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Sam van Noort

Sam van Noort

PhD title: The Importance of Effective States: State Capacity and Economic Development

Supervisor: Dr Ha-Joon Chang

Wolfson College


I am a political economist interested in the process of economic development in comparative perspective. Currently I am a PhD student at the University of Cambridge where I am supervised by Dr. Ha-Joon Chang (Faculty of Economics and Centre of Development Studies).

In my PhD research I study the effect of state capacity on economic growth. The existing development literature is limited to examining only the effect of political institutions that constrain political executives to decide upon policy without institutionalized checks-and-balances (i.e. despotic state power). These institutions are hypothesized to cause economic development through the provision of secure private property rights. In contrast I study the effect of institutions that empower state executives to implement policy effectively after that policy has been decided upon in the political process (i.e. state capacity).

My key findings are that: (1) state capacity has a much stronger effect on economic development than constrains on despotic state power does; (2) state capacity also has a substantially stronger effect than other prominent explanations for cross-country differences in economic development, such as: geography, climate, work ethic, religion, social trust, natural resources, legal origins, colonialization, and others; (3) the independent effect of private property rights is much weaker after the importance of state capacity is properly taken into account; and (4) private property rights security itself is much more strongly determined by state capacity than by constraints on the despotic power of state executives.

This research is funded by a Vice-Chancellor Award of the University of Cambridge.

Please visit my website for my CV and recent research output.

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