Published on Development Impact

What’s the latest in development economics research? Microsummaries of 150+ papers from NEUDC 2018

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Last weekend, the North East Universities Development Consortium held its annual conference, with more than 160 papers on a wide range of development topics and from a broad array of low- and middle-income countries. We’ve provided bite-sized, accessible (we hope!) summaries of every one of those papers that we could find on-line. Check out this collection of exciting new development economics research!

The papers are sorted by topic, but obviously many papers fit with multiple topics. There are agriculture papers in the behavioral section and trade papers in the conflict section. You should probably just read the whole post.

If you want to jump to a topic of interest, here they are: agriculture, behavioral, climate change, conflict, early child development, education, energy, finance, firms and taxes, food security, gender, health and nutrition, households, institutions and political economy, labor and migration, macroeconomics, poverty and inequality, risk management, social networks, trade, urban, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).


  • Drawing on data from across Sub-Saharan Africa, a new model explores the link between the costs of doing trade and the adoption of fertilizer in agriculture. “Greater adoption [of fertilizer subsidies] lowers local food prices substantially under existing high trade costs, but fertilizer subsidies only increase farmer incomes when trade costs are low.” (Porteous)
  • How does a massive refugee influx affect the receiving economy’s agricultural productivity? In Tanzania, receiving refugees from Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s resulted in some pluses, some minuses, but ultimately an insignificant change. (Tsuda)
  • Soil quality varies a lot from farmer to farmer. In Tanzania, providing site-specific recommendations for fertilizer didn’t do anything; providing fertilizer vouchers just led to buying the popular fertilizers. But together? Farmers were more likely to buy the right fertilizer for their soil, leading to big potential gains. (Harou et al.)
  • Many farmers across Africa seem uninterested in fertilizer (seemingly good!) and interested in intercropping (seemingly not so good!). Why? In Tanzania, fertilizer increases yields but also variance from year-to-year. Intercropping doesn’t increase yields but decreases variance. (Zhu)
  • The One Acre Fund small farmer program in Kenya provides “flexible financing for the purchase of high-quality seeds and fertilizer, crop insurance, and information about improved farming practices.” It boosts smallholder productivity on average. “Small farmers—who tend to be more credit-constrained—benefit more from the program.” (Deutschmann et al.)
  • “While there are many sites where fertilizer use is likely to be profitable even where fertilizer is relatively expensive, there are also some places where fertilizer use is unlikely to be profitable even if fertilizer is relatively inexpensive” in Sub-Saharan Africa. (McCullough et al.)
  • Knowledge dissemination via video documentaries about soil fertility improvement technology increased adoption by 13 percentage points in northern Ghana. Adoption was 9 percentage points higher for dissemination via video than via radio. (Dzanku et al.) #RCT
  • Video-mediated agricultural extension is more effective than the conventional training-and-visit system in increasing farmers’ knowledge and uptake of improved agricultural technologies and practices in Ethiopia. (Abate et al.) #RCT
  • Labor market imperfections affect conditional fertilizer demand in Ethiopia. The share of working-age men in a household increases farm labor demand by 18.3 percent and conditional fertilizer demand by 41.1 percent. “Policies which solely lower fertilizer prices are unlikely to be as effective as those which also address barriers to participation in labor markets.” (Kopper)
  • In South Africa, income affects psychological well-being AND psychological well-being affects income. The former effect is particularly strong among the poor. (Alloush)
  • “Providing incentives” for diabetics in India “increases daily walking by 1,300 steps or roughly 13 minutes of brisk walking… Increasing the frequency of payment does not increase effectiveness.” (Aggarwal, Dizon-Ross, & Zucker)
  • “Descendants of agricultural societies with greater rainfall risk” have more of a belief that external factors are more important than their own actions “in determining their outcomes” (an “external local of control”). (Ross)
  • In Malawi, “individuals are willing to pay a premium of nearly 22 percent of the price of the solar [lamp] to pay for it in weekly installments” rather than a deferred one-time payment. Providing a savings product doesn’t eliminate the premium. (Francis)
  • When presented with new evidence, policymakers tend to ignore variance and update their beliefs more when the evidence is more positive than their prior beliefs. (Vivalt & Coville)
  • How do farmers learn? Different ways of learning have implications for programs that reduce the cost of learning. (Ghosh)
  • Psychology and economics affect each other! An intervention to increase women’s beliefs in their own ability to attain their goals “produces large and persistent increases in employment” in India. And “women who received a job offer have significantly higher [beliefs in their own ability] several months later.” (McKelway)
