Economist Stephen Golub Co-authors UN Report with Michelle Liu '11 and Arielle Bernhardt '12

By Linda Hou '13
Professor of Economics Stephen Golub

Professor of Economics Stephen Golub, along with economics majors Arielle Bernhardt '12 and Michelle Liu '11, recently co-authored a report for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The report discusses Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past decade, and will be circulated for discussion by the United Nations member states as they determine policies and strategies for the present decade. 

"We are very pleased with the high quality analysis and forward-looking policy recommendations contained in the paper," says Mussie Delelegn Arega, Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in an email. "The paper will be a major input for UNCTAD's ongoing assessment of the success of economic policies and strategies in LDCs over the past decade with a view to drawing policy conclusions and key lessons for the present decade (2011-2021). This is the latest of several excellent papers and case studies Steve Golub and his students at Swarthmore College have recently produced for UNCTAD on international trade and development issues. Such a blend and cross fertilization between UNCTAD's policy research and analysis work and that of the academic world such as Swarthmore College is key in identifying the most pressing trade and development challenges facing developing countries and in articulating policy recommendations for implementation at the national, regional and international levels."

Golub, whose main research focus is the international economy, has written three reports for the United Nations in the past four years, all of which he co-authored with students, and one with fellow Professor of Economics Stephen O'Connell. The papers are used as background papers for the UNCTAD to inform and foster discussion among delegates of the U.N. member countries.

Although she has done similar research for her honors preparations in economics, Bernhardt says that this is her first time working on a research paper for publication. She was enagaged in all parts of the writing process, with a focus on African LDCs. "This was both a very challenging and rewarding experience for me. My section of our paper focuses on constraints to growth for African Least-Developed Countries. I was tasked, therefore, with determining which factors led to the success of some countries, and the stagnation of others. This required analyzing data on institutions, public policies, and the business environment, and determining which factors were most important for each country. Determining, for example, whether budget deficits or underinvestment in infrastructure played a bigger role in growth was very difficult," says Bernhardt. "Working in conjunction with Professor Golub made this task much easier, as he was always available to discuss and give feedback on my work. I appreciated that Professor Golub helped guide my analysis, but gave me freedom to pursue arguments of my own choosing.

"My research with Professor Golub helped spark my interest in economic development, and in the ways in which low-income countries can spur growth. I later studied abroad in Senegal, and then spent my summer there conducting my thesis research on microcredit and informal finance. Our findings on Senegal's growth experience informed my own research questions and approach."

Liu also appreciated the experience. "Researching with Professor Golub offered me an interesting insight into the world of an academic. Coordinating the research over emails and winter break, working to drafting deadlines, and narrowing and redefining the scope of the project - it was an intense and engaging cap stone to my senior year experience at Swarthmore," she says. "The diversity of countries in the case studies of the Asian LDCs really drove home for me both the importance of good governance and business climates for development."