CCGL9025 Global Issues

The Political Economy of Growth and Poverty in the World


Non-Permissible Combination:
CCGL9005 Poverty, Development, and the Next Generation: Challenges for a Global World

Course Description

This course studies how poor nations have alleviated poverty through economic growth and why inequality continues to persist in rich nations. We examine closely how empirical evidence is used to arrive at robust findings of falling inequality globally, but rising inequality within nations. Simple economic ideas on economic growth, international trade and investments are learned and used to explain why the spread of markets and economic globalization has fostered growth and reduced poverty in many poor nations. We also examine why some poor nations have failed to grow and remain mired in poverty. We also consider why poverty has not been eliminated in rich countries and why inequality has increased in recent decades. The role of human capital investments, technological advances, and political economy factors are introduced and used to investigate the experiences of the rich economies, including Hong Kong.

The course helps students to:

  • gain an understanding of why some nations succeed to grow and others remain poor;
  • learn why prosperity within and across nations is not equally shared;
  • understand the interplay of the state and the market in affecting growth and poverty; and
  • attain a critical appreciation of why different individuals and groups support or oppose globalization.

Students are introduced to examples of how political processes in one nation can impact development outcomes in another nation. They study how political processes interacting with economic processes at local, national, and global levels can lead to great variations in development outcomes.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand and critically interpret key economic concepts and ideas through applying them to quantitative data on growth and poverty across the world and over time.
  2. Understand and critically interpret and reflect upon interacting economic and political dimensions of growth and poverty.
  3. Understand and critically interpret and reflect upon the outcomes for growth and poverty comparing socialist versus capitalist economies and open versus closed economies through the study of cases and examples in history.
  4. Understand and critically interpret and reflect upon the relationship between issues of growth and poverty and its broader relationship with human development.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 72
Preparation of case/data analysis for tutorials 12
Assessment: Written paper 30
Assessment: Examination 2
Total: 152

Assessment: 50% coursework; 50% examination

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Written paper 45
Class participation 5
Examination 50

Required Reading

  • Banerjee, A. V., & Duflo, E. (2011). Poor economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty. New York: PublicAffairs.
  • Chetty, R., Hendren, N., Kline, P., & Saez, E. (2014). Where is the land of opportunity? The geography of intergenerational mobility in the United States. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(4), 1553-1623.
  • Chetty, R., Hendren, N., Kline, P., Saez, E., & Turner, N. (2014, May). Is the United States still a land of opportunity? Recent trends in intergenerational mobility. American Economic Review, 104(5), 141-147.
  • Collier, P. (2007). The bottom billion: Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. [Chaps. 1-5]
  • Cowen, T. (2014, July 19). Income inequality is not rising globally. It’s falling. The New York Times.
  • Cowen, T., & Tabarrok, A. (2013). Modern principles of economics (2nd ed.). New York: Worth Publishers. [Chaps. 24-26, pp. 461-541]
  • De Soto, H. (1989). The other path: The invisible revolution in the third world. Harper & Row. [Chaps. 1, 3, 5, 6]
  • Deaton, A. (2013). The great escape: Health, wealth, and the origins of inequality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Easterly, W. (2008). Introduction: Can’t Take It Anymore? In W. Easterly (Ed.), Reinventing foreign aid. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. [Chap. 1]
  • Goldschein, E. (2012, January 31). These two neighbourhoods exemplify the growing divide in White America. Business Insider.
  • Harford, T. (2006). The undercover economist. Little Brown. [Chaps. 8, 9]
  • Lakner, C., & Milanovic, B. (2013, December). Global income distribution: From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession. Policy Research Working Paper 6719. World Bank.
  • McCloskey, D. N. (2010). Bourgeois dignity: Why economics can’t explain the modern world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Murray, C. (2012, January). Belmont & Fishtown. The new criterion. (Adapted from Coming apart: The state of white America, 1960-2010, Crown Forum, 2012)
  • Ravallion, M. (2011, February 14). Awareness of poverty over three centuries. From http://www.voxeu.org/article/poverty-enlightenment-awareness-poverty-over-three-centuries
  • Rogoff, K. (2014, May 8). Where is the inequality problem. From https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenneth-rogoff-says-that-thomas-piketty-is-right-about-rich-countries–but-wrong-about-the-world?barrier=true
  • Sala-i-Martin, X., & Pinkovskiy, M. (2009, October). Parametric estimations of the world distribution of income. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 15433.
  • Summers, L. (2014, July 7). The economic challenge of the future: Jobs. The Wall Street Journal.
  • Summers, L. (2014, Summer). The inequality puzzle. Democracy Journal, 33.
  • Wheelan, C. (2010). Naked economics. New York: Norton. [Chaps. 12, 13]
  • Wong, R. Y. C. (2014, August 6). Key to inequality is soaring home prices. South China Morning Post.
  • Wong, R. Y. C. (2014, June 18). The high regulation cost of development: What Thomas Piketty’s famous book really says. Hong Kong Economic Journal.
  • Wong, R. Y. C. Notes on Gary Becker’s Human capital theory of the personal distribution of income. Woytinsky Lecture, 1967.

Required Viewing

Recommended Reading / Resources

  • Bhagwati, J. (2005). In defense of globalization: It has a human face. The 2005 Angelo Costa Lecture, Rome, Italy.
  • Chetty, R. (2014, June 20). Improving equality of opportunity in America: New evidence and policy lessons. Harvard University. (PowerPoint notes)
  • Chetty, R. (2014, May 19). The determinants of social mobility: New evidence and policy lessons. Institute of Fiscal Studies Annual Lecture. From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEGS-yr_8HI&feature=youtu.be
  • McCloskey, D. (2014, April 29). Why does 1% of history have 99% of the wealth? Learn Liberty. Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. From http://www.learnliberty.org/videos/why-does-1-of-history-have-99-of-the-wealth/
  • Milanovic, B. (2014, July 1). Global income inequality: Current trends, issues of justice and politics. LIS Summer Lecture, Luxembourg. (PowerPoint notes)
  • Rojas-Burke, J. (2014, May 7). A birth lottery still determines who gets to live longest, healthiest life. Association of Health Care Journalists.
  • Sala-i-Martin, X. (2003). Growth and the world distribution of income. (PowerPoint notes)
  • Sala-i-Martin, X. (2003). The world distribution of income. (PowerPoint notes)
  • Wilcox, W. B. (2014, January 22). Family matters. Slate.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor R.Y.C. Wong
School of Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business and Economics
Tel: 2859 1122
Email: rycwong@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor R.Y.C. Wong
School of Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business and Economics
Tel: 2859 1122
Email: rycwong@hku.hk