I am an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and a Tutorial Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford.
I am a development economist interested in labor and trade. I use large scale experiments and administrative data sets to conduct empirical research on migration, networks, and spatial linkages between economic agents in general equilibrium. My current work focuses on Kenya, Ethiopia, China and Switzerland.
with Johannes Haushofer, Ted Miguel, Paul Niehaus, and Michael Walker.
Econometrica, Vol. 90, No. 6 (November, 2022), 2603–2643
ECMA Link; Paper, Supplemental Material; NBER WP; Slides
Econometrica, Vol. 90, No. 6 (November, 2022), 2603–2643
ECMA Link; Paper, Supplemental Material; NBER WP; Slides
How large economic stimuli generate individual and aggregate responses is a central question in economics, but has not been studied experimentally. We provided one-time cash transfers of about USD 1000 to over 10,500 poor households across 653 randomized villages in rural Kenya. The implied fiscal shock was over 15 percent of local GDP. We find large impacts on consumption and assets for recipients. Importantly, we document large positive spillovers on non-recipient households and firms, and minimal price inflation. We estimate a local transfer multiplier of 2.5. We interpret welfare implications through the lens of a simple household optimization framework.
Media: VoxDev (mp3), Vox (pdf), Washington Post (pdf), The Economist (pdf), NPR (mp3), Econimate, Der Standard (pdf)
Code: iv_spatial_HAC (with Tilman Graff). Stata package for Conley-type standard errors in 2SLS-settings. Available upon request.
with Edward Miguel, Shana S. Warren, Ashish Shenoy, Elliott Collins, Dean Karlan, Doug Parkerson, A. Mushfiq Mobarak, Günther Fink, Christopher Udry, Michael Walker, Johannes Haushofer, Magdalena Larreboure, Susan Athey, Paula Lopez-Pena, Salim Benhachmi, Macartan Humphreys, Layna Lowe, Niccoló F. Meriggi, Andrew Wabwire, C. Austin Davis, Utz Johann Pape, Tilman Graff, Maarten Voors, Carolyn Nekesa, Corey Vernot.
Science Advances (2021), Vol. 7, no. 6
Despite numerous journalistic accounts, systematic quantitative evidence on economic conditions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains scarce for most low- and middle-income countries, partly due to limitations of official economic statistics in environments with large informal sectors and subsistence agriculture. We assemble evidence from over 30,000 respondents in 16 original household surveys from nine countries in Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone), Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines), and Latin America (Colombia). We document declines in employment and income in all settings beginning March 2020. The share of households experiencing an income drop ranges from 8 to 87% (median, 68%). Household coping strategies and government assistance were insufficient to sustain precrisis living standards, resulting in widespread food insecurity and dire economic conditions even 3 months into the crisis. We discuss promising policy responses and speculate about the risk of persistent adverse effects, especially among children and other vulnerable groups.
with Aleksandra Jakubowski, Carolyne Nekesa, Layna Lowe, Michael Walker, Edward Miguel.
JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(7)
In the absence of concrete plans for widespread vaccination, masks remain one of the few tools available to low-income populations to avoid the spread of SARS-CoV-2 for the foreseeable future. We compare mask use data collected through self-reports from phone surveys and direct observations in public spaces from population-representative samples in Ugunja subcounty, a rural setting in Western Kenya. We examine mask use in different situations and compare mask use by gender, age, location, and the riskiness of the activity. While only 12% of people admitted in phone interviews to not wearing a mask in public, 90% of people we observed did not have a mask visible in public spaces despite a national government mandate. Self-reported mask use was significantly higher than observed mask use in all scenarios (i.e. in the village, in the market, on public transportation). This vast gap suggests that people are aware that mask use is socially desirable, but in practice they do not adopt this behavior. Focusing public policy efforts on improving adoption of mask use via education and behavioral interventions may be needed to improve compliance. Methodologically, our findings suggest that the reliance on self-reported adherence to mitigation measures from phone surveys may be problematic.
Work in Progress
with Daniel Auer and Johannes Kunz
We study the effects of migrant networks on the labor market integration of refugees, the performance of local firms, and the wages of their employees in Switzerland. To track outcomes of individuals and firms, we link six employer-employee matched administrative datasets covering the universe of residents (citizens, migrants, and refugees) and registered firms from 2008 to 2017. Leveraging the quasi-random placement of refugees across locations and a novel IV strategy, we show that larger local networks persistently increase employment and income of refugees. Network effects are large, accounting for 38% of the variation in incomes within nationality cohorts across cantons. In line with homophily, demographically similar networks and economically successful peers have larger positive impacts. Network effects are shaped by direct personal contacts: refugees who quasi-randomly lived in the same residential center are three times more likely to become co-workers at the same firm. Using a shift-share IV design, we then show that firms experiencing a positive shock to their employee’s network hire both more migrants and natives. Their wage bill and the average wages of existing employees grow, and high-skilled natives rise within the firm hierarchy. This is consistent with referrals improving firm-worker match quality and productivity. Concerns about adverse economic impacts of spatially concentrated immigration are not borne out in the data, suggesting that existing migration policies in Switzerland and other high-income countries may need to be reconsidered.