Climate change
  • Farmers in hot areas of India tend to adapt – important as climate change takes place – but not if they’re too hot! “Extremely high temperatures do grave damage to crops, even in places that experience these temperature extremes regularly.” (Taraz)
  • Greater rainfall creates both winners and losers: Greater own-district rainfall increases rural household consumption, but greater rainfall in neighboring districts reduces consumption in India. (Hossain and Ahsan)
  • Farmers adapt to extreme heat: Hot temperatures induce Peruvian farmers to increase the use of inputs, such as land and domestic labor. (Aragón, Oteiza, and Rud)
  • Early life exposure to above average levels of rainfall in Indonesia decreases mental health scores by 15 percent and increases the likelihood of depression by 5 percent for adult women, but not men. (Pasha, Rockmore, and Tan)
  • The Dodd-Frank Act, imposing requirements on US companies to report `conflict minerals' in their supply chains, roughly doubled the probability of conflict at sub-national level within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In addition, despite important heterogeneity, there is no evidence of any conflict reduction in countries bordering DRC.  (Bloem)
  • Deporting criminals from the United States to El Salvador increases homicide rates, gang activity such as extortion and drug trafficking as well as gang recruitment of children in El Salvador. Especially children exposed in their early teens are more likely to be involved in gang related crimes and have less education as adults. (Sviatschi)
  • Benefits of food assistance programs on education depend on the program’s success to offset opportunity costs of education relative to child labor. School feeding led to increases on enrolment by 11 percentage points and to about an additional half-year of completed education during the conflict in Mali. Attendance among boys residing in households receiving general food distribution, however, declined by about 20 per cent. (Aurino et al.)
  • Ukrainian firms from counties with fewer ethnic Russians experienced a deeper decline in trade with Russia because of increased inter-ethnic tensions and a differential rise in negative attitudes toward Russia. (Makarin and Korovkin)
Early child development
  • How effective are low-cost interventions to improve early child development? Manage your expectations. In India, some kids received iron supplementation, some received reading support, some received both. The combined intervention resulted in sizeable gains in language skills for a subset of kids, but not in other skills. (Ebert, Heesemann, & Vollmer) #RCT
  • What are the impacts of “the Integrated Child Development Services program in India, the largest early childhood development program in the world”? Children in the program are better nourished and can read better. Adults who were in the program as children earn higher wages. But parents shift resources towards children in the program, leaving their other kids behind. (Ravindran)
  • Earthquakes are bad for child development: infants during the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 are shorter now. Children do worse on tests. But kids with educated mothers were protected from these effects. (Andrabi, Daniels, & Das)
  • How does environmental degradation affect children? Forest loss in Nigeria increases infant mortality and malaria. (Berazneva & Byker)
  • When the sun sets later, kids go to bed later. “School-age children in locations with later sunset have fewer years of schooling and are less likely to complete primary and middle school. Later sunset also decreases adults' sleep, wages, and household education expenditure.” (Jagnani)
  • How does lots of rainfall affect children’s education? In India, more rainfall used to mean higher enrollment (probably because it means higher agricultural income and more ability to pay). More recently, more rainfall means lower enrollment (probably because more can afford schooling overall, but lots of rain still means more crops to harvest and more need for the kids to work). (Zimmerman)
  • Starting school a year earlier in Brazil resulted in higher test scores for students. (Ryu, Helfand, & Moreira)
  • Poorly managed schools have poorer teacher practices and poor student outcomes. (Lemos, Muralidharan, & Scur)
  • Two pay-for-performance schemes in Tanzania both improve student test scores. A simpler, less theoretically ideal system increases scores as much as the more complex system. (Mbiti, Romero, & Schipper)
  • “Teacher absenteeism decreases substantially in election years” in India. (Davies)
  • Allocating scholarships to 4th grade students increased educational attainment (about 0.21-0.27 grade levels), but only merit-based scholarships leads to improvements in cognitive skills (0.11 standard deviations), greater well-being (0.18 SD), and employment probability (3.4 percentage points) in rural Cambodia. Neither type of scholarship (merit or needs-based) increased socioemotional skills, suggesting that boosting learning through demand-side programs is not sufficient. (Barrera-Osorio, de Barros, and Filmer) #RCT
  • Conditional cash transfers (a 5-year municipality-level intervention) led to positive long-run effects on primary and secondary school completion and on reaching tertiary studies in Honduras.
