Lewis S. Davis


Associate Professor of Economics

Lippman Hall 118, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308

518-388-8395,  davisl@union.edu

Office hours Tues. 2-5 and by appointment

Ph.D. in Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999. 

BA in Mathematics, Davidson College, 1988.  

Curriculum Vitae


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Teaching Interests:  My teaching interests include microeconomics, the economics of growth and development, the economics of sin, and the economics of culture. 


Eco 225 - Economics of Sin:  I recently developed a sophomore-level course in the economics of sin that address the economics of ethically complex markets.  The course includes sections on the markets for transplantable organs, cigarettes and the economics of addiction, illegal drugs, and the market for sex.  The development of this course was supported by a grant from the Rapaport Everyday Ethics Across the Curriculum Program at Union College.  A recent syllabus is available here:  Economics of Sin,


Eco 380 - Economics of Growth and Development:  In this senior level seminar, students read the current literature that attempts to explain the pattern of income levels and growth rates across time and countries.  A recent syllabus is available here:  Economic Growth and Development,


Eco 381 - Economics of Culture:  I am currently developing a seminar on the economics of culture, which will address the two-way interactions between culture and economics and consider the use of economic ideas and methods for analyzing cultural phenomena.  This course will be taught for the first time Fall, 2012.  The syllabus for this course is available here. 


Eco 498-499 – Senior Thesis:  Economics majors undertake a significant independent research project their senior year.  My senior thesis syllabus is available here:  Senior Thesis . 



Professional Service


·            Organizing Committee, Workshop in Macroeconomics Research at Liberal Arts Colleges.  The Workshop seeks to support the research activities and develop the professional networks of macroeconomists working at liberal arts colleges.  The Annual Conference will be held at Wesleyan College, Aug. 5 and 6, 2014.   


·            Managing Editor, Review of Economics and Institutions, University of Perugia Electronic Press, Fall, 2013.  


·            Editorial Board, Eastern Economic Journal., Palgrave-MacMillan, Fall, 2013. 






Research Interests:  I’m interested in the roles of political, legal and cultural factors in economic growth.  My early work used a transaction cost theory of the division of labor to address a variety of issues, ranging from the growth of government to the evolution of the firm, the breakdown of informal institutions, the demographic transition and the evolution of institutional quality.  My more recent work has been somewhat broader in scope and approach, including a pair of papers on institutions and inequality, a pair on intellectual property rights, and a paper on the evolution of pollution in countries with different legal systems.   My current research is centered on the economics of culture, including multiple projects addressing on the role individualism in economic development, the economics of happiness, and the economics of religion. 


I have been fortunate to have worked with a variety of talented coauthors, including most recently my colleagues at Union College Fuat Sener and Stephen Schmidt, Anne Owen, Stephen Wu and Julio Videras of Hamilton College, Mark Hopkins of Moody’s Analytics, and a number of my students, including Alex Cline ’07, Allison Frederick ’10, Matthew Knauss ’11, and Emily LaCroix ’11. 


Current Research: 


·            “Language, Culture and Institutions:  Evidence from a New Linguistic Dataset,” with Fara Abdurazodzoka, under review, April 2014. 


·             “Political Economy of Taxation and Growth with a Taste for Status  Under review, Journal of Development Economics, Jan. 2013.


·             “Own-Sector and Inter-Sector Tunnel Effects: Implications for the Effects of Growth and Inequality on Happiness,” April 29, 2012. 


·             “Individual Responsibility and Economic Development:  Evidence from Rainfall Data,” January 23, 2011.  Under review, Journal of Comparative Economics, Feb. 2014, Data on average monthly rainfall and the coefficient of variation of monthly rainfall are available here in Excel. 


·            “Culture and the Taste for Social Status:  A Cross-Country Empirical Investigation,” with Stephen Wu, in process. 


·            “Culture and the Regulation of Entry,” with Claudia Williamson, in process.  


·            “Individualism and the Protestant Reformation,” with Julio Videras, in process. 



Book:   Associate Editor, Princeton Encyclopedia of the World Economy, 2 volumes, edited with R. S. Rajan, K. A. Reinert, and A. Glass, Princeton University Press, February 2009.


Refereed Journal Articles: 


·            “How to Generate Good Profit Maximization ProblemsJournal of Economic Education 45(3), 183–190, July 2014 (Lead article.)


·            “Social Comparisons and Life Satisfaction across Racial and Ethnic Groups:  The Effects of Status, Information and Solidarity,” (with Stephen Wu) Social Indicators Research 117, July 2014, pp. 849-869.


·            “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth:  An Empirical Investigation,” (with Matthew Knauss) Journal of Socio-Economics 42, Feb. 2013, 43-50.


·            “National Policies, State Response and Community College Outcomes:  Testing an Augmented Bennett Hypothesis,” (with Allison Frederick and Steven Schmidt) Economics of Education Review 31, Dec. 2012, 908-917. 


·             “Private Patent Enforcement in the Theory of Schumpeterian Growth,” (with Fuat Sener) European Economic Review 56(7), Oct. 2012, 1446-1460.   


·             “Intellectual Property Rights, Institutional Quality and Economic Growth” (with Fuat Sener) Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy 3(1), 2012, 1240005.  (Invited Article) 


·            “Legal Origin and the Evolution of Environmental Quality,” (with Emily LaCroix) Economics Bulletin 31(4), Oct. 2011, 2968-2974. 


·            “Institutional Foundations of Inequality and Growth,” (with Mark Hopkins) Journal of Development Studies 47(7), July 2011, 977–997.


·            “Institutional Flexibility and Economic GrowthJournal of Comparative Economics 38 (3), September 2010, 306–320.


·            “Do All Countries Follow the Same Growth Process?” (with Ann Owen and Julio Videras) Journal of Economic Growth 14(4), December 2009, 265-286.  (Lead article)  


·            “Teaching the Economics of Sin” Teaching Ethics 9(2), Spring 2009, 51-58. (Invited article.  Special Issue: Everyday Ethics at Union College.)


·            “Scale Effects in Growth Theory:  A Role for InstitutionsJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization 66(2), May 2008, 403-419.


·            “Explaining the Evidence on Inequality and Growth: Informality and RedistributionThe B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics 7(1), (Contributions), Article 7, 2007.




·            “Trade, Growth and Uneven Development: A Critical Survey,” (with William Darity, Jr.) Cambridge Journal of Economics 29(1), January 2005, 141-170.  (Invited article) 


·            “Toward a Unified Transaction Cost Theory of Economic Organization,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 159(3), September 2003, 571-93.


·            “Does the Market Recognize IT-Enabled Competitive Advantage?” (with Bruce Dehning and Theophanis Stratopoulos), Information and Management 40(7), August 2003, 705‑716.


·            “The Division of Labor and the Growth of GovernmentJournal of Economic Dynamics and Control 27(7), May 2003, 1217-1235.


Contributions to Edited Volumes: 


·            “Development” In:  Reinert and Rajan (Eds.) Princeton Encyclopedia of the World Economy, 2 volumes, Princeton University Press, 2009.


·            “Technological Progress, Economic Growth  In:  Darity, William A. (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  Farmington Hills, MI:  Macmillan Reference USA.  2008. 


·            “Development Economics” In:  Darity, William A. (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  Farmington Hills, MI:  Macmillan Reference USA.  2008.