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Last week, the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Göttingen posted a call for two postdoctoral fellowships in honor of Stephan Klasen, a development economist who has written extensively about gender inequality in the Global South. The fellowships were established by the Faculty of Business and Economics, together with the Presidential Board of the University of Göttingen and the Faculty's Development Economics professorships. “With this award, the Faculty honors the development economist's great commitment to young researchers and to development economics in Göttingen as a whole.”

The fellowships celebrate a truly distinguished economist and a wonderful human being whose career has been cut short by illness but whose contributions to economics are enduring. Stephan’s moving farewell lecture—delivered by his college roommates and his sons Lukas and Nicolas—described his experiences as a scholar, policy adviser, and teacher and in so doing, showed his dedication to his research, his students, and his family.

I have the great privilege of knowing Stephan for thirty years. We met when we were both assigned to be teaching assistants for Amartya Sen’s course “Hunger in the Modern World.” I knew right away that Stephan was a brilliant researcher—even as a first-year graduate student he had begun to extend Sen’s work on missing women. I learned that he was someone who cared a great deal about his students, his friends, and the world around him. For many years, Stephan ran a homeless shelter for which he was recognized by the Cambridge City Council, the CommonWork Award of the City of Boston, and the Stride Rite Public Service Prize.

Stephan has published extensively (135 articles, 30 book chapters, and 8 books) and in particular, has explored various aspects of the complex problem of gender inequality. Many of his papers are seminal contributions. Early on in his career, he provided us with better estimates of the number of missing women in the world. Recently, he and coauthors examined the determinants of labor force participation of urban married women in low- and middle-income economies, and found that rising education levels and declining fertility increased labor force participation rates, while rising household incomes had a negative effect in poorer countries. As a nonresident fellow at CGD, Stephan wrote about the fairness of international goals to reduce child mortality and about the rules for what counts as aid. His work has influenced the work of countless researchers on topics from gender, inequality, and aid to climate development goals, including that of numerous colleagues at CGD.

Stephan’s record as a teacher at Göttingen is astounding—he taught 96 courses and supervised 96 bachelors theses, 150 masters theses, and 76 doctoral theses as a first reviewer. The University of Göttingen is now one of the premier universities for research and study on developing countries. The field of development economics is revitalized in Germany, thanks to Stephan’s efforts.

At least one of the two fellowships in Stephan’s name will be awarded to a female candidate. Disabled persons with equivalent aptitude will be favored. Details can be found here.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.