Louis Putterman

Professor of Economics

Louis Putterman has been a member of Brown’s Economics Department since 1980. He was a past director of the Development Studies undergraduate and (no longer extant) masters programs. His early research in the developing world focused on China and Tanzania.

Putterman's recent research consists of (a) studies of human interaction, especially problems of cooperation, trust, inequality, and institutions, using laboratory decision experiments, and (b) studies of very long run determinants of comparative economic development, especially the role of pre-modern development differences associated with biogeography, geography, early state development, and population density. 

Much of Putterman's experimental research focuses on collective action dilemmas and the roles of social norms and institutions, including peer-to-peer and centralized sanctioning systems. How democratic states appeared historically and their current viability is a central current interest. In this connection, he is leading Brown’s engagement in the TrustLab survey project sponsored by the OECD statistical secretariat. Income inequality and ethnic/racial cleavages are foci of attention in TrustLab and other experimental research, including inter-ethnic interactions (a recent paper studies this in Xinjiang, China).    

Selected Publications

“Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality,” Louis Putterman and David Weil, Quarterly Journal of Economics 125 (4): 1627-1682, 2010.

“Institutions and Behavior: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Democracy,” Pedro Dal Bó, Andrew Foster and Louis Putterman, American Economic Review 100 (5): 2205-29, 2010.

“Persistence of Fortune: Accounting for Population Movements, There was No Post-Columbian Reversal,” Areendam Chanda, C. Justin Cook and Louis Putterman, American Economic Journal - Macroeconomics. 6 (3): 1 – 28, 2014.

“State or Nature?  Endogenous Formal vs. Informal Sanctions in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods,” Kenju Kamei, Louis Putterman and Jean-Robert Tyran, Experimental Economics 18: 38 – 65, 2015.

Scholarly Interests

Comparative economic development, Human interaction, Income inequality, Inter-ethnic interactions, Social norms and institutions

Affiliated Departments

Department of Economics