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.

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. In this position, he provided strategic advice, and was responsible for ensuring the use of evidence in decision making.

Before 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. 

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. Current research work focuses on the psychological challenges of poverty, the political economy of development, the challenges of industrialisation in Africa, the challenges and opportunities of new technologies, and how to organise and finance responses to natural disasters and protracted humanitarian crises.

His latest book, “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, and an Affiliate of J-PAL 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.

I am involved in a number of research programmes, including:

Risk Finance and Social Protection Approaches to Humanitarian Crises: continuing my work with Daniel Clarke (Government Actuary's Department), how humanitarian responses and finance can be secured by using a risk finance approach, including for natural disasters but also for conflict related displacement;

Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance: with Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (Oxford), a new multidisciplinary programme on the economic and political governance of Africa in the context of its jobs and poverty challenges;

Psychological Challenges of Poverty: with Kate Orkin (Oxford), Alemayehu Seyoum Tafesse (Addis Ababa University), Tanguy Bernard (Bordeaux), Rob Garlick (Duke) and Johannes Haushofer (Princeton), collaborative research between economists and psychologists on how we can learn from psychology to help poor people to reverse fatalism and increase aspirations and take better advantage of the meagre opportunities they are offered in Ethiopia and in Kenya;

Industrial Jobs in Africa: with Chris Blattman (Chicago) and Simon Franklin (LSE), and others, I am continuing our research on the scope and consequences industrialisation in Africa and whether it can deliver the quality jobs Africa urgently needs.

Policy work

My work at DFID and with other international organisations has led me to be involved in a wide array of policy research and debates on key issues of our time in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, including the Syrian refugee crises, the conflict in South Sudan and its consequences, the role of China in global development, Nigerian economic management, Pakistan's political economy, social protection systems, debates on greening growth, Ethiopian development challenges and the global development architecture and its financing. My book with Daniel Clarke, "Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make A Difference" was based on work started at DFID. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2016, and has been covered by the BBC World Service and the Economist.

During the last six years, I have undertaken intensive visits, involving context specific lectures on economic development challenges, advisory discussions with government and local business leaders and extensive field visits to the following countries (in several cases more than one). In alphabetic order: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, St Helena, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. In each case I have written detailed internal (DFID) and external notes on a wide variety of issues, as well as opinion pieces in local newspapers.


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

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

Journal articles

“The impacts of industrial and entrepreneurial work on income and health: experimental evidence from Ethiopia”, 2017, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, in print. (with C.Blattman) pdf

“Orphanhood and Self-esteem: an 18-year longitudinal study from an HIV affected area in Tanzania”, 2017,  Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 76(3): 225-230, (with J.De Weerdt and K.Beegle).

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

“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).

“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).

“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, 12(4): pp. 927-48. (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) 

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

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

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

"Child Development in a World of Opportunities", 2014, World Bank Research Observer. (with J. Boyden and A. Singh)

”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  

"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

“Vulnerability to individual and aggregate poverty”, 2013, Social Choice and Welfare, 41 (4), pp. 721-740 (with C. Calvo). 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. 183-187. >pdf

“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, Journal of Development Studies, 48(2), pages 238-253. (with John Hoddinott and Tassew Woldehanna). 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" 2011, (with Kathleen Beegle and Joachim De Weerdt), Review of Economics and Statistics, August, 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. pdf

"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. pdf

“Orphanhood and human capital destruction : is there persistence into adulthood?”, 2010,  (with Kathleen Beegle and Joachim De Weerdt), Demography, 47(1), pp. 163-180.

"The effects of HIV/AIDS on rural communities in East Africa: a 20-year perspective", 2010, (with Janet Seeley and Tony Barnett), Tropical medicine and international health, 15 (3). pp. 329-335.

“The political economy of development: an assessment," 2009, (with Christopher Adam), Oxford Review of Economic Policy, vol. 25(2), pages 173-189, Summer. 

“Poverty and the Psychosocial Competencies of Children: Evidence from the Young Lives Sample in Four Developing Countries”, 2009, (with Pramila Krishnan) Children Youth and Environments, 19(2).

"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.

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

“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.

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

“Fate and Fear: Risk and its Consequences in Africa”, 2008, Journal of African Economies, vol. 17(Supplement 2): ii97-ii127

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

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

“Review Article: The Complementarities of Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth: A Perspective on the World Development Report 2006”, 2006, (with Paul Collier), Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol. 55 no.1, 223-236.

