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Unmet Liquidity Needs and the Spread of Sports Betting: Guest post by Sylvan Herskowitz

This is the tenth in our job market paper series this year.
In developing countries, the high costs of credit along with varied impediments to saving, make it challenging for people to raise large sums of liquidity needed for large and indivisible, or “lumpy,” expenditures.  An emerging body of evidence has shown how these constraints push people towards second-best strategies to address their financial needs (Collin et al. 2009 and Banerjee and Duflo 2007).  My job market paper, “Gambling, Saving, and Lumpy Expenditures: Sports Betting in Uganda”, looks at the behaviors of 1,715 bettors in Kampala, Uganda and provides evidence that unmet liquidity needs push people towards sports betting as an unexpected alternative method of liquidity generation.

Give power to the managers and the teachers will come: Guest post by Jacobus Cilliers

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

Teachers’ attendance can be improved if they are monitored by head-teachers using mobile technology, but only if the associated reports trigger bonus payments.

Policy question
Can high-stakes decentralized monitoring improve civil servant performance, or will it lead to collusion between the monitor and civil servant? And what happens to the quality of information when we raise the stakes of reports?

Traveling with ease, carrying disease? Using mobile phone data to reduce malaria: Guest post by Sveta Milusheva

This is the eighth in our series of job market posts this year
The Global Fund has disbursed nearly $28.4 billion in the last decade to reduce the disease burden from malaria, TB and HIV (Global Fund 2016). However, travelers can reverse the progress from campaigns that have decreased infectious disease prevalence (Cohen 2012 et al, Lu et al 2014), or can rapidly spread emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika (Tam et al 2016, Bogoch et al 2016). While policymakers have largely targeted environmental drivers of malaria, this research provides evidence that human movement can play an important role in spreading disease in areas where incidence has been reduced.  Given that migration has numerous economic and social benefits, policymakers face important trade-offs in designing policies to reduce travel-linked malaria cases.  This paper provides a useful framework for identifying high-risk populations in order to reduce malaria incidence with minimal interference to movement patterns.

How has our rising palm oil consumption affected the communities where it comes from? Guest post by Ryan Edwards

This is the seventh in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
The tripling of area planted with tropical oil crops since the 1990s represents the largest transformation of global food and agricultural systems since the Green Revolution. The area planted for oil crops since the 1970s has expanded by over 150 million hectares, three times that of all cereal crops in the same period (Byerlee, Falcon, and Naylor, 2016). Tropical oil crops feature in most agricultural and food policy debates: genetically modified organisms, food versus biofuels, small farmers versus agribusiness, mono- versus inter-cropping, land grabs, and the environmental footprint of food consumption. The most prominent debates concern clearing forests across the tropics to plant oil crops, particularly oil palm, and the haze that regularly blankets Southeast Asia. Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil—ubiquitous in everyday products from food and drink to soap and cosmetics—and one of the world’s most socially contested industries.

Weekly links December 2: Jane Austin does public works, unpopular truths about informal health care in India, Facebook does maps, and more…

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What Drives Technology Adoption in Agriculture? Disentangling regulation and rising wages in Brazil: Guest Post by C. Austin Davis

This is the fifth in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
Something dramatic happened in Brazilian agriculture between 2007 and 2013: the previously-steady labor intensity of a major crop, sugarcane, fell by 70 percent (see Figure). This drop was the result of the rapid, widespread adoption of mechanical harvesting.  My job market paper, “Why Did Sugarcane Growers Suddenly Adopt Existing Technology,” studies how mechanization was achieved.

All for One and One for All? Why Networks Don’t Prevent Poverty Traps: Guest post by Arun Advani

This is the fourth in our series of posts by PhD students on the job market this year.
Giving livestock to poor households can increase their incomes substantially. This naturally raises the question: why were households not investing in such livestock before? One obvious answer is that they are poor – this means they can neither afford to invest themselves, nor get a loan from a bank (or microfinance organisation). But the puzzle is more subtle than that. When facing a crisis, even very poor households borrow informally, from a network of friends, family, and neighbours, to fund consumption. In addition, households in these networks collectively have the resources needed to invest in livestock. So the real question is: why don’t households pool resources to allow investment? What makes borrowing to invest so different from borrowing to smooth consumption?

Should developing countries increase their minimum wages? Guest post by Andrés Ham

In the closing scene of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Police Commissioner Gordon tells his son that Batman is “the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now” (video). This quote provides an interesting policy analogy with minimum wage increases. The benefits of raising minimum wages are something we believe workers deserve: better pay. Unfortunately, the costs tend to involve higher unemployment, which no country needs right now.
 

Are Agricultural Traders Colluding? Experimental Evidence on Competition in Kenyan Maize Markets: Guest Post by Lauren Falcao Bergquist

This is the second in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
Setting food-price policy is hard. Smallholder farmers are better off with higher crop prices, but consumers want lower prices. So what is a policymaker to do?
 
Well-integrated agricultural markets can tackle both sides of this food-price policy dilemma, by pulling crops out of surplus areas (to boost prices received by farmers) and pushing food into deficit areas (to reduce prices faced by consumers).
 
But, alas, agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa are not well-integrated. Wide variation in prices across regions and seasons is common, and large gaps between farmer and consumer prices are the norm. There are many possible causes. One issue is that trade is expensive to conduct in the region. To move crops from surplus to deficit areas, agricultural traders must pay high transport costs, spend time and money searching for sellers and buyers, and battle institutional failures like poor credit availability and contact enforcement. Yet, there may be another important driver of the gap between farmer and consumer prices – one that has been voiced by policymakers but is much less well-documented empirically: agricultural traders may be engaging in imperfect competition and extracting rents. 

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