Does covid-19 raise the risk of violent conflict?

In a short article on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog, my colleague Colette Salemi writes about our research on trends in conflict events and the coronavirus pandemic around the world. Basically, we really lack sufficient evidence to make credible claims about the relationship between the pandemic and violent conflict and simple time-series analysis highlights that the relationship may be highly variable across contexts.

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“The Other Way COVID Will Kill: Hunger”

That is the title of a recent New York Times article, by Peter S. GoodmanAbdi Latif Dahir, and  on how complications driven by the spread of the coronavirus has led to increased challenges for many people in accessing nutritious and healthy food. The article is a tour de force—reporting from Afghanistan, South Africa, India, South Sudan, and Kenya—and begins with the following vignette.

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The impact of maternal health on child health

A cool paper on the impact of maternal health on child health, by Leah Bevis and Kira Villa, is now forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources. I’ve had the opportunity to see this paper presented by both Leah and Kira at multiple conferences over the last few years. It really is excellent work by two very talented economists.

The headline result is that a mother’s health impacts their child’s health throughout childhood. Thus, previous estimates of the transmission rate of maternal health on child health at a single point in time underestimate the full effect.

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Export Crops and Extra Conflict

I recently stumbled upon this new(ish) paper, by Benjamin Crost and Joseph Felter published in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of the European Economic Association. This paper shows a plausibly causal link between the export value of agricultural products (e.g. bananas in this case) and violent civil conflict. This is an important and interesting link because decades-old theories of economic development suggest the shift to high-value (and export-oriented) agricultural production is an important mechanism driving economic growth and poverty reduction.

Let’s dig into this bananas paper! (Okay, sorry about that.)

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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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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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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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