Gordon McCord

Associate Teaching Professor and Associate Dean

Gordon McCord is an Associate Teaching Professor of Economics and Associate Dean of Student Affairs at GPS. He has an extensive background in sustainable development and works at the intersection of development economics, public health and the environment. His research often employs spatial data and spatial analysis to explore topics such as the evolving role of geography in economic development, the burden of infectious diseases such as malaria and hookworm in a changing climate, the impact of agricultural technology diffusion, and the spatial patterns of violent conflict. In public health, his research includes financial modeling of primary health care systems in rural sub-Saharan Africa as well as creating ecology-based models to estimate infectious disease burden in populations lacking accurate health data collection systems.

McCord is Director of the Certificate in Spatial Analysis program at GPS, as well as Director of Online Education.  He brings to the classroom both his love for spatial data analysis and his global experience doing international development policy work.  He also created the Millennium Village Simulation as a teaching tool to help students appreciate the complexity of achieving sustainable development in a rural sub-Saharan African setting. McCord is a research affiliate at UC San Diego’s Policy Design and Evaluation Laboratory (PDEL). Prior to being at UC San Diego, he studied poverty traps, foreign aid and poverty reduction strategies in his position as special assistant to Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the United Nations Millennium Project. He is a Senior Advisor to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and advises developing country governments on integrated rural development and poverty reduction program targeting using data-driven approaches.

Education and CV

Ph.D., Sustainable Development, Columbia University, 2011
B.A., Economics, Harvard University, 2002
Google Citations

GPS Spotlight

UC San Diego Plays Key Role in United Nations Initiative to Improve Human Welfare
Dec. 6, 2018 | Campus is host to U.S. Sustainable Development Solutions Network that launched on Dec. 4

Linked in Latin America
July 17, 2017 | Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Gordon McCord, GPS bolsters its Latin American connections with a second student exchange program in Chile.

Interdisciplinary intellect
July 14, 2015 | A glimpse into Assistant Professor Gordon McCord’s academic and professional backstory, plus who guided him along the way.

GPS China scholars build ties in Chile
Oct. 26, 2015 | Professor Gordon McCord assembles team of GPS colleagues to lend China knowledge, build scholarly ties in Chile.

Research Interests


Working Papers

“Health Impacts of the Green Revolution: Evidence from 600,000 births across the Developing World,” with Ram Fishman, Prabhat Barnwal, Aaditya Dar, Nathan Mueller and Jan von der Goltz.

“Adaptation Through Social Policy: Temperature, Violence and Cash Transfers in Mexico,” with Teevrat Garg and Aleister Montfort.

“Sunday, Bloody Sunday: Northern Ireland Churches as Instruments for the Effect of Ethnic Diversity on Violence,” with Joseph Brown and Paul Zachary. 

“The Timing of Diffusion of Modern Economic Growth,” with Jeffrey D. Sachs.

“Ecological Modeling of Hookworm Burden under Climate Change” with Karl Rubio.

“Development, Structure, and Transformation: Some Evidence on Comparative Economic Growth,” with Jeffrey D. Sachs. NBER Working Paper 19512, October 2013.

"Africa's Lagging Demographic Transition: Evidence from Exogenous Impacts of Malaria Ecology and Agricultural Technology," with Dalton Conley and Jeffrey D. Sachs. National Bureau of Economics Research Working Paper No. 12892. February 2007. 


Malaria Ecology Index from Kiszewski et al (2004) in raster format for GIS.

Population at risk of malaria over time (used in Conley, McCord and Sachs [2007]). Country-level data in Stata format.

Academic Publications

Invited Contributions

Media and Other Publications

Academic Publications

The impact of an insecticide-treated bednet campaign on all-cause child mortality: a geospatial impact evaluation from the Democratic Republic of Congo,” with Carrie Dolan, Ariel BenYishay, Karen A. Grépin, Jeffrey C. Tanner, April Kimmel and David Wheeler. PLOS ONE, February 22, 2019.

“The benefits of taxing cigarettes in middle income countries,” with Thomas E. Novotny. BMJ 2018, 361:k1433.

“Fertilizing Growth: Agricultural Inputs and their Effects in Economic Development,” with John W. McArthur, Journal of Development Economics, 127, 133-152, 2017. [Previous Brookings Global Economy & Development working paper here[Replication data available here]

“A malaria ecology index predicted spatial and temporal variation of malaria burden and efficacy of antimalarial interventions based on African serological data,” with Jesse K. Anttila-Hughes, American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 96(3), 616-623, 2017.

“Malaria Ecology, Child Mortality & Fertility,” with Dalton Conley and Jeffrey D. Sachs, Economics & Human Biology 24, 1-17, 2017. [Previous draft here]

“Outcomes and Cost-Effectiveness of Integrating HIV and Nutrition Service Delivery: Pilots in Malawi and Mozambique,” with J.N. Bergmann, K. Legins, T.T. Sint, S. Snidal, UNICEF Working Group, and Y. Ben Amor. AIDS and Behavior 21(3), 703-711, 2017.

“Geographic Determinants of China’s Urbanization,” with Peter Christensen. Regional Science and Urban Economics, vol. 59, pp. 90-102, 2016.

Malaria Ecology and Climate Change,” European Physics Journal, Vol. 225, Issue 3, pp. 459-470, May 2016.

“Physical Geography and the History of Economic Development,” with Jeffrey D. Sachs, Faith & Economics Vol. 66, pp. 11-43, Fall 2015.

