Lewis S. Davis

lewis headshot wamc 2015

Professor of Economics

Union College

Lippman Hall 118, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308

Ph.D. in Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999.
BA in Mathematics, Davidson College, 1988
Curriculum Vitae


I joined the Economics Department at Union College in 2006 and received tenure in 2011.  I previously held positions at Smith College, the University of New Hampshire, and SUNY Oswego, and served as a visiting professor at Martin Luther University, Germany, University of Perugia, Italy, and IESEG, France.  I have spent two sabbaticals as a scholar-in-residence at New York University.  I work primarily on the economics of culture and teach classes on the economics of culture, economic development and the economics of sin.

Symposium on Religion and Social Conflict

I am organizing a Symposium on Religion, Social Conflict and Social Cohesion, which will take place Nov. 3-4, 2017, at Union College, and will feature presentations by faculty from across a broad spectrum of disciplines.

The Symposium is intended to further our understanding of the ways in which religion unites and divides us, as individuals and societies, and to foster discussion of how different disciplinary approaches to the study of religion inform, complement and challenge each other.  It is supported by Union’s Our Shared Humanities initiative, which is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In the Media

Social Animal House: The Economic and Academic Consequences of Fraternity Membership

Individual Responsibility and Economic Development:  Evidence from Rainfall Data

  • My research linking rainfall patterns, individualism and economic development was featured on WAMC’s Academic Minute, Nov. 17, 2016.
  • It was also featured on the economics blog Marginal Revolution, Sept. 21, 2016.

Social Status and Racial Solidarity 

  • My work with Stephen Wu (Hamilton College) on Social Status and Racial Solidarity was featured on WAMC’s Academic Minute, Dec. 2, 2015.


I have over 20 peer-reviewed or edited publications addressing a broad range of topics, including economic growth, income inequality, law and economics, political economy, intellectual property rights, the economics of culture, and social comparisons.  Recent publications have appeared in the Journal of Economic Growth, European Economic Review, Journal of Comparative Economics, and Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.  I served as Associate Editor for the Princeton Encyclopedia of the World Economy, 2009.

For more information on my research, including access to working papers, datasets, and published articles, please click here.


In addition to teaching several standard courses, including Introductory Economics and Microeconomic Theory, I teach a number of courses that are unique to Union College.  The Economics of Sin applies economic analysis to topics like the market for transplantable organs, addiction, crime, polygamy, prostitution and the war on drugs.  I also teach senior-level seminars on Economic GrowthPolitical Economy and the Economics of Culture.

For more information on my teaching and access to current syllabi, please click here.

Professional Service

I serve on the Editorial Board of the Eastern Economic Journal and am a Managing Editor of the Review of Economics and Institutions.  I also serve on the Organizing Committee for the Workshop on Macroeconomic Research at Liberal Art Colleges, which I hosted at Union College in August, 2015.

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