Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Politics of Status in International Development
Nations categorized as "lower income countries" or "less developed countries" by international organizations tend to receive generous financial assistance and special treatment from the international community. As countries 'graduate' from these to higher categories, the shift is viewed positively by the international community and, in turn, often results in receiving additional social and material advantages. Faced with this tradeoff, some countries attempt to remain within the developing categories, while others strive to be categorized as developed. The PI explains why economic elites, like donors and investors, are so influenced by these classifications and, in turn, why countries pursue strategies designed to change their classifications. The project illustrates how countries balance their material interests with their desire for improved international status and traces how such status hierarchies emerge. To study this phenomenon, the PI draws on cross-national data, a lab experiment administered to economic experts, and interviews with government bureaucrats in multiple countries. The project highlights how institutions like the World Bank and United Nations -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- affect the opportunities and strategies available to developing countries. The findings provide useful insight about how bureaucratic decision making might help create or maintain a country's development classification, which, in turn, influence economic elites who refer to these systems when making policy decisions.