“Deployment of Community Health Workers Across Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Financial Considerations and Operational Assumptions,” with Anne Liu and Prabhjot Singh. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 91:244-253, 2012.
"Scaling Up Malaria Control in Africa: An Economic and Epidemiological Assessment," (with Awash Teklehaimanot and Jeffrey D. Sachs), American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 77(Suppl 6), December 2007.
"Ending Africa's Poverty Trap," (with Jeffrey D. Sachs, John W. McArthur, Guido Schmidt-Traub, Margaret Kruk, Chandrika Bahadur, and Michael Faye), Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 1:2004.
"Travel Time and Monetarization in Rural Peru," The Harvard College Economist, Vol. 2 Issue 1, Spring 2002.

Invited Contributions

“GIS, Remote Sensing, and Lessons for Economic Development,” The Political Economist 25(1): 2019.

“Jordan” in the SAGE Encyclopedia of World Poverty, 2nd ed.  Mehmet Edekon, ed., SAGE Publications, 2015.  [Download PDF]

“National Poverty Reduction Strategy” in the SAGE Encyclopedia of World Poverty, 2nd ed.  Mehmet Edekon, ed., SAGE Publications, 2015. [Download PDF]

"Extreme poverty," with Jeffrey D. Sachs, in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition, Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume, eds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. [Download PDF]
"Regional development, geography of," with Jeffrey D. Sachs, in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Second Edition. Eds. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. [Download PDF]
"Understanding African Poverty: Beyond the Washington Consensus to the Millennium Development Goals Approach," with Jeffrey D. Sachs and Wing Thye Woo, in Africa in the World Economy: The National, Regional, and International Challenges. Fondad: The Hague, 2005. [Download PDF]
Foreword (co-authored with Jeffrey D. Sachs) to Antezana, Oscar, La Reducción de la Pobreza: Un Proceso Político, Plural: La Paz, 2005.

Media and Other Publications

"What Americans can learn from Northern Ireland: Walls make bad neighbors," with Joseph M. Brown, America: The Jesuit Review, October 2, 2019.

“SDG Costing & Financing for Low-Income Developing Countries,” authored as part of SDSN Costing and Financing team, September 2019.

"Northern Ireland’s Troubles began 50 years ago. Here’s why they were so violent," with Joseph Brown, The Washington Post – Monkey Cage, August 22, 2019.

“Pathways to Sustainable Land-Use and Food Systems: 2019 Report of the FABLE Consortium.” Co-Authored Mexico and U.S. country chapters. Laxenburg and Paris: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). 2019. [Full report] [Executive Summary]

“One Million Community Health Workers: Technical Task Force Report,” The Earth Institute, Columbia University, 2011.

“Malaria: The Cost of Making the Poor Pay,” with Jeffrey D. Sachs and Awash Teklehaimanot, SciDev.net, October 31, 2005.

“Time for Chile’s Next Step in Economic Development,” with Jeffrey D. Sachs, Business Chile, November 2004. [Spanish version here]

McCord is Director of the Certificate in Spatial Analysis program and Director of Online Education at GPS.  He teaches the following classes at the School:

Microeconomics for Policy and Management

This course introduces microeconomics, emphasizing applications to public policy. We examine tools such as marginal analysis and game theory to understand markets, the behavior of individuals and firms and what role policy plays when markets fail to maximize social welfare. Throughout the course we will supplement theory with real-world examples from newspaper and magazine articles.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Spatial Data Analysis

This course provides an introduction to GIS and spatial data analysis for applied social science research. Students will work in ArcGIS to manipulate different types of georeferenced data, visualize data, import/export data from Excel and Stata, and conduct spatial analysis (for example clustering analysis, interpolation, kernel densities, and geographically weighted regression). Basic knowledge of statistics and regression (ordinary least squares) is assumed, as is familiarity with Stata software. The course will also look to motivate geography as an important lens through which to study society and invite guest lecturers to present different kinds of research that employ GIS.

Advanced GIS and Remote Sensing

This course focuses on the principles of remote sensing and on analysis of satellite imagery in the new Google Earth Engine platform. Students will work in Google Earth Engine to analyze large scale geographic data as well as temporal and spatial dynamics. There will be emphasis on basic image classification, change detection analysis, and applications of remote sensing in the social sciences.

Integrated Development Practice

This course complements the concepts taught in Economic Development (IRGN 451) by introducing students to the basic competencies and practical skills of a development practitioner. Lectures will be grounded in a practical, multi-sectorial approach that will focus on the inter-relationship of the social sciences, health sciences and natural sciences (agronomy, engineering). Lectures outside the social sciences will be led where possible by guests who are development practitioners in their field. In parallel to lectures, the course will emphasize the idea of a “differential diagnosis for development” through case studies of developing countries. Students will work in teams and focus on one developing country, tasked with diagnosing obstacles to sustained economic development and poverty reduction. These case studies will rely heavily on both policy documents and data-driven approaches. Students will be asked to manipulate data in Stata & GIS formats to identify poverty hotspots and use household survey data to characterize poor households and poverty traps. Issues around scaling up best practices from pilots to national level will be emphasized. Students will be asked to put forward policy recommendations to government based on their analysis of existing national policy frameworks & data.

Millennium Village Simulation

Millennium Village Simulation: The MV Sim was created as a teaching tool to help students appreciate the complexity of meeting the Millennium Development Goals in a rural African setting, and to experience the interdisciplinary nature of sustainable development.

Gordon McCord