To get the pulse of a field in flux, I asked eight of the world’s top young economists to identify the biggest unanswered questions in economics and predict what breakthroughs will define it a decade or two hence.
Our book club anticipated one of the young 8 in our reading of Why Nations Fail although his view seems to differ markedly from the institutionalism analysis of Acemoglu and Robinson:
Stanford University; 39
Why are developing countries poor? In terms of impact on mankind globally, this strikes me as probably the biggest and most important current economic question. I think the answer is complex and linked to a combination of factors around history, geography, luck, etc. I am personally working on management practices: people in developing countries are poor because wages are low, and wages are low because firms are very unproductive, and firms seem to be unproductive in large part because of bad management.