Morten Jerven


Associate Professor
Harbour Centre 7140


B.Sc. (Budapest), M.Sc., Ph.D. (LSE)

Areas of Interest

  • Africa
  • Economic History
  • Economic Growth and Development
  • Statistics

Research and Teaching

Professor Jerven’s doctoral research involved in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia and his work on the post-colonial economic performance of these countries has been published in a range of journal papers. The work is particularly innovative in investigating the construction of African growth data and showing how data quality issues are critical for the evaluation of economic performance.

Spring 2010 Jerven visited Ghana and Nigeria and in the fall the same year he went to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, where he followed up on his doctoral research and conducted interviews at the statistical offices.

This work has resulted in two books:

Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It, published by Cornell University Press.

Poor Numbers has been reviewed by Financial Times and Bill Gates among others, received favorable mention in Lancet and Nature and generated discussions Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Jeune Afrique as well as eliciting direct response from the African Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and other central stake holders such as the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa. 

The second book: Economic Growth and Measurement Reconsidered in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, 1965-1995 is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2014.

Currently, Morten is working on linking the literature and databases on post-colonial economic development with the work on the economic history of colonial Africa. This work is supported by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada under the title: ‘African states and development: a historical perspective on state legitimacy and development capacity, 1890-2010’.

Courses Taught

IS 101, IS 410, IS 324, IS 801, IS 450, IS 802, IS 813, IS 800, IS 220


“The Relativity of Poverty and Income: How Reliable Are African Economic Statistics?”, African Affairs, 109:434, pp. 77-96, 2010.

“Random Growth in Africa? Lessons from an Evaluation of the Growth Evidence on Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, 1965–1995”, Journal of Development Studies, 46:2, pp, 274 – 294, 2010.

“African Growth Recurring: An Economic History Perspective on African Growth Episodes, 1690-2010.” Economic History of Developing Regions, 25:2, pp. 127-154, 2010.

 “The Quest for the African Dummy: Explaining African Post-Colonial Economic Performance Revisited”, Journal of International Development 23:2, pp. 288-307, 2011.

 “Users and Producers of African Income: Measuring African Progress”, African Affairs, 110:439, pp. 169–190, 2011.

“A Clash of Disciplines? Economists and Historians Approaching the African Past Economic History of Developing Regions, 26:2, pp. 111-124, 2011.

“An Unlevel Playing Field: National Income Estimates and Reciprocal Comparison in Global Economic HistoryJournal of Global History, 7: 1, pp. 107 – 128, 2012.

“Comparability of GDP Estimates in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Effect of Revisions in Sources and Methods Since Structural Adjustment, Review of Income and Wealth. Early view.

 “For Richer, For Poorer: GDP Revisions and Africa’s Statistical Tragedy”, African Affairs, 112:446. pp 138-147, 2013.

“Reading economics: the role of mainstream economics in international development studies today”, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, forthcoming.

Grants and Awards

  • 2010-2013: Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant, ‘Measuring African progress: validity and reliability of African statistics and the study of African long tern development’
  • 2013-2018: Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, Insight Grant, ‘African states and development: a historical perspective on state legitimacy and development capacity, 1890-2010’

Curriculum Vitae