Close Menu

Steven A. Block

Professor of International Economics
Director of the Program on International Development

Steven A. Block

Professor of International Economics
Director of the Program on International Development
Phone
617-627-2717
Cabot 403
The Fletcher School at Tufts University
160 Packard Ave.
Medford
,
MA
02155
Headshot of Steve Block
Education
  • B.A., Brandeis University
  • MPP, Public Policy, Harvard University
  • Ph.D., Political Economy, Harvard University
Biography

Steven A. Block is professor of international economics and director of the program on international development at The Fletcher School. His research focuses on food and agricultural policy in developing countries, and on the political economy of policy reform. Much of his work concentrates on sub-Saharan Africa.  

He is co-author of a leading textbook on development economics.  His other recent publications include: “Cost and affordability of nutritious diets at retail prices:  Evidence from 177 countries,” with Yan Bai, Robel Alemu, Derek Headey, and Will Masters.  Food Policy;  “Political Institutions and Economic Growth in Africa’s ‘Renaissance’,” with Robert Bates. Oxford Economic Papers; and, “Climate Shocks and Child Heights:  Sex-Specific Vulnerability and the Protective Effects of Sanitation and Food Markets in Nepal,” with Will Masters, Prajula Mulmi, and Gerald Shively. Economics & Human Biology.  

Professor Block teaches courses on development economics, agricultural policy, and political economy.

He earned a master's of public policy and his doctorate in political economy from Harvard University.

Areas of expertise
Economic Development
International Environment & Energy
International Politics
Professional Activities
  • Consultant to the World Bank and USAID on numerous technical assistance missions in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
  • Senior Analyst, Abt Associates, Inc. (1984-95)
Other Affiliations
  • Faculty Appointment, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
  • The Program in International Development
  • Henry J. Leir Institute
Research Interests
  • Agricultural development
  • Economic growth
  • Political economy
  • Development economics, particularly food and agricultural policy, growth, and political economy
Publications

ARTICLES

“Transforming Food Systems: The Missing Pieces Needed to Make Them Work”, with E. Kennedy, P. Webb, T. Griffin, D. Mozaffarian, and R. Kyte. Current Developments in Nutrition, forthcoming 2020.

“Cost and affordability of nutritious diets at retail prices: Evidence from 177 countries,” with Yan Bai, Robel Alemu, Derek Headey, and Will Masters. Food Policy, online publication 13 Oct. 2020.

“Political Institutions and Economic Growth in Africa’s ‘Renaissance’,” with Robert Bates. Oxford Economic Papers, Volume 70, Issue 2, 1 April 2018, Pages 327–352 (on-line publication 11 October 2017).

“Climate Shocks and Child Heights: Sex-Specific Vulnerability and the Protective Effects of Sanitation and Food Markets in Nepal,” with Will Masters, Prajula Mulmi, and Gerald Shively. Economics & Human Biology, Vol. 23, Dec. 2016 (pp. 63-75).

“The Post-Independence Decline and Rise of Agricultural Productivity in sub- Saharan Africa,” Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 66, No.2, April 2014.

“Revisiting African Agriculture: Institutions and Productivity Growth,” with Robert Bates. Journal of Politics, Vol. 75, No.2, April 2013.

“The New Institutionalism and Africa,” with Robert Bates, Anke Hoeffler, and Ghada Fayad. Journal of African Economies, (2013) 22 (4): 499-522.

"Does Child Undernutrition Persist Despite Poverty Reduction in Developing Countries? Quantile Regression Results" with Will Masters and Priya Bhagowalia, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 48, No. 12, Dec. 2012.

“Political Institutions and Agricultural Trade Interventions in Africa,” with Robert Bates. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 93, No. 2: 317-23 (2010).

“Support for Agriculture During Economic Transformation: Impacts on Poverty and Undernutrition,” with Patrick Webb. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012 109 (31) 12309-12314; published ahead of print December 20,2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.

“HIV/AIDS, Undernutrition, and Food Insecurity,” with L. Ivers, P. Webb, J. Coates, and K. Freedberg; Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal. 2009:49 (1 October).

“Up in Smoke: Tobacco Use, Expenditure on Food, and Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries,” with Patrick Webb. Economic Development & Cultural Change, Vol. 58, No. 1 (October, 2009).

“Maternal Nutrition Knowledge Versus Schooling as Determinants of Child Micronutrient Status,” Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 59 (2007): 330-353. Preliminary publication as Harvard University, Center for International Development, Working Paper No. 93; Tufts University School of Nutrition Science & Policy, FPAN Working Paper No. 10.

