College of Business & Economics
It was while studying abroad as an undergraduate student that economics professor Seth Gitter found his passion for Latin American economics and its impact on the population. His trip to Costa Rica as a junior economics major sparked a project that would become the focus of ongoing research.
“It really brought to life the decisions that small family farmers make,” says Gitter of his trip. “One thing I learned there was that the school year breaks coincide with the coffee harvest, which Costa Ricans claimed helped them achieve higher levels of education.”
Gitter went on to write a paper his first year of graduate school about how farming coffee versus other crops leads to more schooling for youth. “That paper eventually became part of my dissertation and my first publication,” he says.
Gitter’s most recent work based on farming families in Mexico appeared in a paper titled Fair Trade-Organic Coffee Cooperatives, Migration, and Secondary Schooling in Southern Mexico, published in the Journal of Development Studies and co-authored with fellow researchers from the University of Wisconsin. “My goal as a teacher is to convince students that learning a complex economic model is worthwhile."
“We find that fair trade coffee can add as much as half a year of school to the education of girls in the families who join fair trade cooperatives,” says Gitter.
But the story doesn’t end there. “Impacts on boys appear smaller likely because of the opportunities they have to migrate to the United States,” Gitter adds. This finding has led him to the next leg of his work. “We’re continuing to research high school-age Mexicans and their decision to stay in rural areas, migrate to cities or migrate to the United States.”
As an assistant professor in Towson’s Department of Economics, Gitter weaves his hands-on, field research into his economic development class, where students not only study the theory of economic growth, but explore issues related to underdeveloped countries.
By sharing his first-hand experiences with the students, Gitter helps students to look beyond the textbook and classroom to understand the human elements behind economic tables and models.
“My students love stories from the countries they study,” he says. “My goal as a teacher is to convince students that learning a complex economic model is worthwhile. Having an idea about the individual people and countries also motivates the students to study harder since it makes the pursuit seem more worthwhile.”