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Middle East and North Africa

Can commuting costs increase welfare? Israeli checkpoints and the ‘Thailandiyas’: Guest post by Alexei Abrahams

This is the third in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Puzzling Results:
Economists tend to believe that travel and trade costs reduce welfare. Trade papers like Irwin (2005), Redding & Sturm (2008), Storeygard (2014), and Etkes & Zimring (2014) draw on evidence from the United States, West Germany, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Gaza Strip to support this idea. One might reasonably expect, therefore, that the welfare of Palestinian commuters declined during the Second Palestinian Uprising (2000-2007), when the Israeli army deployed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints along the West Bank’s internal road network in order to defend Israeli civilian settlements. Although these obstacles were intended to deter and intercept militants, they had the unintended consequence of delaying Palestinian civilian travel between Palestinian towns, and from Palestinian towns to Israel (B’Tselem (2007), World Bank (2007)). Two World Bank working papers (Cali & Miaari (2014), van der Weide et al (2014)) take advantage of this ‘natural experiment’ to study the effects of travel costs on commuters’ welfare, finding that economic outcomes of Palestinians declined in the face of obstacle deployment. My job market paper, however, finds a very different result: while obstacles reduced the welfare of laborers in some towns, laborers from other towns actually benefited from obstacles. The salient outcome of obstacle deployment was not welfare reduction, but rather welfare inequality.

Insuring small firms against big political and economic risks: an experiment in post-revolution Egypt

David McKenzie's picture
The Arab Spring brought about a wave of joy in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa as repressive regimes that had ruled for years were overthrown. But the aftermath brought about considerable turmoil and uncertainty as to what was going to happen in many countries. In Egypt, the immediate aftermath of the January 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak included closing the stock market for 55 days, curfews of up to 18 hours a day, and an interim government under the control of the Armed Forces.

Turning on the taps in Tangiers

Markus Goldstein's picture

So in my quest to understand the gender dimensions of water supply this week, I stumbled upon a nice paper by Florencia Devoto and coauthors. They look at the effects of providing piped water in Tangiers, Morocco. The immediately cool thing about this paper is that they got something quite hard – randomization in an infrastructure project.