Year of Publication


Competition Category

Social Sciences


Arts and Sciences


Fair trade is one of many certification strategies available to coffee producers around the globe. The fair trade (FT) movement broke into the American coffee industry with strategies aimed at reducing global poverty among farmers in developing nations, primarily using the FMP and FP mechanisms. This review will discuss why research on the development effects of fair trade is increasingly nebulous, how researchers have analyzed it up until now, their findings, and future recommendations to improve the clarity of results. Current literature on fair trade’s impact provides consistent reports of higher prices attained, but inconclusive findings surrounding increased income and poverty alleviation based on region, multi-certification, and year of study among other factors. Insufficient randomization, the lack of methodology provided, and differing measures/scales of development among the majority of existing studies reduce the preciseness of their conclusions. Large-scale RCTs or well-explicated PMS methods should be used in all future research. In addition, this paper summarizes the researchers theoretical conclusions based on recent studies and simple economic concepts, which proposes that FT cannot promote development based on its current imbalance between certified producers and FT market demand. Although further experimentation is required, this line of thought allows for a final prediction that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world will push FT certified coffee producers out of the industry.


Elena Liu received an honorable mention in the Social Sciences category.

Dr. Yoko Kusunose was the faculty mentor.

Included in

Economics Commons