Robert Bates is known for his work on the political economy of development. He has conducted most of his research in Africa, where he has conducted field work in Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana. Much of his work focuses on the politics and economics of agriculture. The remainder focuses on violence and state failure. Bates attended Haverford College, from which he graduated summa cum laude 1964. After receiving his PhD at M.I.T. in 1969, he joined the faculty at the California Institute of Technology, where he rose to full professor. In 1985, he joined the faculty at Duke University, where he was Henry R. Luce Professor. In 1993 he joined the faculty at Harvard, where he serves as the Eaton Professor of the Science of Government.
Bates is a member of the Political Instability Task Force of the United States Government and long served as a resource person for the African Economic Research Consortium. He has also been Professeur associe, School of Economics, University of Toulouse. Bates serves on several editorial boards and has held several offices in the American Political Science Association.

Research Interests

In the developing world, agriculture constitutes the largest single industry and most families support themselves by farming. Realizing that, Bates trained in agricultural economics (at Stanford University) and anthropology (at the University of Manchester) as well as in political science, the field in which he received his doctorate. He focuses on the political roots of agricultural policies and the on the impact of those policies on both the welfare of rural dwellers and the growth of national economies. More recently, Bates has focused on the sources of political violence in Africa and on the reasons for the failure of African states. In his investigation of these subjects, Bates has long favored the collection of data through field research. In addition, he employes formal models to clarify his thinking and statistical methods to test his ideas.

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Primary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 54: Economic Sciences