  • While effects are positive for cohorts of a very wide age range, educational gains are more limited for indigenous children. (Molina Millán et al.) #RCT
  • The 1973 school construction program improved education in Indonesia. Men who received more education are more likely to be formal workers and work in a non-agricultural sector. Households in which either parent received more education have higher consumption, more assets, and pay more government taxes. Intergenerational effects are larger for daughters, particularly if the mother was exposed to the school construction program.  (Akresh, Halim, and Kleemans)
  • School disruptions caused by teacher strikes leads to adverse labor market outcomes in Argentina: unemployment is higher, skill levels of the occupations are lower and earnings drop by 3.2 for men and 1.9 percent for women. “This amounts to an aggregate annual earnings loss of $2.34 billion, equivalent to the cost of raising the employment income of all Argentinian primary school teachers by 62.4 percent”. (Jaume and Willén)
  • Being last among the best students in college increases the willingness to switch careers and reduces the likelihood of having a more prestigious occupation in Brazil. (Ribas, Sampaio, and Trevisan) #RDD
  • Ser Pilo Paga (SPP), a program that grants full scholarships at top-quality universities for low-income students in Colombia, had a substantial effect on test scores. The motivational effect is concentrated in schools where at least one student received the scholarship in the previous year. (Laajaj, Moya, and Sanchez) #RDD
  • Electrification causes industrial development: it increases firm entry rates, exit rates and creates new industrial activity in Indonesia. Higher turnover rates lead to higher average productivity and induce reallocation towards more productive firms in electrified areas. (Kassem)
  • After a oil or gas discovery, growth forecasts increase significantly while actual growth performance does not. This effect is driven by underperformance in countries with weaker institutions. (Cust and Mihalyi)
  • Households in rural Rwanda are willing to dedicate substantial parts of their budget to electricity, but not enough to reach cost-covering prices. Off-grid solar is the preferable technology to reach mass electrification in most of rural Africa, and grid infrastructure should concentrate on selected prosperous regions. (Grimm et al.) #RCT
  • Fuelwood usage and indoor air pollution both decline by 12% after introducing a fuel-efficient stove in rural Uganda –  these reductions are well short of the World Health Organization pollution targets. Even when introducing a second fuel-efficient stove, most households continued to use their traditional smoky stoves a majority of the time. (Beltramo et al.) #RCT
  • An environmental reform in India had unintended consequences: the size of mines fell to below the cutoff for regulation, leading to higher deforestation. (Balietti et al.)
  • “Artisanal mines may have a positive local economic impact. Opening an industrial mine, in contrast, has no impact” in Burkina Faso. (Bazillier & Girard)
  • Paying “extremely poor households for forest conservation” results in “between three to five percent reduction in deforestation among grant-receiving areas.” (Wong et al.) #DiffinDiff
  • Weak governance in newly created districts leads to more forest fires in Indonesia. (Macdonald & Toth)
  • Following the 2008 economic crisis, banks that were not state-owned – private sector banks – where more susceptible to runs in India, reflecting panic of retail clients  (Das et al.)
  • A shock in debit card usage in Mexico leads corner stores to accept debit card payments which subsequently increases their profits due to more customers and higher prices. (Higgins)
  • Showing a documentary featuring successful borrowers significantly increased indices measuring both aspirational hope and microenterprise performance in Mexico. (Valdes, Wyldick, and Lybbert)
  • Demand for a life insurance in Mexico increases by 38 to 88 percent when customers are allowed to pay in weekly installments instead of in a lump sum, even though doing so is more costly for customers. (Bauchet and Morduch)
Firms and taxes
  • Monitoring devices on minibuses in Kenya (Nairobi) increase employee effort and firm profits, but they don’t improve passenger safety without additional incentives. (Kelley, Lane, and Schönholzer) #RCT
  • A program to improve infrastructure in certain districts in India improved microenterprise profitability, largely through more consistent access to electricity. (Chaurey & Le) #FuzzyRD
  • Want firms to pay taxes? Send them an email! Threatening emails to firms in Costa Rica (You’ll get audited! You’ll get shut down!) led to more tax payment, depending on just how threatening the email was. (Brockmeyer et al.) #RCT
  • Across many low- and middle-income countries, trade reforms increase unemployment. In Colombia and Mexico, “the response is stronger and more persistent when the firing costs are lower and the statutory minimum wage and unemployment benefits are larger.” (Ruggieri)
  • A value added tax in India leads manufacturing firms to produce less – and it’s not just reporting. (Velayudhan)
