Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Nathan Nunn is Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Professor Nunn was born in Canada, where he received his PhD from the University of Toronto in 2005. Professor Nunn’s primary research interests are in economic history, economic development, cultural economics, political economy and international trade. He is an NBER Faculty Research Fellow, a Research Fellow at BREAD, and a Faculty Associate at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA). He is currently a co-editor of the Journal of Development Economics.
One stream of Professor Nunn’s research focuses on the long-term impact that historical factors have on current economic development. In particular, he has studied how history shapes the evolution of institutions and cultures across societies. He has published research empirically examining the historical foundations of a wide range of current outcomes, including distrust, gender norms, religion, rule following, conflict, support for democracy, and effectiveness of foreign aid.
A second stream of Professor Nunn’s research examines economic development in a contemporary context. He has published research examining the effects of Fair Trade certification, CIA interventions during the Cold War, foreign aid, and industrial policy. A third stream of Professor Nunn’s research focuses on the importance of contracting institutions for international trade. He has published research showing that a country’s ability to enforce written contracts is a key determinant of comparative advantage, as well as research examining how contracting frictions affects firms’ decisions to engage in FDI versus outsourcing.
Recent work by Nathan Nunn
The evolution of culture and tradition, along with their persistence, can be explained by environmental instability
Fair Trade coffee produced in Costa Rica benefits the producers and skilled workers, but not the unskilled workers
Ethnic groups with a social structure based on lineage and strong allegiances to distant relatives show a greater propensity for violent conflict
Without other subsidies, well-intentioned activism against bride price may cause more harm than good for investing in girls’ education.