Research

Publications

"Economic benefits of empowering women in agriculture: Assumptions and evidence"

with C. Leigh Anderson, Travis W. Reynolds, Vedavati Patwardhan, and Carly Schmidt. 2020. Journal of Development Studies. 57(2), 193-208.

We outline hypothesized avenues through which economic benefits can arise from empowering women in agriculture, and review the evidence to determine support for the assumptions behind this framework. Findings suggest returns to investing in female farmers could be significant in various contexts.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"A case of mistaken identity? Measuring rates of improved seed adoption in Tanzania using DNA fingerprinting"

with Ayala Wineman, Timothy Njagi, C. Leigh Anderson, Travis W. Reynolds, Didier Y. Alia, Priscilla Wainaina, Eric Njue, and Miltone W. Ayieko. 2020. Journal of Agricultural Economics. 71(3): 719-741.

Adoption of improved seed varieties has the potential to increase productivity of farm households in sub-Saharan Africa, but farmers may be uncertain about the varieties of their seed. Using household survey data from Tanzania, we find that farmer reports of whether maize seed varieties are local or improved disagree with DNA-based identification for 30% of observations. Farmer production decisions indicate that they treat seed varieties differently based on their perceptions, meaning errors in seed type awareness may translate into suboptimal management practices. Investments in farmers’ access to information, seed labelling, and seed system oversight are needed to complement investments in seed variety development.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"Methods of crop yield measurement on multi-cropped plots: Examples from Tanzania"

with Ayala Wineman, C. Leigh Anderson, and Travis W. Reynolds. 2019. Food Security. 11, 1257-1273.

A variety of metrics are used as proxies for agricultural productivity. One of the most common, crop yield (amount produced per unit of area), is defined in a variety of ways in the literature. We show that this measurement decision affects conclusions about crop productivity and practices associated with increased productivity.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"Delivering development? Evidence on self-help groups as development intermediaries in South Asia and Africa"

with Mary Kay Gugerty & C. Leigh Anderson. 2018. Develoment Policy Review. 37(1), 129-151.

We present a framework to evaluate the effectiveness of using community-based organizations such as self-help groups (SHGs) to deliver development interventions, and review evidence for impacts on health, finance, agriculture, and women's empowerment outcomes in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"Mobile money and branchless banking regulations affecting cash-in, cash-out networks in low- and middle-income countries"

with Travis W. Reynolds, Marieka Klawitter, and C. Leigh Anderson. 2018. Gates Open Research 2(64).

We examine recent trends in mobile money and branchless banking regulations related to cash-in, cash-out (CICO) networks (physical access points allowing users to exchange physical cash and electronic money) in low- and middle-income countries, and review evidence on the impacts of CICO regulations on markets and financial inclusion. Many low- and middle-income countries have introduced regulations that may affect CICO networks, with regulatory approaches differing across geographies and over time. While anecdotal reports of regulatory impacts exist, we find limited evidence of impacts of regulations on CICO networks or on CICO-related financial inclusion.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"Relating seasonal hunger and coping and prevention strategies: A panel analysis of Malawian farm households"

with C. Leigh Anderson, Travis W. Reynolds, and Josh D. Merfeld. 2017. Journal of Development Studies. 54(10): 1737-1755.

Relative to chronic hunger, seasonal hunger in rural and urban areas of Africa is poorly understood. This paper examines the extent and potential correlates of seasonal hunger in Malawi using panel data from 2011–2013. We find that both urban and rural households report seasonal hunger in the pre-harvest months. Certain strategies to smooth consumption, including crop storage and livestock ownership, are associated with fewer months of hunger. In addition, we find that Malawian households that experience seasonal hunger harvest their crops earlier than average – a short-term coping mechanism that can reduce the crop’s yield and nutritional value, possibly perpetuating hunger.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"Gender-associated differences in cross-domain risk perception among smallholder farmers in Mali: Implications for development"

with Alison Cullen, C. Leigh Anderson, and Travis W. Reynolds. 2017. Risk Analysis. 38(7): 1361-1377.

We use data from smallholder farm households in Mali to test whether risk perceptions differ by gender and across six domains. Women express more concern for all risk domains except extreme weather when we consider Mali as a whole, but not within regions. Risk perceptions are strongly associated with individual worldview, human capital, and self-efficacy.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

"Do changes in farmers’ seed traits align with climate change? A case study of maize in Chiapas, Mexico"

with C. Leigh Anderson and Andrew Cronholm. 2017. Handbook of Behavioural Economics and Smart Decision-Making: Rational Decision-Making within the Bounds of Reason (Morris Altman, ed.). Chapter 14, 251-274.