"Group-based Funeral Insurance in Ethiopia and Tanzania", 2006, with J.De Weerdt, T.Bold, and A.Pankhurst, World Development, vol. 34, no.4, April, pp 685-703.

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

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

"Prices, Unit values and Local Measurement Units, An econometric approach", 2006 with B.Capéau, Journal of African Economies, 15(2), pp. 181-211.

"Road Expansion and Market Integration in the Austrian Low Countries during the Second Half of the 18th Century”, 2006, Histoire et Mesure, XXI (1), 185-220.

“Risk, Poverty and Vulnerability in Africa” 2005, Introduction to Special Issue on Risk, Poverty and Vulnerability in Africa, Journal of African Economies, vol.14, no.4, December, pp. 483-488.

"Shocks and consumption in 15 Ethiopian Villages, 1999-2004", 2005, (with J.Hoddinott and T.Woldehanna) in Special Issue on Risk, Poverty and Vulnerability in Africa, Journal of African Economies, vol.14, no.4, December 2005, pp. 559-585.

"Pathways out of Poverty. Private Firms and Economic Mobility in Developing Countries" (book review), 2005, Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. XLII (June, 2005).

"Adjustment Costs and Irreversibility as Determinants of Investment: Evidence from African Manufacturing", 2005, (with A. Bigsten, P.Collier, M. Fafchamps, B., J.W.Gunning, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Söderbom, and F.Teal) Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy: Vol. 4: No. 1, Article 12.

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

“Do African Manufacturing Firms Learn From Exporting”, 2004, Journal of Development Studies, (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, B.Gauthier, M.Fafchamps, J.Gunning, A.Oduro, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, F.Teal and A.Zeufack), Volume 40, Number 3, February, pp. 115-141.

"Risk sharing and labour markets", 2003, World Bank Economic Review, (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, M.Fafchamps, B.Gauthier, J.Gunning, A.Oduro, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, F.Teal and A.Zeufack), vol. 17 (3): 349-366.

“Risk-Sharing and Public Transfers”, 2003, Economic Journal (with Pramila 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 Paul Collier and John Mackinnon),  pp.425-448

“Globalisation and the poor: waiting for Nike in Ethiopia?”, 2003, Tijdschrift voor Economie en Management, pp.603-618.

“Credit constraints in Manufacturing Enterprises in Africa”, 2003, (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, B.Gauthier, M.Fafchamps, J.Gunning, J.Habarurema, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, F.Teal and A.Zeufack), Journal of African Economies, vol 12 (1): 104-125.

“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 Pramila Krishnan).

“Vulnerability, seasonality and poverty in Ethiopia”, 2000, Journal of Development Studies, Vol.36, No.6, August (with Pramila Krishnan).

“Community Targeting for Poverty Reduction in Burkina Faso”, 2000, Vol.14, No.1, January 2000, World Bank Economic Review (with D.Bigman, D.Guillaume and M.Lambotte).

“Contract Flexibility and Conflict Resolution: Evidence from African Manufacturing”, 2000, Journal of Development Studies, Vol.36, No.4, April, (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, M.Fafchamps, B.Gauthier, J.Gunning, A.Isaksson, A.Oduro, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, F.Teal and A.Zeufack).

“Rates of Return to Physical and Human Capital in Africa’s Manufacturing Sector”, 2000, Economic Development and Cultural Change, July, Vol.48, No.2, (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, M.Fafchamps, B.Gauthier, J.Gunning, A.Isaksson, A.Oduro, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, F.Teal and A.Zeufack).

“Filets de sécurité, épargne et protection sociale informelle dans les économies sujettes à des crises”, 2000, Vol. 1-2, Revue d’Economie de Développement, p.191-206.

“Investment in Africa’s Manufacturing Sector: A Four Country Panel Data Analysis”, 1999, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Vol.61, No.4, November, pp.489-512 (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, B.Gauthier, J.Gunning, A.Isaksson, A.Oduro, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, M.Sylvain, F.Teal and A.Zeufack)

“Exports of African manufactures: macro policy and firm behaviour”, 1999, Vol.8, Journal of International Trade and Economic Development (with A.Bigsten, P.Collier, B.Gauthier, J.Gunning, J.Habarurema, A.Isaksson, R.Oostendorp, C.Pattillo, M.Soderbom, F.Teal and A.Zeufack).

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

“Where have all the soldiers gone: demobilisation and reintegration in Ethiopia”, 1998, World Development, September, vol.26, no.9, pp.1661-1676, (with D.Ayalew).

