“The Coronavirus Pandemic and Food Security: Evidence from Mali”—Forthcoming

My paper, co-authored with Guigonan Serge Adjognon and Aly Sanoh, on changes in experienced food security associated with the coronavirus pandemic is now forthcoming at Food Policy. In the paper, we combine pre-pandemic survey data with follow-up phone survey data from Mali, and find some interesting—and perhaps surprising—patterns in experienced food security within Mali. Here is the abstract:

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Higher Aspirations, Less Investment? Some New Experimental Evidence

New research by David McKenzie, Aakash Mohpal, and Dean Yang finds that exogenously increased financial aspirations lead to less borrowing and business investments two years later.

This finding is consistent with existing evidence, using observational data, of an inverted U-shaped relationship between the aspirations gap and ‘future oriented’ behavior such as investments (by me), education spending (by Phillip Ross), on saving (by Janzen et al.), and existing theoretical work (by Genicot and Ray). It is an important finding because while aspirations may be an important factor that can lead to increased ‘future oriented’ behavior, increasing aspirations by themselves may not necessarily be beneficial if setting aspirations ‘too high’ can lead to frustration and possibly a behavioral poverty trap.

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“Aspirations and Investments in Rural Myanmar”—Forthcoming

In 2014, while I was completing my M.S. degree at MSU, I worked as a research assistant on a data collection project in Mon State Myanmar. As part of this work, I designed a module to be included in a larger household survey that aimed to measure the hopes and aspirations of respondents. That initial work, which was largely a data validation effort, was published in the Journal of Development Studies in 2018.

I am now very happy to report that my paper investigating the relationship between aspirations and investment choices, using these data, is now forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Inequality. Here is the abstract:

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COVID-19 and Trends in Conflict Globally

I am happy to announce that a short research note titled “COVID-19 and Conflict,” co-authored with Colette Salemi, is now out in World Development. It is a modest study, but one that we hope will inspire and motivate future research relating to pandemic-related disruptions and inter-group conflict. Here are some highlights:

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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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