This is the thirteenth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
Our planet is currently experiencing substantial environmental degradation. The resulting depletion of resources and climate change patterns endanger the prospects for human life on earth in the long run, but there are often detrimental consequences that materialize sooner. While governments might have little incentive to reign in dangerous practices if the effects are not expected to emerge until the future, the recognition of concurrent costs might provide more urgency to the need to stem environmental harms. In my job market paper, I document an immediate human health impact of the rapid rates of deforestation in Indonesia, one that arises due to forest loss-induced spikes in malaria.
This is the twelfth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
Social commentators and researchers struggle to explain why, despite growing inequality in many countries around the world, there is often relatively limited support among poorer people for policies where they are set to benefit (such as increases in cash transfers or in the minimum wage). Recent research drawing on surveys from the United States and Europe has identified a potential reason for why poorer people are not more supportive of redistribution: they don’t realise they are poor. These studies illustrate the majority of people tend to think they are positioned around the middle of the national income distribution regardless of whether they are actually rich or poor.
- Maintaining the quantity and quality of staple grains throughout the year.
- Managing the persistent price seasonality in grain commodity markets. In Mbeya, Tanzania, where our experiment was conducted, for the last two years maize prices in the lean season were 80% higher than prices at harvest.
This is the ninth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
In low-income countries, small firms account for the majority of taxpayers (World Bank 2011). Yet we know little about how they navigate taxation. Existing research in the developing world focuses mostly on middle-income countries (Pomeranz 2015; Best et al. 2015; Brockmeyer and Hernandez 2018), and there is good reason to think that the tax behavior of firms in the world’s poorest countries might look different. On the one hand, higher credit constraints may undermine entrepreneurs’ ability to meet their tax obligations. On the other, limited resources for tax oversight might create gaps in enforcement that allow firms to evade taxes more easily.
The question of how such firms respond to taxes is a consequential one. It matters both for governments’ ability to raise revenues, in places where funds are much-needed, and for the take-home earnings of large populations of poor entrepreneurs.
My job market paper explores how small firms in Rwanda respond to a change in tax incentives. Rwanda provides a useful setting to study small firms’ tax behavior because such firms comprise 99% of all taxpayers. Rwanda is also a representative low-income country, ranking as 18th poorest in the world (IMF 2018). I focus on entrepreneurs that are earning less than USD $4,000 per year.
This is the eighth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
High rates of stunting in many developing countries pose important health threats to young children and lead to adverse later-life outcomes. Many nutrition-specific interventions that target a single dimension of causes of child undernutrition have often found limited effects. This generates the question as to whether interventions that address multidimensional and nutrition-sensitive causes of undernutrition, such as lack of knowledge and income, are more effective in bringing about healthy child development.
This is the seventh in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
Conditional cash transfers (CCTs), cash transfers targeted to poor households made conditional on investments in children's human capital, have become increasingly popular over the past two decades (Bastagli et al, 2016). However, CCTs have been criticized as some argue that the poorest households may find the conditions too costly to comply with and thus be excluded from receiving aid (e.g., Freeland, 2007, Baird et al, 2011). Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs), cash transfers with “no strings attached”, are therefore thought to be superior at alleviating current poverty. Consequently, when deciding whether to impose conditions, governments are thought to trade-off the extent to which they increase human capital investments in children versus the extent to which they alleviate current poverty.
This is the sixth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
What connects smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tracts of northwest India to the oil and gas barons of Texas and Oklahoma? A little green bean called guar! The seeds of this humble legume yield a potent thickening agent that greatly enhances the effectiveness of fracking fluid. As the fracking boom started in the United States, demand for guar skyrocketed, resulting in windfall gains for farmers across northwest India, the epicenter of global guar cultivation. Nearly simultaneously, India began rolling out its massive national rural electrification scheme, which prioritized certain villages based on a strict population-based eligibility criterion. In my job market paper, my coauthor Rob Fetter and I combine these two “natural experiments” to show that large-scale grid electrification can dramatically increase non-agricultural employment in rural economies when economic opportunity complements infrastructure—but if these complementary economic conditions are lacking, the grid may scarcely make a dent.
This is the fifth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
How should democratic governments interact with their authoritarian counterparts? The options include initiating a trade war or facilitating access to foreign media. Throughout history, a number of democratic governments have focused on engagement policies, specifically on promoting more interactions between citizens that live in democratic and authoritarian societies. However, the effects of such policies are largely unexplored: It is unclear whether attitudes of individuals living in non-democratic societies change when they meet with individuals that are socialized in democratic societies. Moreover, it is unclear whether these engagement policies strengthen the support for democracy during democratic transitions. These questions are important: a recent theoretical literature in political economy suggests that the degree of support for democracy within a society is critical in determining whether countries transition to democracy or experience autocratic reversals (Besley and Persson, 2018).
Natural Experiment & Empirical Strategy
In my job market paper, I study a policy that was implemented during the Communist dictatorship in East Germany to address these questions. In 1972, the East German regime agreed to reduce restrictions for private visits, specifically for West Germans travelling to East Germany to visit family and friends.