  • Government centralization increased firm performance, particularly among micro and small enterprises – firms most constrained by the local bureaucratic environment in Vietnam. While centralization did not affect any government amenities, it did lower petty corruption. (Le)
  • Urban productivity rises with city scale (by about 5 percent with each doubling of city population) and agglomeration forces play an important role in expanding formal sector employment (based on 12.000 firms in 111 cities and 51 countries). African cities are not generating the same level of benefits as cities in Asia and Latin America. (Collier, Jones, and Spijkerman)
  • Banning fixed-term contracts in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh reduced contract labor usage in core activities, and increased regular labor. Revenue and profits significantly declined, potentially due to higher input costs. (Chaurey and Soundararajan)
  • Dismantling a large, size-based industrial policy reform in India which reserved several products to be manufactured by small firms increased consumer welfare by 1.62 percent. (Chiplunkar)
Food security
  • Land fragmentation reduces food insecurity in Ethiopia. Households with diverse parcel characteristics can grow a greater variety of crop types and are therefore protected against adverse effects of low rainfall. (Knippenberg, Jolliffe, and Hoddinott) #IV
  • Cash vs. food transfers in a crisis setting: Cash transfer recipients in Yemen invested relatively more in activities with higher liquidity requirements (livestock), while food recipients incorporated higher-return crops into their agricultural portfolios. (Schwab) #RCT
  • The world's largest in-kind food subsidy program, India’s Public Distribution System, led to improved dietary diversity and “crowded-in" consumption of nutritious non-staple foods, particularly in households where women have more control over the food budget. (Shrinivas et al.)
  • The saturation rate of communities with planting material for highly nutritious crop technologies (vitamin-A-rich orange sweet potato and high-iron biofortified beans) substantially increases the average probability of adopting the crops and increased spillovers to neighboring households by 16-19 percent. A treatment in which opinion leaders were invited to promote the technologies did not lead to no more diffusion of either technology. (Baird, Gilligan, and McNiven) #RCT
  • How much are women willing to sacrifice to avoid sexual harassment? In India (Delhi), “women  are  willing  to  choose  a  college  in  the  bottom  half  of  the  quality  distribution over  a  college  in  the  top  quintile  in  order  to  travel  by  a  route  that  is  perceived  to  be  one  standard deviation safer.” (Borker)
  • Getting married one year later in India results in “a significant decline in physical violence, although it has no impact on sexual or emotional violence.” (Dhamija & Roychowdhury)
  • The opening of all women police stations in India “increased reported crime against women by 22 percent. This is due to increases in reports of female kidnappings and domestic violence.” (Amaral, Bhalotra, & Prakash)
  • A multi-year intervention that “engaged adolescents in classroom discussions about gender equality” improved gender attitudes and reported gender-equitable behavior (e.g., “boys report helping out more with household chores”). (Dhar, Jain, & Jayachandran) #RCT
  • Does your daughter think she’s bad at math? It’s probably because of her classmates’ parents. Evidence from China. (Eble & Hu)
  • In recent years in Bangladesh, researchers find “a pro-female bias in enrollment decision but a pro-male bias in the decisions on the conditional expenditure and core share in education expenditure.” A program providing stipends to females helped with enrollment but didn’t overcome gender bias overall. (Xu, Shonchoy, & Fujii)
  • Cash transfers in Kenya reduced physical violence against wives regardless of whether the husband or wife received them, but they reduced sexual violence against wives only when the wives received them. (Haushofer et al.)
  • Participants in a lab experiment in Ethiopia “are ten percent less likely to follow the same advice from a female leader than an otherwise identical male leader, and female-led subjects perform .33 standard deviations worse as a result.” (Ayalew, Manian, & Sheth)
Health and nutrition
  • Across 42 countries, what are the differences in infant feeding patterns by wealth, parental education, and community infrastructure? (Choudhury, Headey, & Masters)
  • Teaching mothers how to improve children’s diets improved children’s diets in Ethiopia, but providing vouchers for them to afford more food did not. Combining the two was the most effective. (Park, Han, & Kim) #RCT
  • Give a multi-layered child nutrition program or its equivalent in cash? Mixed bag in Rwanda. But giving a lot more cash makes a real difference. (McIntosh & Zeitlin) #RCT
  • “Mothers who received free meals during primary school are less likely to have stunted children compared to mothers who did not receive free meals” in India. (Chakrabarti et al.)