“Elections, Opportunism, Partisanship, and Sovereign Ratings in Developing Countries,” with Paul Vaaler and Burkhard Schrage; Review of Development Economics, Vol. 10 No. 1 (2006). Preliminary publication as William Davidson Institute Working Paper No. 546 (University of Michigan).

“Counting the Investor Vote: Political Business Cycle Effects on Sovereign Bond Spreads in Developing Countries,” with Paul Vaaler and Burkhard Schrage, Journal of International Business Studies Vol. 36:62-88 (2005). Preliminary publication as William Davidson Institute Working Paper No. 575 (University of Michigan).

“Macro Shocks and Micro Outcomes: Child Nutrition During Indonesia’s Crisis,” with several co-authors, Economics and Human Biology, Vol. 2, No. 2

(2004); preliminary publication as Harvard University, Center for International Development, Working Paper No. 90; Tufts University School of Nutrition Science & Policy, FPAN Working Paper No. 5.

“Nutrition Knowledge and the Demand for Micronutrient-Rich Foods: Evidence from Indonesia,” Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 40, No. 6 (2004).

Awarded Dudley Seers Memorial Prize for Best Paper published that year in the JDS. Preliminary publication as Tufts University School of Nutrition Science & Policy, FPAN Working Paper No. 20.

Nutrition Information and Formal Schooling as Inputs to Child Nutrition,” with Patrick Webb, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 52, No. 4 (2004). Preliminary publication as Tufts University School of Nutrition Science & Policy, FPAN Working Paper No. 21.

“The Price of Democracy: Sovereign Risk Ratings and Bond Spreads, and Political Business Cycles in Developing Countries,” with Paul Vaaler, Journal of International Money and Finance Vol. 23 (2004).

“Political Conditions and Currency Crises in Emerging Markets,” Emerging Markets Review, Volume 4, Issue 3 (2003): 225-328.

“Multiparty Competition, Founding Elections, and Political Business Cycles in Africa,” with K. Ferree and S. Singh. Journal of African Economies. Vol. 12, No. 3 (2003).

“Political Business Cycles, Democratization, and Economic Reform: The Case of Africa,” Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 67 (2002) 205-228.

“The Dynamics of Livelihood Diversification in Rural Ethiopia: Incomes, Assets, and Perceptions,” with P. Webb, Food Policy 26 (2001) 333-350.

“Does Africa Grow Differently?” Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 65 (2001) 443-476.

“Agriculture and Economic Growth in Ethiopia: Growth Multipliers from a Four- Sector Simulation Model,” Agricultural Economics, 20 (1999) 241-252.

"The Recovery of Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa," Food Policy, Vol. 20, No. 5, October, 1995.

"A New View of Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 76, No. 3, August 1994.

BOOKS

The Economics of Development, with Dwight Perkins, Steven Radelet, and David Lindauer. 7th edition. W.W. Norton & Company, New York. 2012.

BOOK CHAPTERS

“The Decline and Rise of Agricultural Productivity in sub-Saharan Africa Since 1961,” in S. Edwards, S. Johnson, and D. Weil, eds., African Successes.

University of Chicago Press, for the National Bureau of Economic Research. 2016. Originally published as NBER Working Paper No. 16481. November, 2010.

“The Political Origins of Africa’s Revival,” with Robert Bates, in Africa at a Fork in the Road: Taking Off or Disappointment Once Again, e-book conference volume published by Yale University, June 2015.

“The Political Economy of Agricultural Trade Interventions in Africa,” with Robert H. Bates, in The Political Economy of Agricultural Trade Interventions, K. Anderson and E. Valenzuela, eds. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2010.

“West African Experience with the World Rice Crisis, 2007-2008,” with P. Timmer, J. Aker, and V. Ramachandran, in D. Dawe, ed., The Rice Crisis: Markets, Policies and Food Security. Earthscan Press, 2010.

“Domestic rice price and marketing policies,” with David Dawe, Ashok Gulati, Jikun Huang, and Shoichi Ito, in Rice in the Global Economy: Strategic Research and Policy Issues for Food Security. Eds., S. Pandey, D. Byerlee, D. Dawe, A. Dobermann, S. Mohanty, S. Rozelle, and B. Hardy. Resources for the Future Press for the International Rice Research Institute , 2010.

“Long-Run Dynamics of Rice Consumption, 1960-2050,” with C. Peter Timmer, and David Dawe, in Rice in the Global Economy: Strategic Research and Policy Issues for Food Security. Eds., S. Pandey, D. Byerlee, D. Dawe, A. Dobermann,

S. Mohanty, S. Rozelle, and B. Hardy. Resources for the Future Press for the International Rice Research Institute , 2010.

