Project Description: 

Agricultural colonization by outside groups in frontier regions has historically been encouraged by some nations for its supposed ability to positively impact development. This project focuses on examining the case of Mennonite colonization throughout Latin America and its impacts on subsequent regional development paths of the frontier.

Mennonites, a religious sect of Anabaptist Christianity, known for their rejection of modern technology, pacifism, and agrarian lifestyle, have established significant numbers in Latin America since the 1920s. Originally invited as part of rural development initiatives, Mennonite settlements now occupy vast stretches of land throughout Latin America, presenting a unique opportunity to study the consequences of agricultural colonization.

This project seeks to determine whether the potential benefits from frontier colonization originally sought by governments, such as gains to productivity, trade networks, and infrastructure, were borne out in subsequent development paths. At the same time, the project investigates the extent of possible unintended consequences of such policies, such as losses of land, culture, and resources.

The study will make use of both geospatial and tabular data to provide insights into dynamic impacts on population, ethnicity, religion, language, occupation, property ownership, and urbanization. 

Students will work under the supervision of ARE PhD student Elena Stacy on this project.

Undergraduate's Role: 

The undergraduate researcher(s) may work on tasks including but not limited to:

  • Cleaning, summarizing, and visualizing:
    • Geospatial data
    • Archival census and/or maps data
    • Other publicly available data sources
  • Conducting preliminary analyses with cleaned data
  • Summarizing and reporting findings
  • Drafting text for preliminary reports
  • Conducting literature reviews

The analysis will contribute to the preparation of an academic paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Undergraduate's Qualifications: 


  • Excellent communication skills
  • High level of attention to detail
  • Ability to troubleshoot tasks and identify potential solutions
  • Strong interest in development economics, economic history, demography/migration, etc.
  • Completed courses in econometrics and/or data analysis
  • Some knowledge of programming (Stata, R, or Python) 
  • Willingness to learn!


  • Experience creating data visualizations
  • Experience working with geospatial data
  • Experience with LaTeX/Overleaf 
  • Strong regional interest in Latin America
  • Spanish language skills
6-9 hours