As a native of rural South Africa during the Apartheid era, Professor Johannes Fedderke observed the stunning disparity in wealth between different groups of people. He remembers being a child and asking, “why are some people and regions wealthy and others not?”
“It's the most fundamental question of economics and an obvious one to ask,” he said. His curiosity led to a distinguished career as an economist and ultimately to Penn State University, where he has joined the faculty of the School of International Affairs. He will teach Multi-Sector Quantitative Analysis, a core curriculum class that focuses on interpreting empirical data, as well as International Economics: Principles, Policies, and Practices.
Professor Fedderke's research examines economic growth and the determinants of growth. He is particularly interested in the role of institutions and economic development and asking whether particular institutions matter in the long-term growth of particular countries. These questions, he explained, quickly lead to many more. “Does it matter for growth purposes whether a country is a democracy or has a more autocratic form of government?” he said. “Which one is better in the long run for the prospects of citizens in terms of improving their individual welfare and for the economic performance of the economy?” He can ask the same question of individual rights, civil rights, political property rights, and other rules that govern human interactions. Equally important, he noted, is the challenge of properly quantifying and modeling all of these variables. A consultant to the World Bank since 2007, he has addressed the World Bank on South Africa's economic growth, industry concentration, and infrastructure. He also has been invited to address the African Union, the United Nations Development Program, and the G20.
Prior to joining Penn State, he was a member of the faculty at the University of Cape Town and the University of Witwatersand and has been the director of economic research for Southern Africa since 2005. Professor Fedderke was attracted to Penn State's strong international reputation.
A strategic thinker by nature, Professor Fedderke enjoys playing chess in his spare time. In addition to developing future courses on determinants of long-run economic development, he is in the process of developing an elective course on international economics and game theory.