Science - May 15, 2014

Erwin Bulte best economist in the Netherlands

Albert Sikkema

Wageningen professor of Development Economics Erwin Bulte is the best economist in the Netherlands, suggest new rankings in De Economist designed by economists from Tilburg and Amsterdam.

The new rankings compare the economists at Dutch universities on the basis of their 15 best articles between 2008 and 2012. Until now the standard rankings in the world of economics was that of economic policy platform, the ESB, which is based on all articles published by the economists. Bulte was in 14th place on that list.


Bulte does a lot of research on the link between economic develop­ment and the quality of local governance in Africa. Using eco­nomic experiments in different villages, he investigates how corrupt local leaders are, for example, and how much confi­dence villagers have in their leaders. He also works on research methods for evaluating the effect of development aid.

The Wageningen economist is not one of those prolific writers who produce a stream of commentaries and reviews as well as articles. But he does publish largely in journals with a high impact factor. For this reason he was not surprised to be placed in the top ten of these rankings. ‘I have three good publications every year. I was at Tilburg for 10 years, and the importance of quality publications was made very clear to me there.’ He notes, however, that the differences between the top 10 in the rankings are small. ‘Next year I might be in eighth place. That’s fine too.’

Top economists

The creators of the new rankings claim that their assessment method is a better reflection of international standards for good economists. In order to prove  their point, they submitted six top American economics who have won the prestigious John Bates Clarke Medal in recent years to   the criteria of both the standard ESB list and the new ‘qualitative’ list. In the ESB list, the top American economist ranks 21st, while half the six top Americans do not even make the rankings.

In the new rankings they are all in the top eight. So Bulte is in good company.