Labor Market Integration, Growth and Inequality: Evidence from China's Hukou Reforms
with Ben Faber and Wei Lin
Successive reforms to China's local registration system, the Hukou, provide variation in group-specific migration costs across time and space. We compile a novel dataset of the universe of over 8,000 worker-type specific Hukou reforms between 1995 and 2015. We then use this variation, together with an event-study design and triple-difference identification strategy, to quantify the reforms' contribution to the increase in internal migrant labor over the past 20 years in China. Using policy-induced exogenous by-group bilateral migration flows, we estimate the impact of increased labor market integration on aggregate Chinese productivity growth, as well as inequality across types of workers and different regions between 1995 and 2015. In the process, we develop a new methodology and provide new estimates of the migration elasticity for different types of workers, between-group substitutability of workers, and across-group productivity and amenity spillovers.
with Pierre Biscaye & Utz Johann Pape (Submitted)
This paper uses COVID-19 school closure policies in Kenya as an exogenous shock to estimate the impact of changes in household childcare needs on adult labor supply. We use nationally-representative bi-monthly panel data in a difference-in-differences design to compare changes after schools partly reopened in Kenya in October 2020 for households with a child in grade 4 or 8—the grades eligible to return to school after the partial reopening—against households with a child in adjacent grades. Having a child eligible to return increases adults’ labor supply in the weeks after reopening. Increases are concentrated on the intensive margin of hours and particularly in household agriculture hours, consistent with labor in this activity being more flexible. We find no effects on the extensive margin of labor participation or on wage employment, which may take longer to adjust to a childcare shock. Impacts are not significantly different by sex of the adult: though women have greater responsibility for childcare in Kenya, men also contribute and both increased childcare hours during school closures. Effects are driven by changes in household childcare burdens and in child agricultural labor when a child returns to school, and are larger in less wealthy households. The impact of partial reopening on work hours corresponds to over 30% of the fall in average hours in the first few months after COVID-19 cases were detected, indicating that school closures are responsible for a significant share of the reduction in labor supply during the pandemic. Large labor effects of a potentially expensive childcare availability shock suggest that policies making childcare more available and affordable could have positive impacts on adult labor supply in Kenya.
Other work in progress
Back to Slack: A General Equilibrium Theory of Capacity Underutilisation in Developing Economies (with Tilman Graff, Felix Soliman)
We build a model of integer-constraints for small firms, a key macroeconomic friction for developing countries, and estimate it using a large-scale clustered RCT and novel data on firm-level slack in Kenya. We derive aggregate implications of many small firms.
General Equilibrium Effects of Cash Transfers in the Long-Run: Evidence from Kenya (with Johannes Haushofer, Edward Miguel, Michael Walker)
We study how large inflows of cash affect the economy in the long run. Do effects dissipate? Are there agglomeration effects? Does market structure change?
The Social Network Effects of Cash, or Does Money Buy Influence? Experimental Evidence from Kenya (with Edward Miguel, Gwyneth Miner, Michael Walker)
We use a large randomized cash transfer program to study the social network effects of cash. How does your social network and political influence change when you, or members in your network, get exogenously richer?
Improving Refugee Integration Through Public Works: Experimental Evidence At Scale from Ethiopia (with Girum Abebe, Alfredo Manfredini-Bohm, Christina Wieser)
In a large-scale nationwide RCT, we study how integrating refugees into Ethiopia's public works based social safety net affects host and refugee welfare. We investigate the impacts of co-working and after-work socialising on social and economic cohesion, networks and attitudes using random group composition.
Can Business, Financial and Life Skills Trainings Sustainably Improve the Livelihoods of the Rural Poor? Evidence from an Experiment at Scale from Ethiopia (with Gashaw Abate, Tanguy Bernard, John Loeser, Margaux Vinez)
In a nationwide clustered RCT, we study the direct and spillover effects of a graduation program targetting poor rural households across Ethiopia on business creation, livelihoods, and aggregate economic activity.
Reciprocity in Assimilation: Evidence from Baby Names (with Daniel Auer and Johannes Kunz)
Using the random assignment of asylum seekers to locations in Switzerland, we study how assimilation of migrants, proxied by newborn names, interacts dynamically with exposure effects on the host population.
Mask Up! How Social Networks affect Adoption of Public Health Behaviors and Norms (with Aleksandra Jakubowski, Vatsal Khandelwal, Michael Walker)
We study how social norms and attitudes about observable public health behaviors (mask wearing during COVID-19) propagate through social networks, and what this implies for community-based targeting of health interventions.
HT | Oxford University
MSc for Development | HT | Oxford University
Probability and Statistics
MT, HT, TT | The Queen's College
TT | The Queen's College
Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2020 | UC Berkeley
Case Studies in Economic Development from Sub-Saharan Africa
Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2019, Fall 2019 | UC Berkeley
Graduate Student Instructor, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020 | UC Berkeley
Macroeconomic Policy from the Great Depression to Today
Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2018 | UC Berkeley