Most of the people in the world are poor, so if we knew the economics of being poor, we would know much of the economics that really matters. Most of the world's poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture, we would know much of the economics of being poor.
-----Theodore Schultz's 1979 Nobel Prize lecture
Schultz is the most famous of the alumni of the Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAE) Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over 70 years later I earned my PhD from the same department. Last weekend I traveled to Madison to celebrate the department's 100th anniversary.
In Schultz's work we can see how agricultural economics became the first economics field to study developing countries. When Schultz received his PhD 1 in 5 workers was in Agriculture in the United States. In the next 70 years this number would fall to less than 1 in 50 in the US. However, the poor in developing countries are still largely made up of farmers.
I think Schultz's Nobel lecture is well worth a read (guess whose students will read it next week?). The lecture details the relationship between health, schooling, technology, and agricultural. I'm still a firm believer that agricultural policy will play a key roll if development policy is to be effective.
There have been a lot of other great graduates and assoiciate faculty at AAE Wisconin over the years and I'm proud to be one of them.