Christopher Cotton

Department of Economics
Queen’s University

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

  • How do education policies and programs influence learning outcomes? What causes gender gaps in math performance? How to best improve the academic performance of at-risk populations?
  • 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 adverse 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?
  • Do international development interventions work? What can be done to improve impact and sustainability? What role can the private sector play in this?

In addition to my academic research, I am proud of the policy work with which I’ve been involved. A few of the recent or ongoing initiatives include:

  • Government expert on campaign finance policy and the influence of money on policy outcomes.
  • Lead external evaluator for a major UKAID Girls’ Education Challenge project in Zimbabwe.
  • Team Lead on a USAID activity providing independent monitoring and performance verification for a of a major program implemented with the Ministry of Education in Jordan to revamp its early grade education system.
  • Team Lead for a USAID project to develop a training program for USAID education officers on public financial management, private sector engagement, and innovative finance.
  • Innovative finance and monitoring & evaluation expert on several projects assessing the feasibility of impact bonds or other innovative financing options.

Most of my policy engagement involving innovative finance, and international development is done in partnership with Limestone Analytics, a consulting firm I helped establish, which provides academic experts like me with the infrastructure, project management expertise, and support staff to lead or engage on major evaluation and capacity building projects for governments and organizations. More detail on some of this work and how it relates to my academic research can be found on my ongoing projects page.

I am one of the developers behind the Certified Professional Impact Analyst (CPIA) program at Queen’s, which teaches public and private sector practitioners how to incorporate evidence and rigorous evaluation into the design and financing of their projects in order to increase social impact and sustainability. I’m currently working with the Queen’s MPA program to revamp its economics specialization to align with the CPIA curriculum.