Do Commodity Price Shocks Cause Conflict?

The natural resource curse (sometimes called “Dutch disease”) was one of my first fascinations in development economics. It represents the apparent “paradox” of a boom in natural resource wealth leading to less economic growth. There are, of course, numerous theories as to why this observation persists. One popular theory, that is repeatedly tested empirically, is that sharp and dramatic changes in the prices of these resources lead to conflict, which in turn slows economic growth.

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COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries—An (incomplete) Round Up

Simeon Djankov and Ugo Panizza, in partnership with the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and the International Development Policy Journal, have an edited volume on “COVID-19 in Developing Economies.” Aside from a questionable (at best) cover image, this seems to be a valuable resource. The included essays are short and will likely be helpful for many involved in policy-making or research in low- and middle-income countries. I will highlight a few chapters that I found particularly insightful.

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COVID-19 and Conflict—New Working Paper

What does the threat of and the policy response to COVID-19 mean for inter-group conflict worldwide?

This is the question at the center of a new (and short) working paper, by me and my super-star colleague Colette Salemi. In this paper, using data from the ACLED Project, we track time-series trends for different types of inter-group conflict and evaluate discernible changes taking place as global awareness of COVID-19 spread.

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Reflections on ‘Freedom’ in Our Present Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of freedom recently. As with so many things, different people seem to use different definitions of freedom and this complicates our collective conversations. I am not going to try to persuade anyone about the right definition of freedom. With that said, I want to highlight a few reflections on freedom that I find helpful in our present time.

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Early childhood education and the role of psychological skills—Evidence from the Philippines

Most of us understand that investments in early childhood education matter. Quality education early in life not only leads to higher educational attainment, and typically increased learning, but also enables other positive outcomes—such as increased wages. Despite this broad understanding, important caveats exist.

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Mediation Analysis and the ‘Sequential Unconfoundedness’ Assumption

Students with the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) at the University of Oxford are creating a wonderful public good. The Coders’ Corner is a collection of tips and tricks for implementing useful statistical techniques in common statistical software (e.g., mostly Stata). This product represents a tremendous service to the broader research community. Almost anyone reading this blog should check out previous posts.

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The tangible and intangible effects of social networks

In a nice new(ish) working paper, Anandi Mani and Emma Riley review the recent and expanding literature on social networks, role models, peer effects, and aspirations in low and middle-income countries. In this post, I will summarize Mani and Riley’s review of the literature and offer my own commentary along the way. I will also comment on some of the methodological challenges implicit in this literature and will end with a discussion of what this all means for development policy.

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My Job Market Paper, in Blog Form

In the fall of 2013, while living in Kitale—a town in Western Kenya—I remember reading through several job market papers posted in blog form on the World Bank’s Development Impact blog. The experience, in part, inspired me to pursue graduate studies in development economics.

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