Our Alumni

A collection featuring profiles of some of our recent alumni.

Andrew DickensAndrew Dickens (PhD, Economics, York 2017)

Position: Assistant Professor, Brock University
Research Fields:
Development Economics, Political Economy, Applied Microeconomics and Economic History
Essays on the Economics of Ethnolinguistic Differences
Personal Website

Research Area

The broad question that ties together my research agenda is one of the longest-standing questions in economics: Why are some countries so much poorer than others? To this end, my research interests lie at the intersection of Development Economics, Political Economy, and Economic History. As a research tool, I commonly employ geographic information system (GIS) software to develop unique datasets applicable to the research problem at hand. I have a regional interest in sub-Saharan Africa, in both my current and future research program, that is complimentary to my broader agenda of understanding comparative economic development.

In my job market paper, I study the provision of public resources on the basis of ethnicity in 35 sub-Saharan countries. Discriminatory policies of this type advantage some ethnic groups at the expense of others, which speaks to a growing body of evidence that links inequality between ethnic groups to Africa's underdevelopment. In my baseline estimates I document that ethnic favouritism is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa. I corroborate this evidence using individual-level data and establish that it's where an individual lives and the attached ethnolinguistic identity that predicts favouritism, not the identity of the individual respondent.  I relate these results to the literature on coalition building, and provide evidence that ethnicity is one of the guiding principles behind high-level government appointments.

Research Implications

My research is informative of where favouritism is expected to take place and to what extent. From these findings, the short-term solution is to increase oversight and formalize constraints on how public resources are used, particularly in regions of "expected favouritism." For example, empirical evidence suggests that there are large benefits of oversight on foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa when comparing the non-interference foreign aid policy of China with conditional transfers from the World Bank. There is little evidence that World Bank aid is used for patronage purposes in contrast to the non-interference aid coming from China.

The long-term solution is to design nation-building policies that embrace diversity through unity. Tanzania's national language policy from the 1960s is a good example of this type of policy. In the mid-1960s, the Tanzanian government changed the official language of the country to Swahili. The extent to which Swahili is found in other countries and commonly used as a lingua franca speaks to the ethnic neutrality of the language. Within only a few years of its implementation, the official status granted to Swahili was described as a "linguistic revolution" for its ability to help shape a national consciousness that runs contrary to ethnic identity.