Lee Alston is the Director of the Institutions Program in the Institute of Behavioral Science and Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Over the past twenty-eight years Alston has focused his research in two broad areas: 1) the role of contracts and institutions in shaping agricultural land use in the historical U.S. and contemporary Brazil, including the Amazon — examples include the beneficial role of tenancy in the U.S. and titling in the Amazon; and 2) the important role of institutions in the economy — examples include an explanation for the timing of the growth of the U.S. welfare system, and the importance of strong Presidential powers in Brazil shaping policy outcomes. The contributions are theoretical and empirical with considerable implications for public policy.
Alston has been a Research Associate at the National Bureau for Economic Research since 1995. He is currently President of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics (2006-2007). He has been an elected Trustee of: the International Society for the New Institutional Economics (2004-2007); the Economic History Association (2002-2005); and the Cliometrics Society (2004-present). Alston has also served on: the Board of Editors for the Journal of Economic History and Explorations in Economic History; the Review Panel for the Economics Program at the National Science Foundation (2000-2002); and the Board of Advisors for the Center on Peace and Liberty (2002-present).
Alston received his B.A. with Distinction at Indiana University (1973); and his M.A. (1975) and PhD (1978) at the University of Washington. He was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Economics at Williams College (1978-1989), and Professor of Economics, Political Science and the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois (1988-2002). At the University of Illinois, Alston was the Director of the Center for International Business Education and Research (1996-1999), and a member of: the Campus Honors Faculty; the European Union Center; the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program; and the Institute for Environmental Studies. He was a Professor at the U.S. Business School in Prague (1994-2002) and a Visiting Professor at: the University of Washington (1981-1982); the University of California-Davis (1985-1986); the Australian National University (1986-1987); the Stockholm School of Economics (1999); and the University of Paris I -The Sorbonne (2006). Alston is an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Research Group on Political Institutions and Economic Policy at Harvard University, (2002-present).
Alston has authored three books, edited two books, and published over 50 scholarly articles. He has received six grants from the National Science Foundation and a Research Grant from the World Bank. He has given papers at over two hundred universities and conferences around the World and delivered numerous keynote addresses to academic and professional audiences including: The Sorbonne; the European Society for the New Institutional Economics; 15TH Congress of International Land Registrars; the Latin American and Caribbean Economics Association; Athenaeum Lecture, Claremont McKenna College; University of Paris X; Global Development Network Conference; 1st Annual Conference of the Brazilian Society for the New Institutional Economics; the World Bank, Conference on Institutional Development; and the U.S. Soviet Seminar on the Market.