  • “Women exposed to cow slaughter bans” in India “in their year of birth have lower levels of hemoglobin (Hb) and are up to 10% more likely to be anemic in their prime reproductive ages between 15 and 35, particularly those who have not completed primary schooling or who come from poorer families.” (Dasgupta, Majid, & Orman)
  • What’s the optimal level of health insurance subsidy? In Ghana, a one-time partial subsidy affects long-term health care service use more than a one-time full subsidy. This seems to be due to selection – sicker people opted into the partial subsidy program. (Asuming, Kim, & Sim) #RCT
  • Public anti-malaria investments in Senegal did not crowd out household investments in health. (Rossi & Villar)
  • “Peers are… more effective than health workers in bringing in new suspects for testing” for tuberculosis in India. “Low-cost incentives of about $3.00 per referral considerably increase the probability that current patients make referrals.” (Goldberg, Macis, & Chintagunta) #RCT
  • The cost of low effort among clinicians in Nigeria is about US$350 million annually. Peer monitoring increases effort. (Okeke)
  • A soda tax in Mexico increased gastrointestinal disease because of low-quality drinking water. (Gutierrez & Rubli)
  • “Piped water at home reduces childhood” obesity in Morocco and the Philippines. (Ritter)
  • Providing double-fortified salt to primary school children in India reduced anemia but didn’t affect test scores on average. However, for the kids who complied best with treatment, test scores did rise. (Krämer, Kumar, & Vollmer)
  • In China, regulating salt to make sure it contained iodine resulted in higher test scores for girls but not for boys, reducing the math ability gap. (Deng & Lindeboom)
  • Games in Kenya show that spouses don’t totally trust each other. Letting them communicate increase trust a bit. (Castilla, Masuda, & Zhang) #LabInField
  • When a carpet manufacturer offered jobs to women in India, their likelihood of taking the job was unchanged whether they received the offer directly or their husbands got the information to share with their wives. When couples discussed the opportunity together, women were less likely to take the job. (Lowe & McKelway) #RCT
  • Households differ in who makes decisions but also in why that person makes the decisions. Among farmers in Senegal, “households achieve greater milk production, higher hemoglobin levels among children, and more satisfaction with decisions when the most informed member or members of the household make the relevant decision.” (Bernard et al.)
  • In Bangladesh, “women, children, and the elderly face significant probabilities of living in poverty even in households with per-capita expenditure above the poverty threshold.” (Brown, Calvi, & Penglase)
  • “A drop of 1 percentage point in the earnings gap” between husbands and wives in Mexico led to “an increase in the divorce rate of 2 percent.” (Davila)
Institutions and political economy
  • Christian missionaries settled in healthier, safer and more developed locations in 43 sub-Saharan African countries (early 20th century) and in Ghana (18th-20th century) – this endogeneity led to an overly optimistic account of the importance of colonial missions for long-term development. (Jedwab, Meier zu Selhausen, and Moradi) #RDD
  • Greater suitability for opium cultivation in India under British Rule is associated with lower present-day literacy outcomes and a lower rate of public good provision. In opium-growing districts, the Colonial administration spent less on education and health, while spending more on police forces. (Lehne) #RDD
  • The United Fruit Company (UFCo), active in Costa Rica from 1889 to 1984, had positive, large and persistent effects even after it stopped production: households in former UFCo areas have better housing, sanitation, education, and consumption capacity. UFCo invested in physical and human capital, such as sanitary and health programs, housing for its employees, and vocational training. (Méndez-Chacón and Van Patten) #RDD
  • In locations where plantation estates were ruled by private, foreign enterprises during the Dutch colonial period in Java (Indonesia) weaker economic outcomes and institutions persist to this day. (Fetzer and Mukherjee)
  • A novel index of ethnic segregation – taking into account both ethnic and spatial distances between individuals and computed for 159 countries - reveals that countries where ethnically diverse individuals lived far apart, have higher-quality government, higher incomes and higher levels of trust. (Hodler, Valsecchi, and Vesperoni)
  • Information can break the political resource curse: Giving information - related to a recent discovery of natural gas in Mozambique - only to community leaders increases elite capture and rent-seeking, while information targeted at the general population increases mobilization, trust, demand for political accountability and decreases conflict.  (Armand et al.)  
