The Ester Boserup Prize for Research on Development and the Ester Boserup Thesis Prize

The Ester Boserup Prize for Research on Development is awarded for outstanding social science research on development and economic history. The prize will be presented to a scholar whose research has improved and deepened our knowledge of development dynamics and economic history, of poverty and wealth, of marginalization and political participation, and of lawlessness and justice.

The Ester Boserup Thesis Prize is awarded to a brilliant PhD thesis that treats one or several issues of development dynamics, of poverty and wealth, of marginalization and political participation, and of lawlessness and justice. The thesis must be successfully defended at the University of Copenhagen within the year in question.

The Prize Committee: The Management Group of The Copenhagen Centre for Development Research's host department, The Department of Food and Resource Economics, appoints a scientific committee of 5-6 members of active and prominent scholars in their fields for a renewable 3-year period. The committee is headed by the director of the Centre. The Committee selects the candidate among the incoming nominations.

Nomination for the Prizes: Candidates for the Ester Boserup Prize for Research on Development can be nominated by groups or individuals. Candidates for the Ester Boserup Thesis Prize can be nominated by the thesis supervisor.

For additional information, please contact Christian Lund


About Ester Boserup

The prizes have been named in honor of the Danish economist Ester Boserup (1910-99) whose seminal contributions to the understandings of societal change transcended both national and disciplinary boarders. Perhaps most well-known is her theory of agricultural development, which she published in 1965 under the title 'The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure'. In this work, based partly on observations from her travels in India, she argues that technological change in agriculture is a consequence of population density: As low-input, extensive agriculture is generally more labour efficient than intensive agriculture, farmers in sparsely populated areas have little incentive to innovate and intensify cultivation.  

Where population density rises, however, there is a need to cultivate intensively, and farmers are induced to innovate and employ production methods, which increase the output-to-land ratio, at the expense of labour efficiency. This theory, fundamentally challenging the Malthusian theory, has been supported by much subsequent research, and has greatly influenced later theories of agricultural change.

Another work of Boserup with far-reaching influence is her 1970 publication 'Womans Role in Economic Development'. Here, she presents an empirical analysis of the role of women in developmental processes in Africa and East Asia and argues, inter alia, that external support for land ownership changes and introduction of technologies and cash-crops, had contributed to a deterioration of the status of women in these societies, and that economic growth would require a greater focus on women in development. This work has been seminal in sharpening the gender focus of development policies of many bilateral and multilateral donors.