Columbia University

The Geography of Economics
"Do large cities have more inequality? What economic factors drive those differences?"
Photo credit: Jill LeVine
Donald Davis ’92GSAS, the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Economics and International Affairs, studies how location impacts economics.

Professor Donald Davis ’92GSAS studies how location impacts economics—between countries, within countries, or between people within a city. For example, he explores why some cities grow larger than others, why rent in some cities is so high, and how these differences impact inequality.

“One of the first things you notice about New York is the extraordinary contrast of wealth and poverty,” said Davis. “Does that mean New York is cruel in a way that other cities are not?”

Davis, a former economics department chair, is also interested in the underlying issues associated with inequality—and encourages his students to ask questions about this. “Before you can get to questions of policy, such as how to address the needs of those with fewer opportunities, you need to know how the system works, and ask why did this happen in the first place,” he added.

Meet The Donor: Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’31GSAS, ’97HON

Scholar and philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’31GSAS, ’97HON (1907-2013) was dedicated to advancing international diplomacy and greater global understanding—a commitment she shared with her husband, Shelby Cullom Davis ’31GSAS (1909-1994). They met on a train en route to Geneva in 1930 and, one year later, each received master’s degrees from Columbia—hers in international relations and his in history. Cullom Davis went on to become a U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland.


The Davises endowed the Professorship for the Practice of International Diplomacy at the School of International Public Affairs and the Professorship for Economics and International Affairs in the Arts and Sciences. Wasserman Davis established the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Fellowship Fund through a $10 million bequest in 2013. Each year, at least 15 full-time GSAS and SIPA students from the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, or Taiwan will benefit from this gift of financial aid.



Published: March 2014