“Nutrition Knowledge, Rice Prices, and the Micronutritional Effect of Indonesia’s Crisis of 1997-98.” Rice Science: Innovations and Impact for Livelihood. Eds., Mew, T.W., D.S. Brar, S. Peng, D. Dawe, and B. Hardy. Manila: International Rice Research Institute, 2004.

“Observations on the Philippine Road to Nichood,” in The Philippine Road to NIChood, Thompson and Villacorta, eds., De La Salle University Press, Philippines. 1996.

WORKING PAPERS

“Heat Shocks, Maize Yields, and Child Height in Tanzania,” with B. Haile, L. You, and D. Headey. In review.

“The Political Origins of Africa’s Economic Revival,” with Robert Bates. Working Paper Series No. 14-0001, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. 2014.

“Democracy and Disease: The Contrasting Cases of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis in Developing Countries.” Mimeo, Fletcher School.

“Elections and the Composition of Public Spending in Developing Countries,” preliminary publication as Harvard University, Center for International Development, Working Paper No. 78.

PUBLISHED BOOK REVIEWS

The New Harvest. Agricultural Innovation in Africa, by Calestous Juma. Journal Historia Agraria, 2013.

Food Policy for Developing Countries: The Role of Government in Global, National, and Local Food Systems, by Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Derrill Watson. Cornell University Press, 2011. Economic Development & Cultural Change, Jan. 2013.

Food, Economics, and Health, by Alok Bhargava. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK (2008). Economics & Human Biology, 2009..

From Crisis to Growth in Africa, M. Lundahl, ed., Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 72, No. 1:417-20 (2003).

International Agricultural Development, C. Eicher and J. Staatz, eds. Book review, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 81, No. 3 (August, 1999).

Government Reports and Other Papers Since 1993

“Sources of Growth in the Context of Africa’s Structural Transformation,” background study in preparation for the Economic Report on Africa 2014, UN Economic Commission for Africa. (December, 2013).

“Projected Impacts of a Regional Nuclear Conflict on Global Food Supply, Consumption and Undernutrition,” with Patrick Webb and Ernesto Valenzuela. Prepared for Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Government of Switzerland. July 2011.

“Illicit Alcohol in Mexico: A Pilot Study of What We Know and What We Need to Know,” with Patrick Webb, at the request of Diageo. November, 2008.

“Supplementary Evaluation of CARE’s Integrated Food Security Program and World Vision-Bangladesh’s Food Security Enhancement Initiative,” for the Asia Foundation and USAID/Bangladesh. March, 2006.

“Agriculture and Economic Growth: New Linkages and African Case Studies,” with C. Peter Timmer. USAID, Bureau for Africa/Agricultural Policy Analysis Project, Phase III. March, 1997.

“Agriculture and Economic Growth in Ethiopia: Growth Multipliers from a Three-Sector Simulation Model,” World Bank, Eastern Africa Department. November, 1996.

“Outline for Developing a Multi-Market Agricultural Sector Model of Ethiopia,” World Bank, Eastern Africa Department. November, 1996.

“Agricultural Policy and Planning in Ethiopia: Institutional Assessment and Program Design,” with R. Jiron, et. al., USAID/Ethiopia, June, 1995.

“The GATT and Agricultural Technology in Developing Countries,” USAID/Global Bureau, February, 1995.

“The Situation of Rice in Senegal,” with D. Wilcock, USAID/Senegal, December, 1994.

"Agricultural Productivity Analysis and Economic Growth in Kenya," memorandum to USAID/Kenya, October, 1994.

"Agriculture and Economic Growth: Conceptual Issues and the Kenyan Experience," with C. Peter Timmer. Published as Harvard Institute for International Development Discussion Paper, and Consulting Assistance on Economic Reform Discussion Paper No. 27. August, 1994.

"Proceedings from the Symposium on Agricultural Transformation in Africa," APAP Phase II, Technical Report No. 137, USAID Bureau for Research and Development, edited with Richard Goldman, September 1993.

Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1993.

GRANTS AND AWARDS

Co-Investigator (2009-10), National Bureau of Economic Research Africa Successes Project study of agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. Supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Grant (2009). Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to support my research on the effects of economic transformation on poverty and nutrition.

Co-Investigator (2009-2010), National Institutes of Health grant, in collaboration with Brigham & Women’s Hospital (Partners in Health) and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. To study effects of food supplementation and training on families of HIV-positive households in rural Haiti.

