Faculty Research Profiles

Steven block – PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL economics

Professor Steven Block currently serves as Academic Dean of the Fletcher School. He is a development economist studying food and agricultural policy, productivity, household nutrition and the political economy of both macroeconomic and agricultural policy. 

He has published in diverse research areas. One series of his papers addresses the effects of elections on macroeconomic policy in developing countries, demonstrating for Africa in particular that the growing frequency of competitive elections has motivated cycles in both fiscal and monetary policy. In recent extensions of this political economy research, Block and co-author Robert Bates have shown that African countries with competitive presidential elections have trade regimes more favorable to their rural majorities, as well as higher rates of productivity growth in agriculture.  Block and Bates’ most recent collaboration further argues that competitive electoral systems also contributed to the resurgence of economic growth in Africa in the early 2000s. 

Another series of papers addresses the determinants of child nutritional status, focusing on the role of maternal nutrition knowledge. Drawing on household data from rural Java, Professor Block has shown that maternal nutrition knowledge is strongly associated with the purchase of more nutrient-dense foods (for given levels of household income) and reduced rates of anemia among children in households where mothers have greater levels of nutrition knowledge. With co-author Patrick Webb, Block has also demonstrated the negative effects expenditures on tobacco have on child nutrition.  In more recent work on nutrition, Block and co-authors have shown that seasonal rainfall patterns before and after a child’s birth have significant impacts on later nutritional status among children in Nepal. These effects differ by gender of the child, as well as by availability of indoor toilets and proximity to markets. 

More recently, Professor Block has published research on agricultural productivity in Africa, finding that an
encouraging recovery since the mid-1980s followed a prolonged decline in the first two decades of independence. Improved policy support for agriculture and investments in agricultural research and technology have played key roles in this recovery. 

Professor Block is also a co-author of a leading textbook, Economics of Development, with D.H. Perkins, S. Radelet, and D. Lindauer.