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job market papers 2015

Yelp, I’m pregnant! Crowdsourced ratings improve artificial insemination services in Pakistan: Guest Post by Arman Rezaee

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

What do crowdsourcing, livestock artificial insemination, and mobile technology have to do with each other? Would you be surprised if I told you that the answer might be a widely scalable system to improve service delivery for the poor?

Inside the black box of participatory democracy: leadership and inclusion in self-help groups: Guest Post by Miri Stryjan

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

In developing countries a large fraction of public and financial services are provided by NGOs and mediated by community groups. These organizations are typically external rather than native to the communities where they operate and it is believed that increasing local ownership can improve legitimacy and sustainability of development programs. For this reason development organizations are increasingly turning to participatory decision-making practices. A notable example is the World Bank’s focus on ”Community Driven Development”-projects in the last decade (See Mansuri and Rao (2013) for a review). Previous studies that evaluate Community Driven Development projects point to several advantages of direct local participation compared to central decision making by an NGO or by representatives (see e.g. Olken (2010), Beath et al. (2012), Madajewicz et al. (2014)). Yet, so far we know very little about the relative benefits of different types of direct participation. For example: can we expect a secret ballot vote to be comparable to an open discussion in a village meeting?

Who’s at Risk? Biophysical and Market Forces Shape Crop Nutrient Content: Guest Post by Leah Bevis

This is the eighth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Worldwide, over 800 million people are lacking energy: they are hungry. Yet far more, over 2 billion people, suffer from “hidden hunger,” micronutrient deficiencies that impair cognition, impede skeletal growth, put both mothers and infants at risk of death, and reduce life-long productivity for those who survive (Kennedy, Nantel and Shetty 2003; Horton, Alderman and Rivera 2009).

However, despite the prevalence and far-reaching ramifications of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, precise deficiency rates are difficult to estimate, and individuals rarely know their own micronutrient status. Nutritionists and policy-makers often gauge a person or populations’ micronutrient status by estimating micronutrient intake, which is constructed according to food consumption/supply data and a Food Composition Table (FCT) that gives a fixed nutrient content value for all foods (e.g., here or here). But food nutrient content is not fixed; it is a conditional distribution that shifts over space and time. Therefore, intake estimates that rely on FCTs will fail to capture heterogeneity in micronutrient intake, tend to under-estimate deficiency prevalence, and fail to detect key vulnerable populations dependent on staples with lower-than-average micronutrient content.

Why did the farmer cross the road? To bridge the productivity divide: Guest Post by Sam Asher

This is the sixth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
 The productivity of workers in agriculture is generally much lower than in other sectors of the economy (Gollin, Lagakos and Waugh, 2014). This is particularly true in low-income countries, yet these countries generally have the highest shares of the population living in rural areas and working in agriculture (McMillan et al, 2014). So why don’t workers switch jobs into higher productivity (and better paid) occupations? Development economists as far back as Lewis (1954) and Sen (1966) have studied the labor market imperfections that may keep workers in low productivity agriculture despite higher wages elsewhere.

Socializing with friends at work: A look into the black box of non-cognitive skills: Guest post by Sangyoon Park

This is the fifth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Do people perform better when working with friends or do their friends distract them from doing their job well? Does the effect depend on their personality traits? I investigate these questions in the context of a seafood-processing plant in Vietnam in which several workers perform the identical task – cleaning and filleting fish -- at 4-person tables in a processing room. I collaborated with the management to design and implement a field experiment in which employees were randomly assigned to positions within the room each day. I use random variation in a worker’s proximity to friends to estimate the effect of working with friends on job performance. Before the experiment, I administered a baseline survey to collect information on employees’ friendship ties and personality characteristics. I find that employees are less productive when working with friends but only when friends are close enough to socialize with each other. I also find that personality traits matter and explain a significant portion of individual differences in socializing behaviors at work. Conversely, socializing with friends explains a large portion of why workers with certain personality traits – notably, conscientiousness – are more productive workers.

Can emigration lead to political change in poor countries? It did in 19th century Sweden: Guest Post by Mounir Karadja

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

Institutions are widely believed to be important drivers of development. Recently, economists have begun using detailed micro data to study how historical institutions can shape development outcomes decades or even centuries down the line. But for anyone interested in development, a key question is what causes institutions to change over time. Here, the evidence is more scant. In my job market paper, my co-author Erik Prawitz and I ask if large-scale emigration can be a mechanism leading to political change in origin countries.

Uncovering Variety in Sex Preferences When Some Parents Want Sons and Others Want Daughters: Guest Post by Johannes Norling

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

Gender disparities in educational attainment, labor market opportunities, political representation, and many other areas of economic and social activity generally favor men around the world (Schwab et al. 2014).  Gender also matters for perhaps the most fundamental activity of all: reproduction.  In China, India, and several other countries in Asia, parents with daughters often keep having children until they have sons.  Where parents want sons, girls tend to belong to larger families, leaving them at a disadvantage when family resources are spread thinly across many children (Jensen 2002).  Girls in many of these countries are also more likely than boys to be aborted or die in infancy (Guilmoto 2012).  Imbalanced sex ratios distort marriage markets and can have other harmful economic and social consequences.

Does Financial Inclusion Exclude? Formal Savings Reduces Informal Risk-Sharing Among Women in Kenya: Guest post by Felipe Dizon

This is the second in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
In 2013 alone, donors pledged $31 billion to support financial inclusion programs—an attempt to deliver financial services to the 2 billion adults that do not have access to such services. In the past, microcredit and insurance programs received all of the attention, but improving the savings capacity of the poor and unbanked has recently drawn increasing attention as well. Access to a savings account has been shown to improve account holders' overall financial situation and their ability to cope with shocks.  In addition, access to savings may also lead to greater educational aspirations and completion of additional years of schooling for the children of account holders.

The Return of the Migrants: Do Employers Value their Foreign Work Experience? Guest Post by Paolo Abarcar

This is the first of our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Return migration is an important channel through which migrant-sending countries stand to benefit from international migration. Experts often cite “brain gain” as its chief benefit: migrants not only bring back their original human capital but also new skills, connections, and experience acquired in foreign countries (see for example IOM 2008, Dayton-Johnson et al. 2009, and this UN report). But whether or not domestic employers in fact value foreign work experience in production processes at home is unclear. Skills learned abroad may be irrelevant. Worse, absence from the local labor market could be detrimental if the skills that employers value depreciate as a migrant spends time abroad. In my job market paper, I examine precisely this question: do employers actually value the foreign work experience of returning migrants?