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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Morten Jerven

Morten Jerven
Professor Morten Jerven
Chair of Africa and International Development
4.05 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)1316515355
Research Interests
Economic History, Statistics, history of statistics, Economic Growth, State formation

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • By appoinment


Morten Jerven has a PhD in Economic History from London School of Economics and is the author of Poor Numbers: How we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it  (Cornell, 2013) and Africa: Why Economists Got it Wrong (Zed Books, 2015). His current work, The Wealth and Poverty of African States. Economic growth, living standards and taxation in Africa since the 19th Century, is under contract with  Cambridge University Press to be published in 2019.

Morten Jerven has published widely on African economic development, and particularly on patterns of economic growth and on economic development statistics. His books are based on research in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. Jerven is an economic historian, with a PhD from the London School of Economics. Since 2009 h worked at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. In 2015 I was appointed at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and  worked as a professor in development studies there since 2016, where he maintains a visiting professorship. His 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. In Spring 2010, he  visited Ghana and Nigeria and in the fall of the same year, went to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. There he followed up on my doctoral research and conducted interviews at the statistical offices.In 2013 he published his first book Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It, which is published by Cornell University Press. His second book, Economic Growth and Measurement Reconsidered in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, 1965-1995, was published by Oxford University Press, and is a revised version of his doctoral thesis. My third book – Africa. Why Economists Get it Wrong -  was published in 2015. 

Jerven has also edited and authored chapters in two volumes on statistical methods and ways of measuring and mismeasuring progress in African economies. Both are availabe as special journal issues, in the Journal of Development Studies and the Canadian Journal of Development Studies, but are also published by Routledge  Measuring African Development: Past and Present, Routledge, 2015, and Statistical Tragedy in Africa? (with Deborah Johnston), Routledge, 2015.

I currently work on linking studies on post-colonial economic development with the economic history of colonial Africa. The research projects is focusing on the African growth, tax, wage and demograpic  data where the two related aims are to assess its quality and to construct a reliable basis to evaluate and interpret long term economic change in African economies. 

If you are interested in being supervised by Morten Jerven, please see the links below for more information:

PhD In African Studies; PhD in International Development