Christopher S. Cotton
Professor

Department of Economics
Queen’s University
cotton@econ.queensu.ca

I am a Professor in the Department of Economics at Queen’s University, where I hold the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic & Financial Policy and am the Director of the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy.

My research applies game theory, experimental economics and empirical methods to answer a range of policy questions. Some of the questions on which I’ve worked and am currently working include:

  • How do special interest groups influence policy outcomes? What is the impact of campaign finance reform on policy outcomes?
  • How does evidence influence funding allocation and policy decisions? Are there unexpected averse effects of better evaluation and better evidence?
  • Does innovative financing such as impact bonds and results-based financing lead to better social programs and international development projects?
  • How do investors and donors choose where to put their money when multiple projects vie for funding?
  • How does education policy affect the incentives of institutions and students? How do policies and education programs influence learning outcomes?
  • Do international development interventions work? What can we do to help them work better?

In addition to my academic research, I am also proud of my involvement with governments and organizations. I regularly provide advice, analysis and capacity building in the areas of campaign finance reform, evidence-based decision making, innovative financing, and the monitoring and evaluation of international development and social projects. Currently, I am the Lead External Evaluator for a major DFID UK Girls’ Education Challenge project in Zimbabwe, overseeing the evaluation of World Vision’s Youth Ready training program in El Salvador and Honduras, and serving as a senior project finance and education expert on USAID Learning, Evaluation and Analysis Project (LEAP III). On the international development projects, I partner with Limestone Analytics, where I am the Principal Economist. More detail on some of this work and how it relates to my academic research can be found on my ongoing projects page.

I also help NGOs build internal systems that focus on developing evidence to learn about the impact of their projects and improve the design of future initiatives. I am one of the developers behind the new Certified Professional Impact Analyst (CPIA) program at Queen’s, which teaches social sector and international development professionals how to incorporate evidence and rigorous evaluation into the design and financing of their projects. I am also helping to develop a capacity building program for USAID to teach staff about public and private finance of education projects in developing countries.