  • Group size of minorities has no relation with its representation in national government under proportional electoral systems, while it shows an inverted-U shaped relationship in majoritarian electoral systems (i.e., if “too small” or “too large” they suffer a disadvantage against the majority group) based on 421 ethno-country minority groups across 92 democracies spanning the period 1946–2013. (Chaturvedi and Das)
  • The majority of citizens in Bangladesh prefer taking common decisions via democratic and inclusive institutions, and these positive evaluations of participatory governance are reinforced by the exposure to a Community-Driven Development program. (Cocciolo) #LabInField
  • Rewarding politicians by making their political effort more visible to citizens - either through public recognition or by increasing their access to public funds - improves citizens’ wellbeing in south Indian state Tamil Nadu.  (Mansuri et al.)
  • Caste quotas lead to political candidates with lower wealth, lower criminal records, but similar education levels. Quotas also increase women’s representation in politics. There is no difference in the level of public goods between quota-bound and non-quota-bound areas. (Jogani) #RDD
  • Presence of political opposition in the city council improves mayors’ performance in Brazil: it increases legislative oversight, reduces corruption, increases the probability that a physician will be present at the local health clinic, and decreases the infant mortality rate by 3.4 per 1000 births for uneducated mothers. (Poulsen and Varjão) #RDD
  • Registered citizens in Tanzania are more likely to work in the formal economic sector, have higher education, bank accounts, and pay taxes. (Bowles) #IV
  • A land certification program in Zambia improved perceptions of tenure security, but it had no impact on investment. (Huntington and Shenoy) #RCT
  • Improved schools increased satisfaction with government’s education policy, voter registration and vote share for incumbent representatives in Liberia. Electoral gains were concentrated in places where test score gains were largest, suggesting that voters perceive and reward school quality. (Romero, Sandefur, and Sandholtz)
  • An alcohol ban led to an increase in crime in the Indian State of Bihar. Since state capacity and supply of police is fixed, diverting law enforcement resources towards implementing the alcohol ban effectively reduces capacity to prevent crimes. (Dar and Sahay)
  • But wait! Alcohol regulation policies in the Indian State of Bihar led to a 0.21 standard deviation reduction in the incidence of violent crimes but had no significant impact on non-violent crimes. (Chaudhuri et al.)
  • Brazil’s 2007 voter re-registration reform, intended to curb voter-buying, increased political competition and healthcare expenditures, which in turn led to better health outcomes: a 6.6 percent increase in prenatal visits, a 15 percent decrease in the incidence of low birthweight, and 5.3 percent reduction in the infant mortality rate.  (Karim) #RDD
  • Electing “parachuters” (those who have hereditary/dynastic background) leads to 0.2 percentage point lower GDP growth per year compared to constituencies where “climbers” are elected (those who have made their way up on their own). Impact is likely driven by misallocation of bureaucratic resources. (Dar) #RDD
Labor and migration
  • Workers will privately accept jobs at a wage below the prevailing norm in India, but not when other workers can observe them making the choice. “Workers give up 38% of average weekly earnings in order to avoid being seen as breaking the social norm.” (Breza, Kaur, & Krishnaswamy)
  • A youth training intervention subsidizing skills training and employment placement services in Nepal showed increased non-farm employment, hours worked and earnings one year after the program. The effects are mainly driven by women, who engage in non-farm self-employment activities carried out inside (but not outside) the house.  (Chakravarty et al.) #RDD
  • The decline in Mexican net migration from 2006 to 2012 reduced employment for lower educated men and increased wages for higher education men and women. Informality does not change, and women switch from unpaid to salaried jobs (likely because of reduced remittances). (Conover, Khamis, and Pearlman) #IV
  • Fear of sexual assault reduces women’s labor market participation in India: a one standard deviation increase in sexual assault reports within one’s own district reduced women’s employment probability by 0.36 percentage points, especially among highly educated married urban women. There is no effect of lagged physical assault reports on employment outside home. (Siddique)
  • Tax rate changes do not increase formal employment in Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. (McKay, Pirttilä, and Schimanski)
  • Risk averse children in Kenya are more likely to make an independent decision to work, as opposed to being sent by or negotiating with parents over the decision. This suggests a strategic decision by risk averse children who face a risky outside option in semi-nomadic pastoralism. (Walker and Bartlett) #LabInField
  • Effects of local labor demand shocks can differ significantly by gender. In 1991-2010 Brazil, male labor demand shocks, relative to equivalent female shocks, lead to larger increases in population (migration), own-gender wages, and the gender economic gap, particularly for those without high school education. (Chauvin)
  • In the short run, job application workshops and transport subsidies increase the probability of finding employment for young job seekers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The workshop also helped young people access stable jobs with an open-ended contract. Four years later, the workshop has a large and significant impact on earnings, while the effects of the subsidy have dissipated. (Abebe et al.) #RCT
  • Decision-making responsibilities shift towards women during the seasonal migration period in Bangladesh. Seasonal migration brings clear changes in some beliefs with respect to gender and income inequality, but no accompanying behavioral change. (Mobarak, Reimão, and Shenoy) #RCT
  • Migration generates bilateral cultural convergence even if migrants are excluded from the pool of respondents (hence eliminating social mixing). International migration appears as a stronger and more robust driver of cultural convergence than trade. (Rapoport, Sardoschau, and Silve)
  • In the agrarian sector in the Philippines, self-selection effects accounts for 60% of the productivity difference between fixed wage and individual piece rate contracts. Social norms significantly alter the decision-making by workers: Guilt aversion and kinship taxation discourage workers to choose the remunerative option, whereas enviousness facilitates them to opt for it. (Goto et al.)
