”, 2018, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 10(3):1-38. (with C.Blattman).

“Small price incentives increase women’s access to land titles Tanzania”, 2016, Journal of Development Economics, 123, (2016), pp.107-122. (with D.A. Ali, M.Collin, K.Deininger, J.Sandefur and A.Zeitlin).

“Focus on environmental risks and migration: Causes and consequences”, 2015, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 10 (6). (with N.Adger, N.W.Arnell, R.Black, A.Geddes and D.S.G.Thomas)

“Live Aid Revisited: Long-term impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian famine on children”, 2014, Journal of the European Economic Association, 12(4): pp. 927-48. (with C.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)  

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

"Is Green Growth good for the Poor?", 2014, World Bank Research Observer, 29:2, Pages 163–185.

”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). 

“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)   

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

"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)  

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

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

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

“The effect of environmental change on human migration”, 2011, Global Environmental Change21, pp.S3-S11. (with R. Black, W.N.Adger, N.W.Arnell, A.Geddes and D.Thomas)

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

"The Impact of Agricultural Extension and Roads on Poverty and Consumption Growth in Fifteen Ethiopian Villages," 2009, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 91(4), pp 1007-1021, November. (with D.Gilligan, J.Hoddinott and T.Woldehanna).

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

 “Adult Mortality and Consumption Growth in Tanzania”, 2008, Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol 56, 2 pp. 299- 326.  (with K.Beegle and J.De Weerdt).

“Teacher Shocks and Student Learning”, 2007, Journal of Human Resources, Fall, Volume 42, Issue 4. (with J.Das, J.Habyarimana and P.Krishnan).

 “Orphanhood and the Long-Run Impact on Children”, 2006, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 88, no.5, pp 1266-1272. , (with K.Beegle and J.De Weerdt)

"Risk-Sharing Networks and Insurance Against Illness", 2006, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 337-356. (with J.De Weerdt),

"Economic reform, Growth and the Poor: Evidence from Rural Ethiopia", 2006, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 81, issue 1, pp.1-24.

"Growth and Shocks: evidence from Rural Ethiopia", 2004, Journal of Development Economics, August, vol 74 (2), pp. 309-29.  

“Risk-Sharing and Public Transfers”, 2003, Economic Journal (with P.Krishnan), March, C86-C94.

“Density versus Quality in Social Sector Provision: The Use of Household Data for Budgetary Choices in Ethiopia”, 2003, World Bank Economic Review (with P.Collier and J.Mackinnon),  pp.425-448

“Income Risk, Coping Strategies and Safety Nets”, 2002, World Bank Research Observer,  December, Vol. 17 (2), pp. 141-66.

“In Sickness and in Health: Risk-sharing within households in rural Ethiopia”, 2000, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 108, No.4, August, pp.688-727 (with P.Krishnan).

“Wealth, Risk and Activity Choice: Cattle in Western Tanzania”, 1998, Journal of Development Economics, February, vol.55, pp.1-42.

“Risk, Crop Choice and Savings : Evidence from Tanzania”, 1996, Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol. 44, no. 3, April, pp. 485-514.