Dudley Seers Memorial Prize (2005), awarded for best publication in the Journal of Development Studies that year.

Award from Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, to revise courses taught at Fletcher School to include environment and population issues.

PEER REFEREEING

American Economic Review; Journal of Political Economy; Journal of Development Economics; Oxford Economic Papers; American Political Science Review; Journal of African Economies; Journal of Economic Growth; American Journal of Agricultural Economics; Economics and Human Biology; Economic Development & Cultural Change; Social Science and Medicine; Food Policy; Agricultural Economics; Economics of Governance; Studies in Comparative International Development; Journal of International Development; Agriculture and Human Values; Economics & Politics; World Development; Journal of Development Studies; Journal of Population Economics; Population Research Policy Review; Food Security; British Journal of Political Science; Journal of Comparative Economics; Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy; Food and Nutrition Bulletin; Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics; National Science Foundation.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS AND SEMINARS

Invited paper session, American Agricultural Economics Association (Allied Social Science Association), Atlanta, GA. January 2019

International Conference of Agricultural Economics, Vancouver, B.C., August 2018

Center for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University, Conference on African Economic Development. (March, 2015).

Conference presentation (invited), Africa at a Fork in the Road: Taking Off or Disappointment Once Again?, Yale University, April 2014.

Boston University Law School, Seminar on Law & Economics (February, 2014).

Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University (Oct. 2013).

Rice Colloquium, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle (June, 2012).

Center for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University, Conference on African Economic Development. (March, 2012).

Northeast Universities Economic Development Conference, Yale University (October, 2011).

African Successes Research Conference, NBER, Zanzibar, Tanzania (July 2011). Presentation of my research on agricultural productivity in Africa.

Invited presentation, Brookings Institution, Africa Growth Forum, Washington, D.C., Janurary 2011. The effect of democracy on agricultural productivity in Africa (joint research with Robert Bates).

Seminar Presentation, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC. January, 2011. Research on agricultural productivity in Africa.

Friedman Symposium, Invited Presentation, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, November, 2010.

African Successes Research Conference, NBER, Accra Ghana, July 2010. Presentation of my research on agricultural productivity in Africa.

Sustainable Agriculture Seminar Series, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, May 17, 2010. Presentation of research on political economy of agricultural trade interventions in Africa.

African Successes Research Conference, NBER, Cambridge, MA. December, 2009. Discussant.

Invited Presentation, American Agricultural Economics Association winter meeting, Atlanta, GA. January 2010. Presentation on institutions and agricultural trade policy in Africa.

University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics. Invited seminar presentation. April, 2009.

Humphrey School of Public Policy, Univ. of Minnesota. Global Policy Seminar, invited presentation. April, 2009.

Conference on Economic Development in Africa, Center for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University, March 2009.

Invited presentation, Conference on the World Rice Crisis, Food and Agricultural Organization, Chiang Mai Thailand, February 2009.

Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, October, 2008.

Invited “opponent’ for PhD thesis defense, University of Gothenberg, Sweden, September, 2008.

Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, October, 2007. Northeast Universities Economic Development Conference, Yale University (Oct. 2003). Department of Economics, University of Oklahoma (March, 2003).

Northeast Universities Economic Development Conference, Williams College (Oct. 2002).

International Rice Congress, Beijing, China (Sept., 2002). Ministry of Agriculture, Jakarta Indonesia (July, 2002)

Conference on African Growth and Equity (Oxford Univ., U.K., April 2002) World Bank (April, 2002)

Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, March 2002.

Northeast Universities Economic Development Conference, Boston University, Sept. 2001.

Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, March 2001. Harvard University Joint Seminar on Africa, March, 2000.

Northeast Universities Economic Development Conference, Harvard University, Oct. 1999.

Economics Department, Tufts University, September, 1999.

Moderator, panel discussion on “Development of Africa’s Emerging Economies in the 21st Century,” panelists included Ambassadors from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea, representatives from the IMF, U.S. Congress, and Wall Street. Held at Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City, November 12, 1997.

Panelist, The Philippine Road to NIChood, conference co-sponsored by the De La Salle University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Boston, MA, September 27, 1996.

Invited paper at Bellagio Conference on “Getting Agriculture Moving in the 21st Century,” Rockefeller Conference Center, Bellagio, Italy, April, 1994.

Selected paper, American Agricultural Economics Association, winter meetings (January, 1994, Boston, MA.) “A New View of Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Numerous presentations of research and reports in USAID missions in Africa and Asia, and at AID/Washington.