  • Employment Protection Laws decreased employment of the disabled by 9 percentage points, particularly for women and employees. Employers reduce their demand for disabled labor to avoid the cost of workplace accommodations for disabled workers. (Palmer and Williams)
  • What happens when a single sector is hit with a negative shock? The EU ban on black tiger shrimp pushed some workers out of the industry in Thailand, increasing incomes of those who stayed. But those who were pushed out also received a benefit in their children’s education. (Banternghansa & Giannone)
  • “Countries’ dollar-denominated net external debt (dollar debt) helps explain the large differences in risk premia across currencies and how U.S. monetary policy affects the global economy.” (Wiriadinata)
  • With novel data from Mexico, “larger firms (in terms of sales and employees) tend to use more interfirm trade credit relative to bank credit… These firms use interfirm trade credit as a mechanism to smooth variations in their prices. All else equal, firms with a higher trade-to-bank credit ratio tend to lower prices.” (Shapiro et al.)
  • In China, the road network veers towards the birthplaces of top officials who were in power when it was built. (Alder & Kondo)
Poverty and inequality
  • When the poorest households in a cash transfer program in Kenya experience monetary penalties failing to comply with conditions, consumption drops significantly. Less poor households are better able to avoid getting fined in the future. (Heinrich & Knowles)
  • A new model suggests the existence of a network-level poverty trap. “Transfer programs can be made more cost-effective by targeting communities at the threshold of the aggregate poverty trap.” Based on data in Bangladesh. (Advani)
  • Not all marginalized groups in India are catching up! Mobility in India has remained the same overall since before the early 1990s, but in fact it has risen among some groups (the traditionally lowest castes) and fallen among others (Muslims). (Asher, Novosad, & Rafkin)
  • Cash transfers in Indonesia decreased suicides by 18%. (Christian, Hensel, & Roth)
  • How to incorporate ordinal measures (e.g., ranked positions rather than levels of income) into multidimensional poverty measurement. (Seth & Yalonetsky)
Risk Management
  • Introducing formal insurance can crowd-out private redistributive transfers in Ethiopia’s rural communities. To donors, new information based on insurance decisions allows them to place recipients of private funds in a different light, and reduce their support. (Anderberg and Morsink)
  • Increases in the generosity of in-kind food subsidies led to lower labor supply and higher wages, mostly in the low-skilled casual labor market in India. (Shrinivas, Baylis, and Crost)
  • Insurance is an important factor in explaining effort supply and fertilizer use. Going from no sharing to full insurance, effort supply decreases by more than six times and fertilizer use drops by almost 50 percent in rural India. (Pietrobon)
  • A large-scale HIV prevention program in public secondary schools in Malawi provided free circumcision and transport subsidies to clinics. Demand for circumcision increased in addition to positive peer effects among untreated students. In the long run, the preventive effect of circumcision is mitigated through risk compensation behavior in the group that got circumcised due to the intervention, but not for those induced by peer effects. (Kim et al.) #RCT
  • Access to a new financial product, offering guaranteed credit access after a shock, improves household welfare in Bangladesh through two channels: an ex-ante insurance effect where households increase investment in risky production and an ex-post effect where households are better able to maintain consumption and asset levels after a shock.  (Lane) #RCT
  • Without financial incentives such as discounts or rebates, farmers in Bangladesh do not use insurance to manage production risk during the monsoon season, even at actuarially-favorable prices. Purchasing insurance yields both ex ante risk management effects as well as ex post income effects on production practices (Hill et al.) #RCT
  • In India, the association between yield losses and rainfall index losses are stronger for large deviations. Therefore, demand for commercially priced rainfall insurance is more likely to be positive when coverage is restricted to extreme losses. (Negi and Rawasmani)
  • A large-scale environmental disaster in 2016, when toxic industrial waste contaminated the marine ecosystem of Vietnam’s central coast, reduced fishing activities by 23 percent and fishermen’s income by 45 percent. (Hoang et al.)
