Job Market Paper: "Agricultural shocks and conflict in the short- and long-term: Evidence from desert locust swarms"

I use data on locust swarms and conflict collapsed to annual 0.25 degree grid cell observations across Africa and the Arabian peninsula to test the importance of changes in opportunity costs related to agriculture on the risk of violent conflict. The identification exploits exogenous local variation in locust swarm exposure driven by patterns in swarm movements together with weather controls and grid cell and country-by-year fixed effects to identify causal impacts of these agricultural shocks. Locust swarms are a catastrophic shock to local agricultural production, but decrease the likelihood of violent conflict event in a given year by around 20%. Differences by swarm timing relative to national crop calendars are not consistent with effects on conflict driven by changes in conflict opportunity costs related to agriculture. In contrast to short term negative effects, cells affected by the 2003-2005 major desert locust upsurge were 62% more likely to experience any conflict in a given year afterward. The pattern of effects over time suggests affected areas are made vulnerable to future shocks which precipitate conflict.

[Working Paper]

Working Papers

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

with Dennis Egger and Utz J. Pape. Submitted.

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] [World Bank WPS9958]

"Money or power? Choosing Covid-19 aid in Kenya

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

During times of crisis, do people prefer in-kind transfers or cash, and why? In this paper, we compare electricity transfers against a benchmark of cash transfers (mobile money) among 2,000 rural and urban residents of Kenya with pre-paid electricity meter connections. Participants overwhelmingly prefer cash when offered an incentivized choice, even when the cash value of electricity tokens is 40% higher. The preference for cash is slightly lower in rural areas. Electricity transfers generate a larger increase in electricity consumption than equivalent cash transfers, suggesting a role for mental accounting. 

[Latest version available here] [NBER WP 29086] [PEDL Blog] [IGC Blog]


"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. 2023. The Journal of Information Technology for Development.

We use  three waves of Financial Inclusion Insights surveys to explore which factors are associated with gender gaps in mobile money (MM) adoption and use in LMICs with varying levels of MM market development. Gender gaps in  in well-established MM markets (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) could 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. 

[PDF] [Journal publication page] [EPAR Blog]

"Disbursing emergency relief through utilities: Evidence from Ghana" 

with Susanna B. Berkouwer, Steven Puller, and Catherine D. Wolfram. 2022. Journal of Development Economics. 156 (May 2022).

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.

[PDF] [Online Appendix] [Journal publication page] [NBER WP 28818] [World Bank Blog] [Energy Institute at Haas Blog] [Replication package]

"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] [EPAR Blog]

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

with Mary Kay Gugerty & C. Leigh Anderson. 2018. Development 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] [EPAR Blog]

"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] [EPAR Blog]

"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] [EPAR Blog]

Research in Progress

"Flooding the mind: Flood shocks, aspirations, and labor supply in Nigeria"

with Abdulrasheed Isah, and Elena Stacy.

Preparation for fieldwork stage.

"Forcing labor reallocation? Floods and long-term structural transformation in Nigeria"

with Mook Bangalore Abdulrasheed Isah, and Elena Stacy.

Analysis stage. 

"The economics of voltage

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

Analysis stage. This paper exploits spatial differences in electricity grid reliability in Accra, Ghana, to analyze economic and social impacts of reliable electricity on households and businesses.

[3ie RIDIE Registration ID 928]

"Crop shocks: Farmer responses to past pest and disease losses in Malawi" 

Writing stage. Pests and diseases are an important cause of crop losses globally, but their impacts on smallholder farm livelihoods have not received as much attention as the impacts of weather and price fluctuations. Using panel data from farm households in Malawi who report causes of preharvest losses including pests and diseases, I find that households that experienced preharvest losses from pests or diseases in a particular growing season apply 25\% more non-harvest labor inputs per acre and purchase 65\% more seed per acre in the following season relative to households that did not, controlling for household and location fixed effects. Impacts are not driven by effects of the shock on the value of crop production. Instead, household behavior is consistent with updating beliefs about the probability of experiencing a pest/disease shock to heavily weight recent realizations.