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Don Leonard, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Practice, City and Regional Planning Section
296 Knowlton Hall

Don Leonard, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Practice at The Ohio State University in the Knowlton School. He offers classes on international development planning and economic development. Previously, he held postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton University and Tulane. He received his doctorate in Government from Cornell University in 2014.

His research focuses on the politics of inequality and its consequences for economic development. He is currently working on a book project that demonstrates how exposure to international trade altered patterns of industrialization and state development across Latin America by reshaping the distribution of income within agrarian societies. He has presented this research at annual meetings of the International Studies Association, the American Political Science Association, and the Latin American Studies Association. He has also served as a reviewer for the journal publications World Politics, Comparative Politics, and Comparative Political Studies. 

As an international development consultant, Dr. Leonard has worked with more than a dozen research centers and policy think tanks across Africa and Latin America. His work focusses on improving the quality of evidence and the methods of analysis that drive their policy recommendations. This research support spanned a diverse set of policy issues including the dynamics of informal labor markets, community-based crime prevention, servicing victims of domestic violence, natural resource management, property rights and pastoral livelihoods, and legislative-executive accountability in young democracies. 

Before beginning his doctoral studies, Leonard served with the U.S. Peace Corps in Bolivia between 2004 and 2006, where his work focused on regional economic development planning. 


CRPLAN 4597: The Global Environment in Planning 
CRPLAN 4950: Professional Planning Skills Development 
CRPLAN 5997: Planning in the Developing World 
CRPLAN 7110: Development Theory 

Recent Work

Exposure to Trade and Postcolonial Divergence on the Island of Hispaniola

Societies that industrialized during the modern period are not only wealthier than those that remained agrarian; on average their citizens live longer and achieve greater levels of education. Most of our theories explaining industrialization, in turn, reduce to geography. Some say tropical climates doom economies by reducing labor productivity. Others, emphasizing the importance of political institutions, nonetheless find that geography is a powerful determinant of institutional quality. This article isolates non-geographic factors shaping industrialization. It does so by exploring the dramatic variation in industrialization and economic development on the tropical island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Selected Publications

Water is Life! Cochabomba, Bolivia against Privitization