Social networks
  • Do you want practical advice for your farm? Go to your local church or mosque! In Kenya, “shared attendance of two peers at” a religious institution “increases the likelihood of seeking out and receiving advice from their peer by 33 percentage points.” (Murphy, Lee, & Nourani)
  • Based on a field experiment in Ethiopia, “conventional job referrals through social networks can reinforce labour market inequalities and prevent less socially connected individuals from getting access to jobs. However, when given referral opportunities, individuals can manage to escape exclusion.” (Witte) #RCT
  • Matching employers and employees using social networks can lead to bad matches, particularly among “less productive, poorer workers and firms” in Ethiopia. (Matsuda & Nomura)
  • Business training for micro-entrepreneurs in Uganda rewires social networks, as entrepreneurs who don’t receive the training seek to network with trained peers. (Stein)
  • When the social network is not completely informative, any self-report which is not supported by a third party must be discarded. (Bloch and Olckers)
  • In Filipino villages with high social fragmentation, workers earn higher wages and occupations are disproportionately less likely to be dominated by a single social group. (Caria and Labonne)
  • Households which experience climate shocks tend to invest more in family-caste (formal and informal) and vertical network relationships. Those networks bring benefits which are key to mitigating the impact of negative climate shocks. (Ramsawak)
  • Income shocks facilitate altruistic giving that better targets the least well off within one’s network in Ghana. (Barrett et al.)
  • What does major bridge construction do for economic activity (in Bangladesh)? In the formerly disconnected area, workers move from agriculture to services, population grows, and agricultural productivity rises. (Blankespoor et al.)
  • Big, surprising oil and gas discoveries lead to lots of additional foreign direct investment (FDI). In Mozambique, each FDI job leads to between 4.4 and 6.5 additional other jobs. (Toews & Vézina)
  • India’s Freight Equalization Scheme “contributed to the decline of industry in eastern India” but it took time. But repealing it reversed the decline, at least in some states. (Firth & Liu)
  • In Brazil, trade with China reduced unemployment for areas exporting stuff and increased unemployment for areas importing stuff. (Brummond & Connolly)
  • In Indonesia, “each percentage point of additional agriculture-driven poverty reduction also corresponds to around three percent of district area in forest loss since 2000.” (Edwards)
  • New state-built formal housing on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is popular among slum dwellers, despite longer, and slightly more expensive commutes. Moving to formal housing on the outskirts of the city has no effects on labor supply and earnings. (Franklin)
  • Public housing projects in South Africa decrease close-by formal residential home prices by 16 percent. While there is greater access to services and improved home quality within project areas, surrounding neighborhoods experience substantial growth in informal housing which exacerbates congestions and generate declines in formal home prices.  (Bradlow, Polloni, and Violette) #DiD
  • Air pollution substantially lowers productivity among industries with labor intensive technology while industries that rely less on labor inputs are less affected. (Hansen-Lewis) #IV
  • The TransJakarta Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, a public transport initiative designed to improve mobility for the greater Jakarta metropolitan area, did not increase transit ridership and exacerbated congestion on the routes it served, leading to increased travel times for other modes. Motorcycle vehicle ownership increased substantially. (Gaduh, Gračner, and Rothenberg)
Water, sanitation, and hygiene
  • Two light-touch psychological interventions – one that helped women improve planning and another that helped reduce impatience – both had impacts on sanitation behavior and health outcomes after ten weeks in Kenya. (Haushofer, John, & Orkin) #RCT
  • After training street food vendors in India on food safety, vendors knew a lot more but didn’t change what they actually did. (Daniele, Mookerjee, & Tommasi) #RCT
  • Providing subsidies lead more households to purchase latrines in India. “A household becomes more likely to invest if a larger fraction of its community are also offered a subsidy.” (Guiteras, Levinsohn, & Mobarak) #RCT


David Evans

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

Almedina Music

Senior Economist, Education Global Practice

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