Climate change is a growing problem for agricultural production, and farmers are faced with decisions on whether and how to adapt. Low-income farmers do not have access to data and modeling tools but experience climate fluctuations first-hand over many years and at a smaller scale than most climate models can predict. We find that farmers in different villages made statistically significant changes in their ratings of seed tolerance or resistance to four environmental stressors over time, and that these changes are generally aligned with what climate change predictions suggest would be the most desirable traits. Our results suggest that farmers’ selection of seed agronomic characteristics, whether knowingly or not, accounts for long-term climatic fluctuations due to climate change.

[PDF] [Book publication page]

"Relative effectiveness of bilateral and multilateral aid on development outcomes"

with Travis W. Reynolds and C. Leigh Anderson. 2017. Review of Development Economics. 21(4), 1425-1447.

We review 45 papers that empirically test the associations between bilateral and multilateral aid flows and various development outcomes and find no consistent evidence that either bilateral or multilateral aid is more effective overall.

[PDF] [Journal publication page]

Working Papers

"Balancing work and childcare: Evidence from COVID-19 school closures and reopenings in Kenya"

with Dennis Egger and Utz J. Pape

We use COVID-19 school closure policies in Kenya as an exogenous shock to estimate the impact of changes in household childcare needs on adults' labor, leveraging the partial school reopening of schools for students sitting national exams only for identification. Having a child eligible to return increases adults' labor supply, with gains concentrated in household agriculture hours. Impacts are not significantly different by sex of the adult: though women have greater responsibility for childcare in Kenya, men also contribute and both increased childcare hours during school closures. The impact of partial reopening on work hours corresponds to over 30\% of the fall in average hours in the first few months after COVID-19 cases were detected, indicating that school closures are responsible for a significant share of the reduction in labor supply during the pandemic. Large labor effects of a potentially expensive childcare availability shock suggest that policies making childcare more available and affordable could have positive impacts on adult labor supply in Kenya.

[Latest version available here]

"Disbursing emergency relief through utilities: Evidence from Ghana"

with Susanna B. Berkouwer, Steven Puller, and Catherine D. Wolfram. Submitted.

How does the on-the-ground implementation affect the efficiency and distributional implications of emergency government transfer programs? We analyze a COVID-19 electricity relief program in Accra, Ghana, and find that logistical and technological constraints that affect program implementation can thus be just as important as design features in determining the distribution of costs and benefits.

[Latest version available here] [Online Appendix] [NBER WP 28818]

"Money or power? Financial infrastructure and optimal policy"

with Susanna B. Berkouwer, Eric Hsu, Oliver W. Kim, Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, and Catherine D. Wolfram. Submitted.

How does a country's financial infrastructure affect optimal aid disbursement - in particular, the choice between cash and in-kind transfers? We find that differences in the adoption of mobile money between Ghana and Kenya leads to a large difference in the sahre of households that prefer to receive mobile money transfers as opposed to electricity transfers of similar monetary value.

[Latest version available here] [NBER WP 29086]

"Exploring the gender gap in mobile money adoption: Evidence from eight low- and middle-income countries"

with Travis W. Reynolds, C. Leigh Anderson, Caitlin O'Brien-Carelli, and Joanna Keel. Revise and resubmit at The Journal of Information Technology for Development.

Mobile money (MM) has the potential to enhance financial inclusion in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but gender gaps in MM adoption remain. This study uses three waves of Financial Inclusion Insights surveys to identify factors associated with gender gaps in MM adoption across eight LMICs with varying levels of MM market development. After accounting for differences in socio-demographic factors, we find no evidence of a residual gender gap in MM adoption in well-established MM markets in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Gender MM adoption gaps in these countries could therefore be eliminated by reducing well-known gender inequalities in areas such as education and phone ownership. In contrast, in emerging MM markets with low rates of adoption (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan), significant gender gaps remain even after controlling for socio-demographic and other enabling factors. Gender gaps in MM adoption are increasing over time in these five emerging MM markets.

Research in Progress

"The economics of long-term grid reliability"

with Susanna B. Berkouwer, Catherine D. Wolfram, and Steven Puller.

[3ie RIDIE Registration ID 928]

"The impacts of agricultural shocks on conflict: Evidence from locust swarms"

"Polygynous households and intra-household decision-making: Evidence and policy implications from Mali and Tanzania"

with C. Leigh Anderson, Travis W. Reynolds, and Josh Merfeld

This paper examines whether polygyny is associated with the allocation of decision-making authority between spouses in rural farm households in Mali and Tanzania. We draw on a unique dataset comprised of responses from the husband and the wife identified as having the most decision-making authority in the household – interviewed separately in over 1,700 households from each country. We find polygyny to be negatively and significantly associated with the wife’s decision-making authority over some, but not all, farm and household decisions. We further find that the economic and human capital factors associated with greater wife authority differ across polygynous and monogamous households.