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The Hidden Local Costs of Deforestation in the Tropics. Guest post by Teevrat Garg

This is the seventh post in our series of blogs by graduate students on the job market this year.

The debate over deforestation has traditionally weighed the tradeoffs between local economic benefits and the broader ecological footprint measured in carbon emissions (Alix-Garcia et al., 2013; Foster & Rosenzweig, 2003). Consequently, this framing has led to the creation of several multi-billion dollar programs under the umbrella of the United Nations known as REDD+ or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. The idea is simple: in exchange for forgoing the economic benefits of logging and forest land clearing, countries that preserve forests (particularly poorer countries) receive payments from richer countries that benefit from the reduced carbon emissions associated with deforestation.

The underlying principle is that effects of deforestation related emissions are global in nature.

To the contrary, my research finds that the effects of deforestation are substantially larger at the local level due to health externalities (particularly from increased malarial incidence).  I find that local health costs of deforestation in Indonesia are an order of magnitude higher than the global carbon externalities. Thus local institutions, as opposed to external governments, may have the strongest incentives for forest preservation. Furthermore, given the productivity, morbidity, mortality and fertility costs associated with malaria (Lucas 2013, Lucas 2010), there may be a double dividend from environmental conservation currently being ignored in policy formulation.

Early Childhood Development Programs – Beyond nutrition and cognitive outcomes. Guest Post by Diana Lopez-Avila.

This is the sixth post in our series of blogs by graduate students on the job market this year.

Interventions during early childhood have begun to gain importance in the social policy agenda in developing countries. These interventions have been mostly designed to address health, nutritional and cognitive deficiencies; and have shown to positively impact children’s development and nutritional outcomes, as well as socio-emotional abilities (Schady, 2006). Less evidence exists on the impact on discipline practices and spousal violence, factors that also affect children’s development. Experiencing or witnessing violence as a child appears to have important effects latter in life (UNICEF, 2014). Children who experience violence are more likely to drop out of school, to engage in adult criminal behavior and to become maltreating parents, among others. Studies have pointed out that physical violence against children is common throughout the world, and violence at home is the most common form of violence against children (Pinhero, 2006). For the particular case of Colombia, the three most common ways parents use to discipline children are verbal reprimand (76%), hitting with objects (44%) and slaps (28%) according to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS, 2005). Despite these figures, parenting practices remains a topic that has not received a lot of attention from researchers in developing countries.

Friday links November 21

Berk Ozler's picture

Dialing for Data: The Story of a High Frequency Phone Survey in Liberia

Kristen Himelein's picture

Yesterday the World Bank released their first report on the socioeconomic impacts of Ebola that was based on household data.  The report provides a number of new insights into the crisis in Liberia, showing, for example, an unexpected resiliency in agriculture, and broader economic impacts than previously believed in areas outside the main zones of infection.  As widely reported, prices for staple crops (such as rice) have jumped well above seasonal increases, but additionally we find an important income effect.  We also find the highest prices in the remote southeast of the country, an area that has been relatively unaffected by the disease. The link to the full report can be found here.

Welfare gains from freer trade. Guest post by Souleymane Soumahoro

This is the fifth in our series of job market posts this year. 

Once known as the “Safe Haven” of Western Africa, because of its long-standing political stability and economic success, Côte d’Ivoire plunged in a decade-long vicious circle of political violence after a coup d’état in December 1999. The level and scope of violence reached its peak in September 2002 when a coalition of three rebel movements, known as the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire (hereafter FNCI), occupied and tightened its grip over 60% of the country’s territory. Unlike other rebel movements in West African states such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, where territorial conquests were allegedly associated with “scorched-earth” and “denial-of-resource” tactics, the FNCI opted for an autonomous self-governance system.

Am I Good Enough? (Biased) Self-Assessments and School Choices: Guest Post by Matteo Bobba

This is the fourth in our series of job market posts this year.
Research from numerous corners of psychology suggests that self-assessments of skill and character are often flawed in substantive and systematic ways. For instance, it is often argued that people tend to hold rather favorable views of their abilities - both in absolute and relative terms. In spite of a recent and growing literature on the extent to which poor information can negatively affect educational choices (e.g. Hasting and Weinstein, 2008; Jensen, 2010; Dinkelman and Martinez, 2014), there is little systematic evidence establishing how inaccurate self-assessments distort schooling decisions.

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.

Mediating Maternal Health − Traditional Birth Attendants as Intermediaries in Western Kenya. Guest post by Nisha Rai

This is the second in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

Relaxing supply-side constraints is not always sufficient to ensure delivery of public services to poor and remote communities. It may be necessary to stimulate demand by exploiting local agents who can link the relevant parties. We thus see the use of intermediaries in a variety of sectors in development; for example through the use of agricultural extension agents (Anderson 2004), loan officers for microfinance (Siwale 2011), and referral incentive programs – like that used by the British colonial army in Ghana (Fafchamps 2013). My job market paper studies the use of intermediaries in the maternal health sector in the Western Province of Kenya. I use an RCT to evaluate the efficacy of financial incentives for Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). The program provides payments for TBAs to encourage pregnant women to attend antenatal care (ANC) visits at a local health facility.  In this way, TBAs link pregnant women with health facilities, the TBAs’ rivals.  This potential competition, which is absent from most intermediary relationships, is a noteworthy feature of this program as it creates a nontrivial incentive problem for the TBA.

What do 600 papers on 20 types of interventions tell us about how much impact evaluations generalize? Guest post by Eva Vivalt

This is the first in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

Impact evaluations are often used to justify policy, yet there is reason to suspect that the results of a particular intervention will vary across different contexts. The extent to which results vary has been a very contentious question (e.g. Deaton 2010; Bold et al. 2013; Pritchett and Sandefur 2014), and in my job market paper I address it using a large, unique data set of impact evaluation results.
I gathered these data through AidGrade, a non-profit research organization I founded in 2012 that collects data from academic studies in the process of conducting meta-analyses. Data from meta-analyses are the ideal data with which to answer the generalizability question, as they are designed to synthesize the literature on a topic, involving a lengthy search and screening process. The data set currently comprises 20 types of interventions, such as conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and deworming programs, gathered in the same way, double-coded and reconciled by a third coder. There are presently about 600 papers in the database, including both randomized controlled trials and studies using quasi-experimental methods, as well as both published and working papers. Last year, I wrote a blog post for Development Impact based on this data, discussing what isn't reported in impact evaluations.