Melissa Dell



  • Fellow
  • Institutions, Organizations & Growth


  • Harvard University
Department of Economics


  • United States


PhD (Economics), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MPhil (Economics), Oxford University
AB (Economics), Harvard University


Melissa Dell examines economic development and state capacity in a variety of contexts in East and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Her recent work estimates how crackdowns on the drug trade have affected drug violence and drug trafficking routes in Mexico and how different military strategies impacted the trajectory of the Vietnam War. Her other recent studies estimate how climate change is affecting poor countries, how historical conflicts condition economics and politics in the long run, and how state capacity impacts economic prosperity. Dell’s ongoing work uses novel archival data to document the process of structural change and economic development in Mexico and Taiwan across the 20th century. In 2014, the IMF named Dell as the youngest of 25 economists under the age of 45 who are shaping thought about the global economy.

Relevant Publications

Dell, M. "Trafficking Networks and the Mexican Drug War." American Economic Review 105, no. 6 (2015): 1738–1779.

Dell, M., B. Jones, and B. Olken. "Temperature Shocks and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century." American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 4, no. 3 (2012): 66–95.

Dell, M., and D. Acemoglu. "Productivity Differences Between and Within Countries." American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 2, no. 1 (2010): 169–88.

Dell, M. "The Persistent Effects of Peru's Mining Mita." Econometrica 78, no. 6 (2010): 1863–1903.

Dell, M., B. Jones, and B. Olken. "What Do We Learn from the Weather? The New Climate-Economy Literature." Journal of Economic Literature 52, no. 3 (2014): 740–98.