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

“Income Portfolios in Rural Ethiopia and Tanzania: choices and constraints” 1996, Journal of Development Studies, vol.32, No.6, August, pp. 850-75, (with P. Krishnan).

“Smuggling and Supply Response: Coffee in Ethiopia”, 1995, World Development, Vol. 23, no. 10, October 1995, pp.1795-1813, (with L. Ayalew).

“On Market Integration and Liberalisation : Method and Application to Ethiopia”, 1995,  Journal of Development Studies, October, pp.112-143.

“Coffee Prices and Smuggling in Ethiopia”, 1994, Ethiopian Journal of Economics, Vol. 3, no. 2, October, pp. 49‑82, (with L. Ayalew). 

“Peasant Supply Response and Macroeconomic Policies: Cotton in Tanzania”, 1993, Journal of African Economies, Vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 157‑94.

Selected Papers Published in Books

"Chronic Poverty and All That: The Measurement of Poverty over Time,”, 2010 (with C.Calvo) in Atkinson et al., Poverty Dynamics, OUP.

"Insurance for the Poor?" In A. Barrientos and D. Hulme (eds.), 2007, Social Protection for the Poor and the Poorest: Risk, Needs and Rights, Palgrave.

Moving On, Staying Behind, Getting Lost: Lessons on poverty mobility from longitudinal data, 2007, (with J. Shapiro), in D.Narayan and P.Petesch, Moving out of Poverty, World Bank.

"Vulnerability: A Micro Perspective”, 2006 in Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE)--Europe 2006 . Ed. by François Bourguignon, Boris Pleskovic, and Jacques van der Gaag. Washington, DC: World Bank.

'Poverty measurement', in D. A. Clark (ed.), The Elgar Companion to Development Studies. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2006.

"Risk Coping Strategies" in New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition, 2007

“Risk, Poverty and Public Action”, in S.Dercon, (2004), Insurance against Poverty, Oxford University Press, 2004.

"Income Risk, Coping Strategies and Safety Nets" in S.Dercon, (2004), Insurance against Poverty, Oxford University Press.

"Food Aid and Informal Insurance" (with Pramila Krishnan) in S.Dercon (2004), Insurance against Poverty, Oxford University Press.  

"Health, Shocks and Poverty Persistence", (with John Hoddinott), in S.Dercon, (2004), Insurance against Poverty, Oxford University Press.

“The Urban Labour Market During Structural Adjustment: Ethiopia 1990-1997” (with T.G. Selassie and P. Krishnan), in A.Bigsten (ed.) (2004), Poverty in Ethiopia, Scandinavian Institute of African Studies.

"Changes in poverty in villages in rural Ethiopia: 1989-95", (with Pramila Krishnan),  in A.Booth and P.Mosley, (eds.) (2003), The New Poverty Strategies , Palgrave MacMillan, London.  

"Demobilisation, Land and Household Livelihoods", (with Daniel Ayalew and Pramila Krishnan), in T.Addison, (ed.), (2004), From Conflict to Recovery, Oxford University Press.

“Safety nets, savings and informal social security systems in crisis-prone economies”, in Stiglitz, J. and P.Muet, Governance, Equity and Global Markets, Oxford University Press, 2001

“Vulnerability, seasonality and poverty in Ethiopia”, (with Pramila Krishnan), in Baulch, B. and J.Hoddinott (eds.), 2000, Economic Mobility and Poverty Dynamics in Developing Countries, Frank Cass: London.

“From the Gun to the Plough: The Macro- and Micro-Level Impact of Demobilization in Ethiopia”, (with Daniel Ayalew), in Kingma, K. (ed.), 2000, Demobilization in Sub-Saharan Africa, International Political Economy Series, Macmillan Press.

“Market Integration in the Southern Low Countries in the Second Half of the 18th Century”, Proceedings XII International Economic History Congress, Madrid,1998 (with Erik Buyst and Bjorn Van Campenhout). 

For diary, meeting and other general enquiries email:

Blog by Professor Stefan Dercon about the consequences of ideological preferences bias in public servants
Vox Dev - Tuesday, 16 January, 2018
Stefan Dercon in a panel discussion about how we are going to pay the price that comes with extreme weather events
Newshour Extra - Saturday, 16 September, 2017
Article on Hurricane Irma carries comment from Professor Stefan Dercon
The Economist - Thursday, 14 September, 2017
Stefan Dercon co-authors a piece about the exploitation of cheap work
New York Times - Thursday, 27 April, 2017
Piece on potential solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis mentions Professors Dercon and Collier
The Times - Saturday, 30 January, 2016