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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Brent Richards – AEDE Job Market Candidate

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, Brent Richards was first drawn to the complex questions surrounding the circumstances of poverty and why some individuals and families are able to escape poverty, while others remain in its wrath for generations.

Richards, who has an undergraduate degree in history from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in development studies from The London School of Economics and Political Science, has completed PhD coursework at the University of California, Davis, in addition to his coursework at the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE) at Ohio State. In his studies at Ohio State, Richards has focused on economic development and labor economics. In particular, he has been drawn to researching the role of noncongnitive skills – behaviors and attitudes, such as self-esteem - in economic development, which he focused on in his PhD dissertation, “Three Essays on Noncognitive Skills and Economic Development”.

Focusing on evidence from the US that suggests that noncognitive skills affect labor force participation, Richards aims to draw attention to this issue in the context of the developing world, and in particular India, to examine the role that noncognitive skills have in economic development. Using data from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Richards examines whether two particular noncognitive skills – hyperactivity and a behavior index - measured at ages 7 to 8 affect the labor force participation of these same young people when they reach ages 14 to 15. In his research, Richards found that hyperactivity at ages 7 to 8 lowered the probability that these youths would be working for pay when they reached ages 14 to 15. He theorizes that the evidence suggests that parents are less likely to let badly-behaved youth work for pay. Additionally, Richards notes, the evidence also implies that interventions to improve children's behavior in developing countries may improve that particular country’s labor force participation rates.

While at AEDE, Richards has benefitted from interacting with his AEDE colleagues – whether it is through discussions with his advisor, Dr. Joyce Chen, his peers in the PhD program, or his students in the undergraduate development economics courses that he teaches, Richards enjoys the in-depth engagement on multiple levels afforded to him through the AEDE PhD program of study. He credits the AEDE program as having a full supply of bright, interesting people from around the world who he has learned from in his years of study at the department.

Richards notes that one of his favorite parts of the PhD program has been his time in the classroom teaching the economics of development to undergraduate students at Ohio State. In particular, he has enjoyed bringing real life examples from his studies and his experiences in the field – especially from his time in Costa Rica as a Peace Corps Volunteer – to the students in his courses. He finds that bringing this real world perspective into the classroom greatly enhances the learning experience for both him and his students.

To learn more about Brent Richards, please see his job market profile.