Environmental and Development Economics


This program focuses on the development of skills and knowledge to address some of society’s most pressing problems. There are many linkages among development and environmental and natural resource policy issues, both in developed and developing economies. This is especially true where agriculture plays a significant role in the livelihoods of people and rural communities, because soil and water resources are critical determinants of both agricultural productivity and human well-being, but also because of the importance of agriculture and resources for the quality of life of all humans. The importance of these linkages is evidenced by the emphasis on sustainable development in policy circles. Because institutions affect environmental outcomes, risk, and economic development, comparing institutions across differing contexts can provide useful insights for policy. Behavioral economics is an emerging research area that can be applied productively to environmental and development issues. Students will apply theory from economics and other social sciences, use rigorous analytical tools for translational research to analyze real-world problems and policies that can address them.

Knowledge and Skills of Graduates

Researchers need the ability to both identify real world questions and design appropriate research to provide policy guidance. This requires understanding the context of the problem, including physical, institutional, and socio-economic factors, conceptualizing the problem, developing a theoretical framework and deriving testable hypotheses, designing the analytical approach/methodology, identifying and collecting appropriate primary or secondary data conducting appropriate analysis (quantitative/qualitative), interpreting research results, and writing a thesis/dissertation as well as journal articles. Graduates will have the skills to communicate with different types of decision makers, which entails translating the research into actionable information.

Faculty Associated With This Emphasis Area

In Agricultural and Applied Economics

  • Dr. Corinne Valdivia (program coordinator), Sustainable livelihoods, climate change adaptation, immigration
  • Dr. Harvey James, Applied ethics, research methodology
  • Dr. Ray Massey, Decision management and modeling of uncertainty
  • Dr. Laura McCann, Environmental policy, transaction costs, adoption
  • Dr. Teo Skevas, Economics of crop protection, productivity and efficiency; dynamic modeling
  • Dr. Judith Stallmann, public finance for state and local governments; regional economics
  • Dr. Pat Westhoff, Agricultural markets and policy, modeling and simulation analysis

In Rural Sociology

  • Dr. Jere L. Gilles, Sustainable development and knowledge systems
  • Dr. Hua Qin, Population, environment and research methods